Photos from My Alaska Trip

On February 9, I will be presenting “Ritual Abuse 101: Recognizing and Treating Survivors” at An Infinite Mind’s conference in Orlando, Florida. Therapists, survivors (including those who are wondering if they have a ritual abuse or government mind control background and support people are all welcome.

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I thought I would share some photos from the Alaska trip. I’m still high from the experience, and the photos are really quite wonderful. I hope you enjoy them!

First, a poem that really captures the culture of people living in Alaska. Everybody values self-sufficiency and everybody has each others’ backs.

alaskans

we are fish people, wood people, the people’s people
we are speak up, speak over the river people
steady ship, meandering beach, mountain peak people.
we have to see it for ourselves kind of people.

we are fixer upper, do it or it doesn’t get done people.
we sing at church, we kiss our wives, we carve with our door open we wear suits, we wear boots, we are spring clean saturday people. we are strange but we are no strangers.

happy nalukataq! bingo! amen!
we share our wins, we celebrate.
tree shakers, promise makers
we are believers

at any moment we are
the grandparents and grandchildren of greatness
genius and luck, noble and gathered
wild miracles

we are wayfinding people.
trace the edge of your mother and it will lead you
to a coast. who could truly tell where
you or I begin

or where any of our legends end?
here, north
is not a direction, it’s a bond.
we turn towards each other

— Christy NaMee Eriksen

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People dress in layers in thirty degree below zero weather. Five or six layers aren’t uncommon – it’s the air between the clothes that supplies insulation. Puffy jackets and snow pants have lots of little pockets of air between the material that makes up the filling. Some people wear goggles to protect their eyes. It’s still damn cold.

Here are some things we saw on the way to Coldfoot Camp

 

This was as high as the sun got!

Winter water from the air. The white spaces are ice that has formed over rivers and ponds.

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The infamous outhouse.

View from my bedroom. That ice is on the inside of the window!

 

Now on to the Northern Lights themselves, the star of the show.

This is what they were like on the night we saw them. They are never the same, so if we had come a week earlier or a week later it would have been quite different. There was no moon and there was no ambient light from the cabins. I have not seen so many stars for decades, perhaps ever!

Here’s an idea of what the camera can see when it gathers light for 10 minutes. A person can’t see anything, or sees just enough to wonder if it is wishful thinking or not.

Suddenly, green light appeared to rise from the horizon all around us. It was bright enough to obscure the stars.

It intensified and spread across the sky. Here the light is more diffuse, and the stars peek through.

And right above our heads, a swirl appeared, as if an invisible hand were finger-painting. It moved slowly and spread to the right.

After about ten minutes, the lights faded and we were back to the dark, star-filled sky. I wish the photos were larger so that you could see the more than a few stars.

It was magic to have the body so cold it wanted to run right back into the cabin, and the spirit so entranced it wanted to stare at the sky forever.

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Upcoming Holidays

January
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/8 Full moon
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras
2/25 Walpurgis Day
2/26 Ash Wednesday
March 
3/1 St. Eichstadt’s Day
3/9 Full moon
3/13 Friday the Thirteenth
3/17 Spring Equinox
3/17 St. Patrick’s Day
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/10 Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (celebration of spring)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)

An Amazing Adventure

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

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I didn’t tell you what I was going to do over Christmas because I didn’t want to jinx myself. A couple of people who learned about it tried their hardest to talk me out of it. I took their concerns seriously and thought of canceling, but decided to do my best to reassure them and go ahead and do what I wanted.

I went to Alaska for a week with two dear friends in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights! I had seen them in Maine as a kid – Northern Lights, not my friends – and remember them as being beautiful. I would lie on my back on the grass and watch them partially obscure the zillion stars visible on dark nights. They looked like sheer white curtains edged in green, waving slowly in the breeze. I knew that, if I saw them again, they wouldn’t look like my childhood Northern Lights, but I was sure they would be gorgeous.

Our adventure started off inauspiciously. We had to change planes in Portland to get to Anchorage. The flight we were supposed to take was canceled because of mechanical problems. There was no back-up plane available, no empty seats at all on any flight on any airline to Anchorage . . . for the next three days. It took us a while to figure out that we couldn’t return home unless we could score a rental car. So it was probably Portland for the next few days, like it or not, assuming we were lucky enough to find a hotel with unbooked rooms. Luckily Portland is the home of Powell’s Bookstore, the world’s largest independent bookstore. ( https://www.powells.com/ for those planning to visit Portland soon.)

Suddenly the airline agent announced that there was a “Christmas miracle.” A free plane with seats for all of us was on its way from Seattle! Talk about pulling a rabbit out of a hat! We got to go, after all, just a few hours late. Happy, happy, happy.

As we landed at Anchorage, we were welcomed with Solstice fireworks celebrating the slow return of real daylight. We grabbed some food and staggered into bed for a few hours’ sleep before getting up at five to be driven to the train station for the nine-hour trip to Fairbanks. 

There were only about four hours with enough light to see the scenery. Dawn faded into twilight, and the sun never got over the horizon. I love trains so much! It would have been a treat even if it had been pitch black the whole time. It had a proper dining car and a cafe with snacks and cards and toys for the kids.

We saw a bald eagle, a lot of large ravens, and eleven moose. The moose were in pairs, a mother with her calf, pawing the snow to uncover small trees with tender bark. No bears; they are all asleep this time of year.

