Okay, we bought a house in Alaska

This post was first shared in October 2023 from Southeast Alaska as part of my monthly love-letter series. 

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October 12, 2023

—From My Heart to Yours—

It’s October 12, 2023. This is the last you’ll ever hear from me as a 30 year old.

I am writing to you from our home. MoMo is asleep at my feet on our Flokati rug, and I just had a bowl of my favorite homemade pecan, maple, and coconut granola. It’s raining outside, and I’m feeling just about the coziest I’ve ever felt in my life.

I sincerely thank you for your interactions and responses to my last love letter. It was different from my usual tone and therefore I felt a bit more nervous to send it. 

This month, I’ve been waiting to write to you until I could feel somewhat grounded in my body after quite a wild ride this month.

I told you during our last correspondence that I’d have some news for you in this love letter, and I sure do.

An emergency

This time last year, Shane and I had just sold our house in Lake Arrowhead, California, and were living in Tulum. We didn’t know it at the time, but that journey began our year long search for home.

After living in suitcases and from Airbnb to Airbnb, we landed in Port Townsend, Washington, and I was in love. It’s my favorite American town I have ever visited. We found a beautiful month to month rental while we set our sights on the daunting real estate market.

We went to showing after showing and while all the homes we’d see were cute in their own ways, none of them were a certain YES!

One day, I was in the bathroom and I heard Shane running upstairs exclaiming, “This is an emergency! I’m shaking! This is an emergency.” He came into my bathroom, turned his computer around, and showed me a Zillow listing for an off-grid cabin in Southeastern Alaska. We looked at each other with the kind of mischievous eye contact that says a thousand words.

That day, I called a lender, and after initially telling us we were pre-approved, they told us we wouldn’t be able to get our preferred funding for that home because you could only reach it by boat or seaplane (very cool, very James Bond). We were discouraged until about 10 minutes later when our realtor sent us a home that he had just listed that day. The home had features we would have never even considered asking the heavens for. The home was a dream, it was perfect.

At this point, I had never even been to Alaska, and Shane had been once to a completely different area. If you aren’t aware of this, Alaska is gigantic with so many different climates and cultures. Before physically seeing the home, we put an offer in on the home and it was accepted. *Remember how I told you about our trip to Alaska? I just left out that we were going to see our potential new home.*

The next day, we flew to Alaska, took a 4.5 hour ferry to Heaven on Earth, and went to view the house.

Oh yes, mystical

When we stepped foot on the property, I just knew that it was our forever home. A place to house our favorite items and hold our deep love for each other. A place to come back to after travels near and far. A place to host and to laugh and to grow.

After viewing the house, we got back to our little hotel room, and were struck by an awareness that we had unknowingly called this home into our reality. Tears streamed down our cheeks as we recounted the last few months. Shane, having always loved Alaska and the outdoors began writing a short story three months prior to finding the Alaska cabin. His short story follows two brothers on a great canoeing adventure through Canada’s Yukon territory.

As he searched the map to make his story’s geography accurate, he stumbled upon the town we’d soon call home. As per usual with our lives, mystical happenings dance around us. This was no exception. I asked Shane if I could share his story with you today, and he obliged. He wrote this piece while listening to the song Cerca De Ti by Hermanos Gutiérrez on repeat. I highly recommend you do the same as you read his story. Shane’s writing always moves me and it’s a great honor for me to get to share it with you. 

Any Wilderness Will Do

“And the thought that was born to me in the quietness of that adventure—that in the wilderness, in uneventful solitude, men for companionship must find themselves…Go, young men to grow wise and wise men to stay young, not West nor East nor North nor South, but anywhere that men are not.”

    —Rockwell Kent

In a time not long ago, two brothers set off on a canoe across the rugged landscape of northern Canada from the east coast to the west. The labyrinth of waterways stretching across the region are vast, unlocking a wilderness that one can’t reach any other way. Free of social responsibilities, they wanted nothing more than to venture off into the unknown and explore the uncharted frontier of their home country.

