The time between getting a job offer with the federal gov'ment and actually starting said job was about 2 months. Before I was offered a job as a soil scientist in Wrangell I was a recent university grad, working 2-3 jobs, with a boyfriend of 3-ish years. I stepped off the Malaspina on June 20, 2003 a married lady (yes, I am a lady) with a steady, full-time job. Between the job offer (April 1ish) and June 20, I had:
- Romantically slammed my day planner (Franklin Covey, fo' life) down on the middle seat of my purple, rebuilt 1989 Ford Ranger, demanding that the future husband of mine to "pick a date to get married before I had to report to work on June 20."
- May 31! Woot.
- Crabbed that I wasn't proposed to (see above)
- Was proposed to, in a park somewhere by Arroyo Grande
- Attended 3 bridal showers all over the great state of California
- Sold my beloved 1989 ranger that I rebuilt myself after totalling it on 101 in 1999.
- Put all of my worldly possessions in a huge cargo container parked in the driveway of my future in-laws. This includes my terrible college furniture that I have to this day.
- Got married, after having my best friend's mom safety-pin me into my grandmother's wedding dress. (A hilarious tale of broken zippers. I call it Broken Promises: Dry cleaners From Hell. look for it nowhere.)
- Drove up to the Bay Area to watch my brother graduate from High School. Longhorns!
- Drove to Bellingham, WA to get on the ferry. We stayed in Dunsmuir, CA; Salem, OR and Bellingham at the finest Motel 6's.
The next day all of our stuff arrived. All the glorious garbage we convince ourselves that we need. In boxes. Everywhere. To. This. Day. My husband, the Dirty Fisherman, reminds me how he unpacked the whole house in Wrangell while I was at work. Starting a brand new job and filling out a mountain of paperwork that could only come from Uncle Sam. (Later, I learned to call him Uncle Sugar because he sure was sweet to us.) I think my 4th day I was on a helicopter on the way out to the Madan sale to look at some limestone outcrop that could have Karst features.
That was only a 4 hour excursion in the woods but it was the hardest hiking of my life. I can't begin to describe how difficult it is to move in the woods here as a newbie. It's like slipping every 1.5 steps, sliding back 2, smacking yourself in the face with a branch, wondering how to carry that goldang rifle over your shoulder, trying to understand why you are working up here, and finally seeing a cedar tree so big it would take 5 people to encircle it. That night I was knock-down, drag-out exhausted. I slept like the dead, which was a feat because it was near the solstice and light for 18 glorious hours a day. Hiking in the woods became a right of passage, a puzzle, a sense that I was someone who could move through the woods with aplomb. Every other forest is too easy now, it bears no resemblance to the complex mystery of my temperate rain forest.
I learned how to be married here. That it was ok to yell (as long as the neighbors couldn't hear). That partnership means working together and explaining why you hate/like things. Understanding the difference between roommate issues like the dishes and relationship issues like feelings and family. Knowing why your in laws were laughing at you when you fight with your husband. Learning that halibut bait smells so bad it makes your eyes water but shrimp bait is way, way worse. Finding out that it was ok to be different from your spouse, as long as you talked about it.
I remember the first pile of local shrimp that made their way home. WTF heads? Watching all the others, I learned the proper picking technique. My boss took me out on the water after we had been there about 2 weeks. We could only afford 1 fishing license so tDF got to fish. Pulling the first king salmon of our lives over the rail, dragging the first little slabs of halibut, and opening the crab trap filled my hear with such glee. This was how I eat now. We eat things from the sea, that we catch ourselves. TDF was offered a deck hand position. 20% of the take of a gillnet, longline, crabber boat. We were in, we were tied to the industry. Half of us made our living on the water.
Evenings were spent drinking beer, cleaning shrimp or crab or salmon or halibut. Our freezer filled with little packages of meat. I learned how to cook. Easy dinners: Shrimp pasta in tomato-basil sauce, teriyaki salmon and peas and rice, Halibut enchiladas. More difficult failures like salmon bisque and successes like duck-au-vin. August brought berries like I had never seen. What to do? What to do? It was so new, clean, real.
My little California heart was broken. Then rebuilt. It only feels Alaska now. I am home.