Another quick dinner and a few hours of sleep. We spent the next day on a small bus to Coldfoot Camp, which is half-way between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, on the Arctic Ocean. That’s where the oil in the Alaska pipeline originates.

Alaska is vast and sparsely populated. An Internet search yields these statistics: there are only 736,855 people in the whole state; 297,832 of them live in Anchorage, the largest city; 33,645 in Fairbanks, the second-largest; and 84 in Coldfoot. (By the way, there are about 750,000 caribou and 200,000 moose in Alaska.) The reason Coldfoot is that big is that it is the only place to get gas in the 500 miles between Fairbanks and Deadhorse. It also provides amenities for the truckers: overnight truck parking, a restaurant, a bar, showers, parts for minor repairs, and a chance to connect with old friends. Recently, small rooms for tourists chasing the Northern Lights have been added.

On our first night in Coldfoot, we joined a group of young Chinese tourists who had come to see the Northern Lights. Our group had the use of a small log cabin with a wood-fired stove to hang out in. Every now and then, somebody would go outside to see if there was any action. At times, there were very faint lights, barely visible to the naked eye. They looked better in photos with a ten-second exposure, but not by a whole lot. We amused ourselves with short trips to the outhouse. It was thirty below zero – I kid you not. The trick is to sit on your mittens, so you don’t get stuck.

At about three in the morning, we were ready to give up, when the sky exploded with green streaks. They rose from all parts of the horizon and met at the top in swirls. They moved slowly and changed shape for about ten minutes and then faded away. It was absolutely breath-taking.

During the day, we caught up on sleep and took a dog sled ride. Fun but bitter, bitter cold, what with the wind chill factor. Those puppies run fast! The next evening we went back for seconds on the Northern Lights, but there was nothing. It’s okay. I got my wish, and it was far better than I had imagined.

We took a small plane instead of the bus back to Fairbanks, which was fun. Christmas day, we were planning to visit some hot springs outside of Fairbanks, but we were so sleep-deprived that we settled for watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” and a nice meal at the hotel. And then it was time for Anchorage and home.

Now that I am home, how do I feel? Very grateful, but still sleep-deprived! And all sneezy from a head cold. Happy to be back in familiar surroundings, with my cat and my very own bed and temperatures well above freezing. I’m still feeling high from being out of my comfort zone, proud of my courage, and sated with beauty. I’m not 100% percent home; I’m startled that the sun rises at 7:30 and doesn’t set for nine and a half hours. The Internet feels like a luxury – one click of the mouse brings me contact with survivors, my people, my kin. I know there are survivors in Alaska, but I didn’t know how to find them. The days of feeling crazy without constant validation of my past are long over, and I do fine on my own now. But it is so nice not to be alone!

When I sort through our photos, I’ll try to put something up on the blog header, replacing the Christmas tree. I hope there’s a good picture of the Northern lights that will fit the space. No promises – these are amateur photos, remember!

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Oh, a note about the reading by Joy Hargo. The first poem she read was the one I posted!!!! My heart swelled, and I burst into tears. She was speaking directly to me, “Put down those potato chips…”

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Upcoming Holidays

January
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/8 Full moon
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras
2/25 Walpurgis Day
2/26 Ash Wednesday
March 
3/1 St. Eichstadt’s Day
3/9 Full moon
3/13 Friday the Thirteenth
3/17 Spring Equinox
3/17 St. Patrick’s Day
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups=
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/10 Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (celebration of spring)
3/10 Purim (Deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman in Persia)

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)

Twenty-Four Years of Slow Change

I came back as planned!

The trip was fantastic. My best friend and I got along great, and it was a wonderful reminder of the days we travelled together early in our friendship. I felt very loved and very loving.

Not everything was the way I imagined, but that usually is the case. Some things were — the desert in Coober Pedy is every bit as beautiful as I thought it would be. I wish we could have stayed a lot longer. Tasmania was gorgeous. Wombats look like I thought they would, and guess what — Tasmanian Devils sorta look like small wombats. We saw a duck-billed platypus, a whale, dolphins, seals, a pandemelon and tawny frogmouths (I’ll let you Google them), a koala, kangaroos and emus with chicks along the road. That was far more than I expected.

The low point of the trip was when a hungry kangaroo in a petting zoo clawed me and then ate all the food I was giving him, and the paper bag, too. The ones I had seen before were sweet and gentle and well fed. I couldn’t hold it against him — he was a wild animal and seemed to be given mainly hay. With a diet of hay, I would have lunged for goodies, too.

My back was horrible, and remains so. It feels worse, probably because I don’t have new experiences and all that beauty to distract me. I’m having a hard time accepting that this is my new baseline and I will have to make a whole lot more accommodations. My guess is that this was my last big trip, and that makes me very sad. Funny how my body is going downhill even as I get better psychologically.

Rereading what I just wrote, I notice that there are no references to ritual abuse or its after-effects except for the last word of the preceding sentence. A while ago it would have been all about RA, and Australia would have been barely mentioned. When I look back on the day when my memories first exploded into consciousness, I cannot believe the change. If you had told me then that I could ever feel like this, I would have thought you were lying in an attempt to keep me from killing myself.

I wish I could tell those in the early or middle stages of coming to grips with ritual abuse that it can get better, miraculously better. I can tell them, but I can’t make them believe it, any more than I could have believed it in the beginning. There was no room for hope then, there was only the grim daily struggle to stay alive. And, oddly enough, what I did to stay alive led, small step by small step, to where I am today. There is so much to be grateful for, so much to celebrate!