Vacation always reminds me of the importance of down time for the body and soul. In our daily lives we go and go and while we try and take care of everything and everyone we sometimes forget how important it is to take care of ourselves as well. No one can do that for us, so we must remember to do it for ourselves.
This past week I did just that and had the pleasure of spending time in our 49th state, Alaska. On January 3, 1959 President Eisenhower signed a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the union as our 49th state. In doing so he added some of the most beautiful scenery in the world to our precious United States. It’s hard to believe that Alaska has only been a state for 59 years. The majesty and beauty that is around the bend of every river, the banks of every shore and the valley of every mountain remind you of the grandeur and power of nature.
Alaska is a place where you still find pristine waterways, untouched mountain ranges, temperate zones that change with the altitude and ancient glaciers and rock formations. Unfortunately, is also a place where we get to experience first hand the destructive nature that we can have on the planet, if we ignore the effect we as people have on our changing climate.
I visited Alaska 18 years ago and got to see some the same places I visited back then. The difference in glacial ice and snow in just that 18 year time period is so evident that it is heartbreaking. There was so little ice that we were able to sail the entire length of Tracy Arm fjord, that which was often impassable by ships at this time of year. While it provided for spectacular viewing, it was also a stark reminder that we need to do what we can to take care of Mother Earth to preserve the beauty and splendor for future generations. This is not meant as a political statement, but rather a reality statement if our children and grandchildren and future generations are going to be able to enjoy what we get to enjoy today.
Alaska is a simple place with small populations, old ways of life, dependence on the land for survival and a place where you can’t take every day necessities for granted. If you live in Skagway, there is one grocery store and one gas station. When the store runs out of milk, it could be days before it gets it again. If you want to run to Wal-Mart, the closest one is in Canada 150 miles away, but you can’t buy meats and other items and bring them back across the border as the inspectors won’t let them through. If you need a doctor, there aren’t any – only nurse practitioners. If you live in Juneau the only way into the city is by boat or plane. Everyone knows everyone and the sense of community is strong and alive.
The best thing for me this vacation was not only recharging, but reconnecting with nature. I was reminded how fortunate I am in life, for the things that I have learned and for the opportunities to do what I am able to do for myself and the world. We get one chance at life and often don’t get a second chance at missed opportunities. This is why I try and live each day as full as I can make it. I feel energized to continue the work we have started and to use each day to better my own life and all the lives of those that we touch. In doing so, I will also remember the importance of taking care of the earth that we live in. I will take that one extra step to the recycle bin rather than the garbage. I will turn off that light that isn’t necessary. I will find the nearest garbage can for litter and I will avoid the excessive unnecessary use of water. If we can do these things we will further our mission of connecting the circle of life and ensuring that generations that come long after we are gone get to enjoy the beauty that has been bestowed upon us.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.