While working on the Story49 Love Series back in February, I asked one interviewee what the worst part of being in a long distance relationship was.
“When we part ways,” he said. “It’s very unpleasant. It’s like when you are in a really big hurry and you go to put your shoe on, but you grab the right one and you try to put it on your left foot, and you’re like ‘that’s not right!’ and it just feels wrong. That’s what it feels like not being with her.”
I loved that metaphor then (in fact, you can hear me laugh in the recording) and I still love it now, especially as I prepare to part ways with a place I have grown to deeply love. Nome may not be my significant other, but I think the metaphor still applies. Saying goodbye to this town and the people that make this place what it is just doesn’t feel quite right.
I really had envisioned my last blog to be a profound summary of what this year has meant to me, concluding with a succinct statement that tied everything together and let me fly off feeling like I had said everything I needed to. But I’m realizing as I write this what an impossible expectation that is.
I will never be able to fully express what it felt like to hear shifting sea ice sing for the first time or to explain how welcome I felt in villages, despite residents knowing I would only be passing through for a few days.
I will never be able to fully express how humbling it was to listen to locals’ stories of love, triumph and hardship and to hold the responsibility to share those stories with our region. I can’t fully describe the sunrises and sunsets, the burn in my calves hiking up the face of Anvil, or how it feels to wave to mushers as they fly down Front Street. But with these experiences (and many more) now deeply settled into my core, maybe I won’t have to explain them to anyone. My time in Nome will forever inspire the way I live and see the world. And in that way, it’s only a departure in physical form.
To those who shared caribou, whale and salmon and others who offered to take me out on four-wheelers, trucks and hikes, thank you. To those who shared their culture through throat singing, dancing and string stories, thank you. To those who challenged my way of thinking and laughed at my way of being, thank you. I am forever grateful to have met each and every one of you.
I guess there’s never really a good time to say goodbye to the people and places you love, and rarely are there words to say everything you need to. So I suppose instead of flying off gracefully into the distance, I will put my right shoe on my left foot, hobble down the road and forever remember the place I was lucky enough to call home. Thank you, Nome.