My Glamorous Life

After reading about my adventures in London, Strasbourg, Paris, Mont Saint-MichelKyoto, and Salzburg, you must think I live the charmed life of a Disney Princess. 

If that is true, I am about to shatter your illusion.

Although I've been fortunate enough to travel to some of the world's most exciting cities, I promise you that a flock of tiny blue birds does not awaken me with their twittering or bring me my pelisse by holding the silken straps within their beaks.  In fact, my reality is far from glamorous.

Take this morning, for example.

I love the smell of jet fuel
 in the morning, don't you?
I woke to the roar of fighter jets lifting off the runway located a block from my home. Their supersonic blasts frequently rattle my windows (and nerves).

I reluctantly rolled out of my warm bed, padded over to my closet, and slipped into my thick, thoroughly-unsexy, Alaska-practical robe.  Then, glutton for punishment that I am, I looked out the window to assess the weather.

I don't know why I repeat this ritual each morning, as if I am Bill Murray replaying a scene in the movie Groundhog Day.  The weather rarely changes in Alaska in the Spring.  It's all shades of gray; a place of little depth and nuance.

Spring has arrived!
Nevertheless, each morning I pull back the curtains and peer outside, hoping to see something other than gray flannel skies and mounds of drab snow.

My son came into the room then, complaining of a sore throat, achy body and the chills (Alaska's version of Spring Fever).  I sent him back to bed with the promise of a mug of hot chocolate, cinnamon toast with the crusts cut off, and some NyQuil.

Then, I remembered we were out of NyQuil...and cinnamon toast. 

Don't I look like
I could be a cover girl
for InUit Style
So, I padded back to my closet, took off my robe and pajamas, and hunted around for an outfit that would be appropriate for a quick trip to the grocery store.  I opted for my uber-chic caribou fur leggings, sealskin boots, and polar bear fur coat with matching gloves.  I considered adding my mink neck wrap, but decided I would have been over-dressed and too warm.  After all, it is Spring!

I waddled downstairs, grabbed my bear spray, and stood guard in the backyard while Molly, my beloved schnoodle, attended to her morning ablutions. 

Then, it was off to the grocery store to buy supplies for my NyQuil-spiked hot chocolate (because, by this point, my throat felt scratchy and my limbs ached).

Look who I ran into at the
 grocery store this morning!
 I rolled into the grocery store parking lot about ten minutes later and guess who I saw standing in a nearby copse, munching on some withered berries? 

A moose! 

I say that enthusiastically (even adding an exclamation mark), as if it is an unusual occurrence, when, in fact, since moving to Alaska, I have seen scores of moose.  Moose have become my Alaska peeps.  The sociable creatures have taken naps beside my car, licked my living room window, and even rung my doorbell. 

Spotting moose is one of the few things I actually like about living in Alaska.

After my recent post, There's No Place Like Paris, I received a flood of emails (okay, maybe it was only a dozen) from readers begging me to write another piece about Alaska.  Sophia Laurent, a faithful follower of On Life, Love and Accidental Adventures, asked me to write about what is good in Alaska and to "be sure to include some of your pictures." 

Feeling the benevolent blogger, I went one step further.  For Sophia and my legion of inquiring readers (read: eight), I have compiled a list of the Top Nine Things I Love About Alaska.  The list includes some of my photographs and lots of warm-fuzzies.

And so, without further ado, here is my list:

Top Nine Things I Love About Alaska (I tried for ten, but after spending several painful hours wracking my brain, I could not think of a final thing to love)

1.  Awesome Scenery
Alaska has majestic mountains, vast skies, clean air, and crystal blue lakes.  In the summer, the leaves on the trees and the grass on the ground turns an impossibly bright green.  In the winter, everything in nature appears to have been dusted with glitter.  It is impossible to visit Alaska and leave doubting God's existence.

2.  The Wildlife
Since moving to Alaska, I have watched a grizzly stand in the Russian River and swat at salmon, a fox leap over snowdrifts, and an eagle build a nest.  I have watched black bear cubs amble through a field of wildflowers, caribou sprint across the tundra, and Dall sheep clamber up a cliff.  I've watched in awe as a pod of beluga whales slowly made their way through the bay and giggled at the silly antics of back-stroking sea otters.

There is an eagle who makes his nest in a tree not too far from my home.  Each time I drive by that enormous nest, perched at the top of the tree, I look for the eagle.  When he is there, I feel a jolt of excitement.  When he is not there, I fret that he met with misfortune. 

He was the first "friend" I looked up upon returning to Alaska.

3.  Cool, Sunny Days
Although they are few and far between, there are days when the sun is hot and bright and the breeze is cool and refreshing. They are the perfect sort of days for riding a bike or hanging in a hammock.

4.  Termination Dust
In early September, a light snowfall dusts the tops of the nearby mountains.  It is nature's way of letting Anchorage residents know that winter is on its way.  As the month progresses, the snow creeps farther and father down the mountain.  One can literally mark the progress on a daily basis.  I love it.  On the one hand, I dread months of darkness and frigid temperatures; on the other hand, I love the fist snowfall and the way the city looks covered in the pristine silvery white blanket.

