Aug 7

Returning to the village this morning included lots of hugs and and “welcome back’s”.  When I walked in the door of my house, Pepper ran up to me and I scooped him up in my arms and hugged him tight and smothered him with kisses.

Lucky, being deaf, didn’t hear me come in so I walked to where he was lying on the sofa and he looked at me inquisitively, focusing his near blind eyes on my image.  He then began to sniff at me as I leaned down and gently lifted him into my arms.  His sniffing became more intense and finally his eyes lit up and he welcomed me back home with a huge swipe of his enormous tongue.

Out of habit, I looked around for my Katie girl.  By that time, she would have slinked out of one of her hiding places to casually say “hello” to me and give me one of her headbutts.

That’s when I spotted her tiny tin urn on the kitchen counter.  And that’s also when I felt the emptiness of not having her in the house.

I’m grateful that Dusty and Kas honored our wishes and took care of getting her cremated so that she can always be with us.  The crematory also sent us a beautiful card sending their condolences.

But I can’t cuddle or headbutt a tin full of ashes.
My heart broke all over again, in spite of her being gone for over a month now.

I miss her and wish she were back.  Alive and well and not in a tiny tin box.  Our Pentagon is gone.

Goodnight, sweet girl.

Katie's ashes

Aug 6

I’m sitting on a plane bound for Seattle and ultimately Anchorage typing out this document to be published when I’m back home (or on the ground depending on how long my layover is)

Home.

That word implies so many things, at least for me.

Until the age of 27, “home” was North Carolina.  The state I was born and raised in.

For the first few years of living in Alaska, we continued to call NC home.  Even though, really; home was where we slept every night.  In our bed.  With each other.  With our animals.  With our wordly possessions.  Wherever we happened to be living in Alaska.

Then one day-I can’t remember who said it first-we started referring to Alaska as our home.  When we travel to North Carolina, we say “North Carolina” instead of “home” now.

That speaks volumes.

Volumes of bittersweet nostalgia and hints of new adventures on the horizon.

Everytime we return to NC, we get “homesick”.  Our families are there.  The old familiar places are there.  A lot of our childhood friends are there.  When we return, we fit right in, picking up our southern accents, ordering sweet  or unsweetened tea versus iced or hot tea.  Anyone who doesn’t know us would never know we no longer live there.

I guess that’s what makes it so hard.  Fitting in so ultimately and comfortably and then returning to a state that still seems a little foreign but more and more like “home.”

And as I mingled with friends and family these past three weeks, the lines between the two states began to blur.  The 3000 mile swath seemed to merge.  I missed Alaska…my new love, yet; I longed to be back in NC with my family..with my friends.

And now I’m confused.  I’m excited to be returning to my house, in my village, where my animals and friends are.  I’m intensely saddened to have left my old familiars behind.

Is it possible to call both home?

Aug 1

It is inevitable that this vacation is coming to an end.  Sadly enough.

Howard and I have had a great time in our hometowns relaxing and mingling with family and friends.

We’ve skinnydipped swam in Wilson’s Creek as much as we can, taken long road trips through the mountains, stayed overnight in little inn in Lake Lure on a whim and I finally climbed to the top of Chimney Rock.  A personal challenge that has eluded me since I refused to climb it when I was 10 years old.

I have a nice toasty tan and tan lines from my $5 dollar Old Navy flip flops on my feet.

I’ve only worn sneakers once and my feet screamed to be set free to feel the grass beneath them.

I’ve said “ya’ll” more times than I can count and Howard and I are twangier than ever.

I’ve hung with Julie every weekend since we’ve been here and I’m elated that she not only feels happier but looks the best I’ve ever seen her.  That makes me happy.  She’s fought a long hard battle to get to this happy place and she’s finally here.

To sum it up, this has been a great vacation and I’m sad to see it end.

For our final weekend, we’re spending it at Howard’s aunt’s house on Lake Hickory.  Tonight, we took a cruise on the pontoon boat up the river to a restaurant about an hour and a half away.  I drank red wine, had a good conversation with Howard’s aunt, and I’m now sitting in my bedroom that’s as big as our cabin in Alaska, feeling the cool air from the lake, listening to the crickets and looking at the moon.

I miss darkness it the summertime.

Tomorrow, I’ll attempt to drive a jet ski and plan to get one last layer of tan before my return.  I’ll swim until I’m good and pickled and then Julie and Howard’s brother Christopher are coming over tomorrow night for another “booze cruise” up the river.

It’ll be bittersweet to say goodbye to this place…but I think I’ll be ready to head home.

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