They called it “Seward’s folly,” — the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. And while the deal was struck in late March of 1867, it wasn’t until Oct. 18 that the delegates from the U.S. arrived in Sikta to make the transfer formal.
That’s why Oct. 18 is recognized as Alaska Day. It’s a paid holiday for state employees, celebrating the purchase of Alaska and, really, us living here. This year Oct. 18 was also the first snow where I live, and it had me all up in my feels about how grateful I am to live in this beautiful and challenging place.
Many of you know our Alaska story, but in case you don’t, here’s the brief version. Back in 2015 things in the Bushatz house were categorically not good. Luke was dealing with a lot of hidden war injury stuff — which we had realized was PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury — and by “dealing with” I mean he was not dealing with it. So they were doing what those things always do when you don’t deal with them: getting worse.
In the summer of 2015 we realized that if we didn’t make a major life change we were not going to make it as a family. So Luke decided to get out of the active duty Army, which really gave us the opportunity to move anywhere we wanted, since my full time job as the executive editor of Military.com is not really location dependent.
We also knew that spending time outside did good things for us as a family and him as someone trying to sort through those issues. So we decided to pick somewhere very outdoor centric. As I turned a corner in our neighborhood in Tennessee one day it dawned on me — why not consider Alaska?
We had never been to Alaska. We didn’t even know whether we knew anyone in Alaska. But we knew we were ready for a big life change, and we knew we were ready to move somewhere where we could focus on spending more time outside. Even the idea of Alaska seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up.
And if it didn’t work out, what’s the worst that could happen? We get here, hate it, and then eventually move away?
So we packed the station wagon — literally — let the Army move some of our stuff, sold the rest of it and, on Memorial Day 2016, hit the road to Alaska, moving here sight-unseen.
It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
The effort it took to move to Alaska is something I remember every day that I’m tempted to look around and be ungrateful for the place of the weather. So, on a week last week when it was just cold and gross, I remember that I moved here because I wanted to and I live here because I love it. I remember that I can overcome the bad attitude the weather sometimes tries to give me by remembering the intentionality with which I am determined to live here.
On Alaska Day this year the just cold late fall weather turned, just like that, to winter with the first snow. One of my days of outdoor time last week included sitting in the hot tub after dark, watching the incredible stars come out on a dark, clear night. There was the dipper, the bear and the great North Star. Alaska is outdoor hero enough for me any day.
Alaska’s state song, was adopted in 1955 by the then-territorial legislature. It was written by Marie Drake, who worked for the Alaska Department of Education, and set to music composed by Elinor Dusenbury, a military spouse whose husband commanded Chilkoot Barracks in Haines, Alaska from 1933 and 1936. The first time I heard this song I cried — it was that beautiful to me. I tried to find a recording I could legally share with you here, but I can’t — and though I am no professional singer, I want to share it with you so much that I am actually going to sing it for you. That’s how much I love it. I will probably never sing for you again, so enjoy.
Alaska’s Official Song
Eight stars of gold on a field of blue,
Alaska’s flag, may it mean to you,
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes and the flowers nearby,
The gold of the early sourdough’s dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams,
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The “Bear,” the “Dipper,” and shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
O’er land and sea a beacon bright,
Alaska’s flag to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.