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Living Stories

When life gives you lemons, you move to Nome.”

A friend of mine recently wrote that in a Facebook post, and I thought, “Why, yes. … Yes, of course!”

Well, life gave me lemons last spring, and now, with a month left in my volunteer fellowship, I’m looking back on what, in life terms, could be deemed sparkling blueberry lemonade. (That’s a real summer drink currently offered at Pingo restaraunt here in Nome, made with tundra berries.)

In other words, a rich, flavorful, close-to-the-heart, somewhat tangy but wonderfully sweet experience.

I’ll be honest: It stinks to think about leaving at the best time of year in Western Alaska, summer. Days on end of the best weather (50s and sunny), no nights, long bike rides and tundra runs, bonfires with old friends and new friends (and people who aren’t your friends, really, but you all are in Nome, so it doesn’t matter), parades, weird events like the Midnight Sun Bank Robbery, drives out the roads to Salmon Lake or Safety Roadhouse surrounded by the most stunning landscape, swimming in the Bering Sea for five seconds and then feeling warm sand beneath your feet, staying up too late because your body isn’t producing any natural melatonin and then getting up early, but it’s okay because it’s always light out and you get to do the newscast …

I could go on forever. And I will, as I look through the glasses of having lived in Western Alaska that you can’t take off.

At the same time, I’m glad to be leaving in the summer. In undergrad philosophy class, we talked about the things we most remember about experiences: the highs and the ends. So I’m glad the end is such a high.

But I think a third thing we remember more than we might expect is the slow burn: the coals by which an experience simmers into something more than a collection of exceptional memories.

Listen above to hear about the embers of my volunteer fellowship that I think will keep burning for a long time.

Image: Gabe in front of the Northern Lights on an April night (photo: Michael Burnett, April 2018).

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