Sam, 26, and Nathan, 24, were inspired by old stories of the indigenous and decided to build the canoe in the traditional way by using birch wood and shaping the hull, paddles, and seats by hand.  All of this took a great deal of time and they would often argue about the various details of its construction. Because the canoe needed to travel an incredible distance, they needed to make sure everything was as strong and reliable as possible. Between building the canoe, planning routes, learning the geography, and rehearsing potentially dangerous scenarios, it took about a year before they set off.

Finally, the day came to set out on their voyage.  As one might expect, most of their time was spent fishing and foraging for food, repairing wear and tear on the canoe, portaging around obstructions and waterfalls, and finding a decent place to camp for the night.

Indeed, they endured their share of hardships too.  Like the time they got food poisoning from eating bad fish, or when it rained for two weeks straight, or the boredom that came no matter how incredible the scenery was.  Even so, they were having the time of their lives; free men without a care in the world.

Over the year, the brothers had changed in subtle but important ways—realizing a confidence and self-reliance that can only be cultivated through extended exposure to nature’s awesome indifference. Something in the recklessness of their youth had transformed to a rootedness in their beings. In between their joking and retelling of embellished sexual escapades, they came to recognize this change in each other. Though, as young men often do, they passed it over in silence.

As winter neared, the nights began to fill with that biting Canadian chill that makes a person question why the hell anyone would choose to live in that part of the world. Having seen better days and a couple of weeks behind schedule, they neared the Mackenzie River, which empties into the Beaufort Sea west of Tuktoyaktuk.  Nearby was a settlement just past the river mouth where they planned to hunker down until spring.  A warm bed and meal were close but those last few days were hard, and cold.  

The landscape in northern Yukon is bleak and expansive; amplified by arctic skies, which are clearer and deeper than those of softer lands. Lining the Mackenzie River, barren beaches are littered with the bleached bones of old spruce and pine—their fantastic roots worn smooth from the ages. Bordered by dwarf birch and willow which cling to the ridges where there is otherwise sparse vegetation. In the shadowy distance, nameless mountains hold lease on the stillness.  Within such desolate and austere conditions the human mind is most capable of distillation—sensing the essence of things.  Smoke means fire. Movement signals danger. Even when half asleep, the senses are ignited.

Weary and in the final hours nearing the encampment, they decided to press into the night, hoping to reach the warmth of shelter by dawn. On some winter nights in the Yukon there is a silence that engulfs you.  Dark hours where nothing living seems to be awake.  When the winds’ familiar touch rises out of the earth into the heavens, and the seas’ motionless waters coalesce into an obsidian mirror.  As they neared the river mouth, this was one of those nights.

There’s an Inuit term, Qarrtsiluni—it’s difficult to translate, but it means something like “sitting together in darkness”. As in, waiting for something unexpected to happen, or the calmness before a great vision. When you know something grand is about to occur but it’s just before that tipping point where it hasn’t yet begun. So, like that, they quietly sat together in the pregnant silence of the night. Riding the gentle current of the river as they glid effortlessly out to sea.

That moonless night, the sky was completely uncorrupted by man-made light, and the glassy sea surface reflected the brilliant luminosity of the Milky Way without the slightest deviation. There were so many stars visible that there was hardly a black speck between them. And the Northern Lights, appearing like a bridge for the gods, painted the sky with an array of dancing ice-green light upon the depths of space which seemed to keep going and going and going forever.

Neither man said a word.  As if possessed by some transcendental object, their eyes became transfixed on the expanse, immobilized by the salvation smeared across the sky. Drifting farther and farther out to sea the men began to feel something more ancient than time surrounding them…

All of those heights of endless space and depths of the ocean with its unimaginable weight beneath them felt as if they were their own. In that moment, the whole of the universe seemed to erupt inside of them. And they both knew, although it would be years before they spoke of it, that something they had never known before—from within their own depths—came alive that night.

As the brothers approached the shore, the unearthly place they had just inhabited seemed to evaporate back into the Great Mystery from which it came.  Their minds once again grew timber-thick—dense and brambled as they tried to make sense of the immensity they had just encountered.  But knowing deep in their bones beneath the veneer of civilization was something utterly wild—an inexorable rapture. That they had touched it, and it had touched them.

