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Our Alaskan adventure is coming to an end. I’ve accepted a position in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Dale’s interviewing for one in the next couple of weeks. We’ll leave this blog up, in case any of it will help anyone else who is contemplating the move, but we’re going to stop posting and turn off comments, since we’re not going to be up here to help anyone out.

We’ll miss a lot of things about AK:

  • Our friends and coworkers
  • Magpies
  • Ravens (well, LOTS of ravens; there aren’t many in VA)
  • Moose
  • Baby seagulls
  • Arctic terns
  • Stellers jays
  • Bald eagles (LOTS, again; there are some in VA)
  • The Cuddy Park duck pond and Westchester Lagoon
  • Giant mountains all around, everywhere you look (VA’s mountains are great, but smaller and only in one direction from C’ville)
  • Mountain goats and sheep
  • Sixty degree summer days
  • Auroras
  • Our house (which we’re selling)
  • Quirky, helpful strangers
  • Our cracked windshield (they’ll make us replace it on the east coast)
  • The Alaska SeaLife Center
  • Delicious fresh salmon
  • A whole bunch of restaurants – Spenard Roadhouse, Table 6
  • Bear Tooth Theater Pub – there’s a theater pub in Arlington, but that’s a bit of a drive from C’ville

We’ll keep posting content at sheldon-hess.org, if you want to follow our adventures in Virginia. (I’m posting about the trip in my blog.)

Thanks for the adventure, Alaska! It’s been a lot of fun.

The car’s packed (not everything I’d have liked to have fit in the car will fit, but that’s life). The birds are ready. The houseplants are ready. [Most] Friends are hugged. My iPod is loaded up with good music and audiobooks. The GPS is programmed and tested. Tomorrow morning we’re getting a bagel and coffee, then some gas, and we’re heading out onto the Turnpike!

I’ll miss Dale and Ella for the next four months. And I’ll miss my friends and family for longer–though I expect every single one to stay in touch online and as many as can do so to visit! I’ll visit, too: Boston in the middle of January (that’s mostly business–ALA–but I’m hoping to take a couple of days to see Dale’s family) and, barring great financial difficulties, DC late next June (also ALA, but I’ll base my summer vacation around it); depending on his work schedule, Dale will come with me.

I’m excited and nervous about the drive, and I’m really psyched about exploring Anchorage and starting work. It’s going to be good. :)

It’s weird to be so close to leaving. Seriously, it seems like I should have weeks left! (Looking at the apartment, that is certainly what one would assume.) But my Pittsburgh going-away dinner is over (I’ll miss people!); the birds had their vet appointment (clean bills of health); I got my Canadian insurance card; the car is outfitted for the trip; the bulk of the most important things are packed; and Dale and I are going back to my hometown for a day to visit my family before returning to Pittsburgh to pack madly, fill the car with my belongings, and head out. It’s just about time.

I still haven’t got word on that apartment. I haven’t reserved any motel rooms–or even chosen them for all of my stops, yet. (Part of me wants to have it all set up, and part of me really wants to mostly wing it, because I may find that I can do better than 6 hours a day of driving.) There’s a lot left to do. And I’m just going to have to be Zen enough to realize it won’t all be done in precisely the timeframe I had in mind.

I’m moving; Anchorage is shaking. (Y’all OK? Magnitude 5 is kind of a lot, right? … Earthquakes are going to be a new thing for me.)

I set up a goodbye dinner for Pittsburgh peeps–if you’re in Pittsburgh and not on Facebook (or if you are, but somehow I missed you), and you want to go, holler. I’ll forward the invite.

I am really frighteningly behind on going through stuff and packing, but here’s hoping it starts going faster.

We do have a new car, or will once it gets to the dealer. I think it’s the color Dale hates (“Sage Green Metallic”), which is very sad. But we’re approved for a loan at an acceptable rate, and given how much more acceptable that rate is than the rate on Grover, I think it’s the right choice. I’ll post pictures when I have them.

This post is not so much about the trip as about the transition. It’s more get-to-know-me than get-to-know-what-I’m-doing, if that makes sense.