5.  The Flowers 
Living in Alaska is like living in a refrigerator.  Most of the time it is really cold and dark.  Then, when you least expect it, the light comes on!  One day it will be cold and gray and you think winter will never end.  Then, the next day comes and it is sunny from four in the morning until midnight.  The copious summer sunshine (during the summers it is actually sunny, for we have endured two cold, rainy summers where we spent the fourth of July huddled around a fire pit), creates an explosion of fauna.  Wildflowers grow in fields and abandoned lots and sunflowers stretch and bloom in the narrow strips of grassland beside the Glenn Highway.

6.  Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge

I discovered this ultra-hip chocolate lounge on a bitterly cold, particularly bleak day early into my sentence (I view my time in Alaska much as a prisoner views his time in jail, something that must be endured). Snow swirling, wind howling, temperatures plummeting, wolves howling, I stumbled into the funky little chocolate bar and nearly wept in ecstasy at the seductive scents and sights.  The aroma of spices commingle with the scent of chocolate.  On the walls hangs artwork produced by local artists.  I felt as if I had discovered a magic portal that allowed me to step out of run-down Anchorage and into a more cosmopolitan city.     

One day, I risked life and limb on the mean, frozen streets of Anchorage only to discover Modern Dwellers would not be open that day.  Dejected. Despondent. Depressed. Adrift on a sea of misery and hopelessness, I considered driving down 5th Avenue until I hit water, but somehow managed to pull myself together (probably with the promise of another euphoric chocolate encounter on another dreary day).

7.  Trees
I could be a Lorax because I do speak to the trees.  I love the texture of their bark and the gracefulness way their limbs bend and stretch.  Alaska has a lot of trees and the light that filters through them is truly magical.

I took this picture my first winter in Alaska.  For days it had been dark and bitterly cold.  Depressed, I sent up a silent prayer begging God to give me a little sunshine.  Later that day, I noticed tentative rays poking their way through the slit in my drapes.  I grabbed my camera, jumped in my car, and headed to a nearby golf course.  By the time I finished snapping four or five shots, the sun was sinking below the horizon again.  I didn't care though.  The precious few moments of sunlight had been like a gift from Heaven, which is why I titled the photo above "God's Gift."

8.  Icicles

The locals like to brag that everything is better in Alaska.  Well, if by better they mean bigger, they are right. 

Have you ever seen an icicle as big as the one in the picture to the left?  I snapped this shot during a winter walks with my children.  It looks like something out of Narnia, doesn't it?

9.  Dramatic Sunsets 
I've watched the sun set over some of the most spectacular sites in the world - from the Palace of Versailles to the Acropolis in Athens - but I've witness the most bold and vivid sunsets in Alaska. 


James said...

Great blog about Alaska. It brought me back to when I lived there with my family. The picture of the termination dust reminded of going to school in the fall and looking at the mountains and betting with my friends how many days before snow fell in the city. Also, love the moose. I encountered one on Easter morning in our yard as I was sweeping the sidewalk after a light dusting the night before.

Heidi J. said...

This piece had me hooting with laughter. You describe Alaska so beautifully, even though I know you do not love it there. I hope you plan on following this up with your top reasons for hating Alaska?

Veronique V. said...

What a fun blog post! Did you really take all of those photographs? They're stunning. You are very talented.

Veronique V. said...

OMGOMGOMG! I left that last message and then I saw your notice in the Contest box. I am the winner of your contest? Honestly? I can't belive it. I am so excited! A box of gooodies and your autographed book? This is the best Monday ever. thank you Leah Marie.

Leah Marie Brown said...

Fancy seeing you on my blog! :) Sometimes when I drive around the base, I think about what it must have been like when you lived here. Isn't it a strange world that you lived in Alaska, we met while we were both living in Phoenix, and then we reconnect while I am living in Alaska?
Hope you are well!
All the best, LM

Leah Marie Brown said...

Heidi~ Ask and you shall receive. I will be posting my WHY I HATE ALASKA list soon. (Something tells me it will be a lot easier to write ;) LM

Leah Marie Brown said...


LOL! Yes, you are the WINNER of my Fabulous Follower Goodie Box Give Away! Thanks for following! I am glad I could make your Monday.

Oh, and yes, I took all of the photographs except for the Eskimo, Jet, and Eagle. Thanks for the praise!


Shelly Hawking said...

I live in Palmer. This is the first time I have been on your blog and it is the first time I have heard about Modern Dwellers. I followed the link and see they have two locations. I am such a huge chocolate fanatic that I am driving into town tomorrow just to go to Modern Dwellers. Thanks Leah Marie!

By the way, I really love your blog and will be back to read more. Don't kill me for saying this but I don't understand why you don't love Alaska as much as Paris.