Water flows through rivers, and canoes down their banks. What goes in at one end and what comes out at the other is the same—water, and canoes. But flux is also a kind of flow, with one significant difference: it is the flow of things that are transformed along the journey.  There in the raw wilderness, something so anciently unchanged exists; a presence that has watched countless cultures rise and fall. Penetrating those who amble over its great stretches of sea and desert and stone and earth.  As they learn the language of its landscapes—it changes them.

That which sees, hopes, starves, and praises is as primordial as the wilderness itself.  Something deep within the catacombs of our being recognizes itself in the naked grandeur of wild places. us out of our hum-drum lives to something sacred, alive, and imbued with soul.

*******

At some point in our lives we may come across a line in a poem, experience the birth of a child, look out at a soaring mountain landscape, or moonless sky lit up by the vastness of space, and feel the world stop. Some living thing leaps out of those moments and plunges our experience into the depths of what it is to be alive. Where we leave the narrow confines of our normal orientation to life and are suddenly immersed in a sea of meaning that expands in every direction. In those rare moments, the richness of reality floods our senses in a way that cannot be reduced to mere evolutionary values, and we are caught—spellbound.

How does it happen? What part of us can feel this? And, why?

The ancient Athenians had a word for this called, aisthesis.  Which is a moment when a soul exchange happens between us and something from the wildness of the world. Where a non-cognitive faculty of the heart opens us up to the underlying depths of each moment. Making us receptive to illumination—to the Mystery of Being, hidden within ordinary things.

Sometimes the moment comes as a huge shock—such as the story of the two brothers—where we’re suddenly beholding some magnanimous event.  At others, the scale may be more subtle or intimate, but no less moving.  During both, our hearts inform us that the mundane has given way to the sacred and we find ourselves consumed by the recognition that we are gloriously and achingly alive.

*******

Sitting outside a cafe in Costa Rica one early morning, I said it like this…

Some moments
Shine brighter than others…

Following the tiny impulses
Of times unfolding
To find my footing
On this invisible tower

Something strange, but familiar
Holds me there
And when it does
I stop what I’m doing
To pay attention

Sunlight refracting through trees
Revealing gyres of filaments
Floating sleepily in the air;
A shimmering spider web
Unconcealed by dawn;
Rhythms of a latin radio station
Playing faintly in the distance

A climate of mind
Shifts my perception
And ten thousand things
Insert their fingers
Into the heart of me.
—-

-Shane Hanner

Getting out of my body’s way

From that moment in the hotel room forward, I tried to get out of my body’s way and let the great spirit guide me. It felt like every force from all the galaxies above were rooting for us to get this home. It was the most seamless and clear process during a time that has, in the past, been so stressful. 

On September 29, we closed on our new property as we were already on our journey North. It was a surreal moment surrounded by the Canadian Rockies with our van, the Prius, and a 6×12 U-Haul trailer in tow. WE DID IT! WE REALLY MADE THIS DREAM A REALITY. I’m very excited to share this news with you. I’m sorry if you’re a little let down because you thought maybe I was pregnant… lol

While Shane and I have very adventurous spirits, moving to Alaska is absolutely our greatest and most uncharted adventure yet. Alaska is nicknamed The Last Great Frontier for a reason. There simply isn’t anywhere like this on Earth. In southeastern Alaska, the mountains eject from sea level and the weather is unpredictable and ever-changing. The glaciers melt into waterfalls that slam into the lakes and the lakes feed into the salmon swarmed rivers that collide with the glassy halibut and whale inhabited inlets. The night is more black than perhaps you’ve ever experienced, and the moisture encourages mossy boulders to produce very cute mushroom families.

We’ve now been here 10 days and I can say that it has exceeded all of my expectations. I instantly feel like I’m home in our home and I cannot believe my eyes each time I see massive bald eagles, bears, sea lions, or a plethora of other wildlife. It’s like living in Jurassic park every single day. I told Shane that I don’t think I’d even bat an eye if a stegosaurus walked through our yard. I’m almost expecting it each time I look out our windows. A rebirth has started washing over me, as I welcome the intensity of this land into my veins.

