I’ve been a Cheechako for eighteen months, officially. When you’re new to Alaska the locals call you a Cheechako. It’s only after you’ve been through a full summer and winter cycle that you graduate to ‘Sourdough’. Even though my family is wrapping up our second winter here, we’re part of Fairbanks’ transient population and for that reason I don’t feel seasoned enough to call myself a Sourdough.
Our second winter was easier than the first, mostly because our expectations were born from experience: chronic sub-zero temps, and darkness before and after the winter solstice really dominate the landscape and mood. I gave birth to my second child here, too, permanently solidifying my connection to this land. The cold and isolating Alaskan winters are arduous for this native Southern Californian, but they have their merits, too.
Aurora Borealis, which is said to be ancestors celebrating earthly events, came out in full force the week my baby Woodrow was born, and a few glorious shows in my city neighborhood have occurred in the six months since. It still wasn’t easy being stuck indoors with a newborn (Welcome to the World, Woodrow!) and a bold toddler (Climb down from there, Margot!), all while running my Photography Business, Yea Yea Photography.
My winter days are spent cooped up indoors, trying to find a balance between managing my home, playing with my kids and growing a creative business. My summer days in Alaska are precious. They’re reserved for accumulating outdoor experiences. They’re for wildlife viewing, Denali camping, and farmers market falafel eating! They’re for trail running, berry picking, and hiking. They’re currency and compensation for six long months of winter.
We don’t know where the Army will send us after our time here (a year and a half from now), but it will likely be less dynamic than Alaska. The lessons learned here on seizing the day will never be forgotten, and maybe after I leave I’ll finally feel confident to call myself a Sourdough.