It was mid-April in the Arctic, and I could feel the pressure.
The river was still covered in ice, and yet if I listened closely, I could feel the energy pulsing beneath its surface — bursting at the seams. The iced-over tributaries that flow into the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River in the Brooks Range, like Wiseman Creek, were being slowly worn down by melt-off from the mountains. As the water comes down, it digs little trenches (that become very large trenches over time), relentlessly carving a path to the Koyukuk. The overflow doesn’t stop until it reaches its destination — and even then, it flows onward as it merges with the river.
This is Mother Nature’s springtime awakening, called “Breakup” in Alaska.
And during Breakup, the water steers our ship — meaning our plans revolve around the speed at which Her water melts, runs and flows. In addition to the running rivers, Arctic Breakup also causes the snow and ice on the ground to melt, the water to rise because the permafrost underneath the tundra prevents ice/snow melt from sinking into the ground — it’s like a flood that lasts longer than usual.
This flooding causes the puddles to grow, the mud to thicken, the earth to feel spongey, and the trails to be slick. What was once a solid path is now a mud pit that acts like quicksand, suctioning your rubber boots with each sloshing step… sometimes threatening to pull your boot right off your foot.
No snowmachines. No wheelers. Just hand-hauling gear and water up to Arctic Hive during Breakup!
When Sean and I first started living off-grid in Montana years ago, I re-discovered my connection to Mother Nature. I remembered that I could sense Her seasonal patterns — which always seemed to curiously mirror my own internal world.
It’s like She knows.
Throughout those years in Montana, I went through some personal struggles that left me desperately clinging to anything that would keep me in the present moment — the stars, the wind, the night sky, even hawks flying overhead became my sign. When I saw them circling overhead, I’d remind myself that everything was working out.
Then when we moved to Alaska, we went from Level 2 in the off-grid video game to Level 87 — in an instant. I realized quickly that up here, Mother Nature doesn’t hold back.
If you’re not living in the present moment in the Alaskan bush, you’re dead. Literally, or figuratively — depending on the day. If we’re not getting assaulted with Her bounty of bugs, Her bone-chilling cold, or Her endless sunshine or darkness at opposite ends of the year, we’re basking in the glory of Her endless mountain ranges, divinely clear creek water, and Her thick forests and spongey tundra carpet. If you don’t like the weather, maybe change your clothes. Maybe change your attitude. And then move on to the next moment… just stay present!
Mother Nature is raw up here in the Brooks Range — and true to form, I’ve felt quite raw myself these past few months. On my darkest days, I’ve turned to the outdoors, seeking Her wisdom as I decided how to move forward in my life. As I leaned into the pressure of Breakup this April, I realized I felt all sorts of similar, uncomfortable pressure within my heart — the pressure before you finally open the floodgates. The pressure when you know it’s time to let go.
And Mother Nature’s wisdom did not let me down.
In June, I was privileged to let go and pass the torch of Yoga Hive Montana (my first yoga studio) to one of my dear friends and colleagues. I couldn’t feel more excited for her and the Montana yogis she’s going to hold space for, and more proud of myself for having the strength to untether my creation into the world.
And yet, as I’ve finally returned to Alaska after a month of clearing out and cleaning up business in Montana, Mother Nature has been waiting for me up here. Per usual, She puts my life into perspective so well. I’d been feeling out of sorts for the past few weeks… a little extra sensitive… a little less motivated to tackle new projects. As we drove the wide, expansive road north through British Columbia, up through the Yukon and finally back to Alaska, Ma Nature whispered her wisdom to me in a meditation one morning:
“Sometimes we require a little extra space in our lives before we can truly let go.”
It never really landed with me until that moment. Of course letting go takes bandwidth! Even as an optimist, I understand that letting go is much easier said than done. Tossing out torn jeans from 2012 might be easy. And cleaning the basement is arduous but rewarding. But truly letting go of our most meaningful experiences, creations and even loved ones is an entirely different category. Letting go of those treasured pieces of our heart takes courage, integration, and assimilation.
Like the Brooks Range overflow carving out pathways through frozen creeks before Mother Nature unleashes Breakup in full force, letting go is a path that only we know, and only we can walk — alone. And sometimes, we need extra space before we can experience the pulsing, powerful, expansive spaciousness that waits for us on the other side.
And you know what? It's good to be here, now.
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