I loved every moment of the last 3.5 months in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote my heart out there and I felt like that time in a small town prepared me for a population a quarter of that size. During my final month there, I was able to virtually decorate our Alaska home by studying the photos and going to antique shops in Washington. I simultaneously donated bins and bins of non-essentials to thrift stores. Both sets of my parents came to visit and helped me visualize and collect gems. I was also very excited to meet with and hire a local Port Townsend editor for my book during my final days there. She’s fantastic! As I continue to make final adjustments to my manuscript, I find it difficult to express how excited I am to share it with you. I know that being here in Alaska will be the cherry on top for my final edits.

In addition to MOVING TO ALASKA this past month, I went to Miami for my bestie’s bachelorette party. It was a totally fun last hoorah before the move and it felt good to wear sexy outfits and dance and dance and stay at a fabulous hotel. I loved celebrating her. What a treat!

Into 31 I go

I turn 31 in two days. I convinced my mom to make the trek up to Alaska to celebrate with me and I’m so happy she’ll be here! Last year, for my 30th birthday, I recorded a podcast episode about what I learned in my twenties. If you want to listen to that, click here. My 30th birthday feels like it was 5 years ago and I’m ready for this year to maybe be a bit slower? A bit more like an exhale than a series of rapid fire Kundalini yoga breaths? Whatever unfolds as I turn 31, I’m excited for it. The more I surrender and get out of my expectation’s way, the more life unfolds in brilliant displays of happening.

After so much time away from social media and my phone screen this year, my message and my priorities are becoming more clear. My time more precious. My intention more pure.

When we first arrived in Alaska, I told Shane that I want my mind to look like the landscape here. Crisp and clear and huge and honest and wild.

That’s what I’ll leave with today. A reminder about how short our lives are and how certain death is. While we’re here, is all that online shopping necessary? Is it really making you happy? What are you masking? Is all that stuff in your storage unit, or stuffed into your drawers actually serving you? What can you shed to make space for something bigger trying to shine through. 

To be alive is such a gift. To be present, such an opportunity. The more presence I practice, the more unhealthy little society influence fades away. Incessant scrolling, binge watching, mindless eating, people pleasing, product consuming, fast fashion buying, cosmetic surgery desiring…

What replaces those ailments is certainly magic. Life opens up in a way that brings what we never knew we needed to the forefront of our human experience.

I love you and I love writing to you. I hope you’re ready to receive news of my book’s release soon!

My book on sacred sexuality

The seemingly never ending book writing process is happening in real time. I was writing at the library yesterday just looking around at all the books for inspiration to complete this baby of mine! I’m ready to birth her and she keeps asking for more time! I acquiesce! I acquiesce!

As I mentioned, I’ve found a fabulous editor. It’s just on me to tie up loose ends before I send her my final manuscript! We’re almost there. Soon, I’ll be sharing snippets of the book here and on social media. Yes, I’ll be posting again soon. I hope you’ll still think I’m fun and cool!

What I’m currently reading: 

Absolutely nothing this month! I have, however, been practicing my Spanish every single day and am currently on a 34-day Duolingo streak! Sí puedo!!!

What I’m thinking about:

In my last love letter, I was thinking about a noodles and which variety I would have for dinner. I chose Thai drunken noodles, and I didn’t regret it!

Today, I am thinking about the tattoo on my arm. Although I have “Trust the timing of your life” tattooed in my own handwriting, it’s always easier said than done. This move felt like a giant message from the universe that said, “See! We’ve got you! Just breathe and trust your effort. Trust your heart.”

I strive with devotion to lean back and surrender and honor my time in this body. I’ll do what it takes to learn from the mountains, and the wind and the rain. From my experience so far, the greatest wisdom comes from being here, in this moment right now, and trying not to distract from the discomfort that will inevitably arise.   

Before I go,

I’d like to make an announcement that there might be no food combination more delicious than fresh mozzarella, basil, heirloom tomato, sea salt, little oregano, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and a *dash* of red wine vinegar (that’s the secret). Let’s all take the time in our lives to pursue the consumption of foods that tasty.  

In gratitude,

I’m overflowing with gratitude so much right now that it feels like my boobs are filled with tears and might pop. I truly can’t thank you enough for being here and supporting my long form writing during a time in history where this kind of thing isn’t that trendy or cool. I know these letters are often long and I also know that many of you ready every word. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cheers to you. I love reading your replies. Each one means the world to me! I’m looking forward to writing again next month.

~

I love you,

-Lauren

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