"So if I'm driving down Lowell Point Road, and I happen to look up and see another slide coming, do I just accelerate?" I ask this to Nick as we sit at the kitchen table on a school night, drinking wine, and talking about the day after the kids have finally fallen asleep.
"Yeah. Or stop before the slide if you can."
Avalanche Driving 101
Not your every day commuter conversation-- but part of our new reality out here on Lowell Point.
Lowell Point Road, the only route from our cabin to town, is carved from the side of the mountain, a weaving gravel line, just barely two cars wide, between mountain cliffs and the icy water of Resurrection Bay.
Do Not Stop, Avalanche Zone, Next Two Miles, a sign reads.
How often do we ignore this warning?
Stopping and rolling down the windows, to say hello to the family of sea lions that seems just as curious about our orange Honda Element as we are about them.
Or the sea otters floating on their backs eating muscles.
And so many birds: Eiders, Puffins, Eagles, Harlequins, Cormorants, Mures, Kittiwakes...
"Look for whales," we say, after hearing others spotted a pod of Orcas in the bay.
Sometimes I just stop to take pictures of a sky that changes before my eyes-- free art, therapy, drugs, religion. Better than...
I'm more aware of the warning printed on that yellow sign after an avalanche closed the road, sometime during Nick's lunch hour, for all we know minutes before he attempted to drive back to the office, a slide higher than his tall truck (with a step on the side so us shorter folks can reach the cab), a wet heavy snow pile across the only route to town, chunks floating in the ocean as the Orcas swam away.
This left Nick and I on one side of the avalanche, and our two children, unaware, sitting in their respective classrooms, on the other side of the white berm.
We called friends in town. Made a plan. Biked to the big snow pile and watched as a brave backhoe operator began the process of digging out the road.
A couple hours later, one lane opened and we were all reunited in the small cabin we call home.
"We're not really living a normal life," Nick had said to me, before the avalanche, as we talked about David's driveway, that next year will also be ours, over half a mile long, and only accessible via snow machine for days when we have winters like this one, with snow upon snow upon snow...
For once, the words "normal" and "not" weren't connected to our oldest child, our son Elias who walks with the help of forearm crutches, with limited sight, who experiences autism, and who just happens to love shoveling snow.
Add our boy to the equation, and our plan to build a home on the edge of civilization and wilderness, off the grid, on the side of mountain, at the end of the road (a fallible one), is far from normal.
But what is normal these days?
You know that feeling of walking on a heavy snow pack, never knowing if your boots will stay on top of the crust or if the next step will find you mid-thigh or hip high in snow?
Cautious step, cautious step, stuck in a hole.
That's the way the world feels these days. Our new normal.
I wake up and wonder: What awful headline will be in the news today? What crazy thing will he say? Whats next?
And then I get out of bed, put on my blue fleece bathrobe, and climb down the ladder from the loft.
I kiss Nick and say, "Good morning." We hold each other for a few heartbeats.
I pour myself a cup of coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon and almond milk, put bread in the toaster for Olive, a tortilla with cheese and salmon in the frying pan for Elias.
I make sure their snow-pants, gloves, hats, and lunches get into their backpacks.
I listen to NPR, check email, Facebook, CNN, the Anchorage Daily News, reading only headlines as I prepare for the day.
I breathe and write in my head.
I falter between angst for the future and compassion for the moment. Between being informed and looking at the snow on the Spruce bows.
Between hope and worry for my children.
Between poetry and prose.
And the snow, it just keeps falling.
A white slate, tragic, stunning, ordinary--a portent perhaps, or a blessing.