We spent this past weekend in the DC area, saying goodbye to my dad and a fair number of our friends who live down there. (We didn’t see everybody, which is too bad, but people in the DC area have very, very hectic lives; there is not going to be a weekend when they’re all free.) As always happens when I visit, I recalled all the more vividly how very much I love my friends down there–and I do, because they are all really spectacular people–and how very much I do not love the area itself. (I think MD/DC/VA has the potential to be a great place to live, but there are too many people–many of them just there until they can get a job somewhere else, which, yes, I’d be a hypocrite to condemn–with too few transportation options. We found that both the transience of the population and the difficulty getting around made it hard to form or maintain a community, down there, both in the city and in the suburbs.)

My dad seemed really sad to say goodbye, and I was sad to say goodbye to him. He knows I’ll come back and visit, which made it easier, and he travels a lot, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll come up and see me. Our friends seemed less sad and more worried about the drive. I agree that it is a long drive to do alone (alone in that birds have limited conversation skills and can’t really take over driving when you’re tired), but I’ll be blogging my experiences and doing my level best to check in every day. (I think the thing to do, if I haven’t posted in a couple of days and you are concerned, is to email Dale; he’ll be the one I call, in places with phone but no Internet. Or, you know, maybe he’ll post for me when I can’t…)

Although I’m now really glad I did it, I almost felt like going to DC to say goodbye was a bad idea. I am terrible at goodbyes. I hate them. Even watching goodbyes between complete strangers makes me cry; I’m just like that. The way I figure it, we drift in and out of one another’s lives, whether we are geographically near or not, and setting up a time specifically to say “I will see you at some point in the future, but it will be a while,” seems wrong to me. Renewing the memory of how much I care about and miss these people–not that I forget when they are out of sight, but it’s different–before driving across the continent, away from them, was not the smartest of ideas, perhaps. It will make it all the harder to drive that first mile. … On the other hand, if you do not put in some time to strengthen relationships when you can, what good is having them? (And how will I get them to come visit me in Anchorage if I don’t go visit them before I leave? :))

I also kind of think it was a necessary stage in the transition process. And it was important that I do it and leave myself some time to internalize that that was goodbye-for-now, with that set of loved ones. Honestly, pushing the visit with my mom’s family to the last weekend before I leave is a far worse idea–I’m going to have a grand total of one day to process and internalize that, before I get on the road.

I see it kind of like the moving process. I mean, it is the moving process, but I’m thinking house-to-house more than state-to-state, for the purposes of comparison. I have to get out of the mode of one living space and into the mode of the other, and over the years–moving once or twice every year for most of the last 12 years has helped me kind of develop a method–I’ve learned that there are certain things that have to happen before I can really make the shift. The first and most important stage of the transition is that the art has to come down off the walls; that’s when I really commit, in my head and heart, to a place no longer being “home.” The new place becomes my home when the art goes up, there. (I say “the art,” but there isn’t really that much on our walls, anymore. I used to have a lot of posters in college–and even after–but I’ve moved on to nicer framed pieces, largely, and there are just fewer of those, still.) Next, the fragile things have to be wrapped in paper or bubble wrap. And the books have to be packed. (After that, admittedly, it’s all ad hoc bedlam, ending, eventually, in throwing random stuff into wherever it’ll fit.) There’s a method (mostly :)). And while I haven’t yet determined what the method of moving across a continent is, for me, I think making time for goodbyes is probably a lot like the art coming down off the walls. I’m not sure what corresponds to the wrapping of fragile things and packing of books–maybe that’s the actual packing up of the physical things and putting them into the car, or into boxes for shipping–but I’ll finesse the metaphor as I go. I do think searching for apartments and meetups and knitting groups and zombie walks (no, really, there’s a zombie walk on September 19) is sort of like pondering where the art should go in the new place, and attending those will be like hanging the art–settling in, hopefully making friends, realizing this is now my home.

This post got long so I’ll wrap up quickly, but I noticed, on the art-hanging front, that a fair number of my future coworkers have looked at this blog and have offered [very good!] advice. It warms my heart and serves as a good reminder that, as much as there are very real sad parts to it, this is, overarchingly, an incredibly happy transition–I wouldn’t be making it if it weren’t–and I am really looking forward to making Anchorage my home and to joining the library community there. These transitional steps–the toughness of saying goodbye, the decisions of what to pack and what to sell/give away, the long drive–are helping me to get to a really good place, in multiple senses.