Eli Halpin ~ BLOG

Mountain Goats May Have Saved My Life

Wild Animal Power

When I was a little girl living in Alaska my parents and I had very different interests. They liked to stuff all of us in the dusty car and drive 3 hours away from our house to a remote location. Not 2 hours and 45 minutes, but 3 solid hours. We would stay for two days where they would fish for salmon on the Kenai River. Then we would all get back in the car again and drive for 3 hours back to our home where by that time I was usually grounded as my punishment for being angry. This event occurred every weekend from spring to fall for a 8 years. The same route, the same location, the same highway. For some families this might be fun but for me it was not. My time spent in the car was unbearably uncomfortable. I was car sick, I was bored and I was whining. But mostly I was intensely car sick. Which in turn led my parents to be extremely annoyed with me so I also felt unwelcome. 

I felt like a cat stuffed in a back pack on the back of a bike rider. I was like a shark in a cage out of water, gasping for breath. I was the ugly duckling egg that rolled into the wrong nest. Looking back now as a 37 year old, fairly happy woman it is clear I was a depressed kid.

My dad would drive while he smoked Camel cigarettes, (yes this was the early 80s) and my mom would frown, yell or sleep. Sometimes my dad would tell me sarcastically that I had a rough life... "wow you have a rough life" he would say repetitively, reinforcing the fact. What I needed was a hug and a drink of water or some form of compassion. They did not believe in the power of drinking water or hugs for healing and they were rarely smiling when their eyes locked with mine. I never saw a glass of water in my family. When I was 15 I discovered water from watching a girl in my high school drinking it in a mason jar. It never occurred to me to drink water. We drank pasteurized skim milk at dinner, Mountain Dew soda in the car and Crystal Light in between. 

Through the fog of nausea there were a few glimmering sparks of hope that would ease off the gas on my headaches and gurgling stomach. One of these life savers were wild animals. Usually it was a group of Dall Sheep, Caribou, Whales or Moose but sometimes there were Big White Mountain Goats with tall horns and thick white shaggy coats. When there were animals walking on the side of the road there were also packs of parked cars. The car clusters would signal the animal sighting and thank God for me my parents did believe in the power of wild animals and nature. We usually got the pleasure of pulling over and a true blessing would be poured over my little soul: I got to GET OUT OF THE CAR.  I could breath, I could move and I could drink in the lovely eyes of these creatures. Okay I couldn't see the Whale's eyes because they were too far away but I have definitely had my fair share of eye contact with the Hooved, Horned and Antlered Crowned Beauties of Alaska. It was also wonderful because for these few precious minutes my parents would be smiling and talking with sweet tones. My dad reveled in taking photographs and stood up straight like a proud person. They were teaching me to be respectful of the animal's space and to not frighten them on purpose. It was obvious to me that this was special. For a few fleeting moments we all had something we loved in common. It was one of the few times I felt like we were together. Then it was back into the car to finish the drive. Out of the car window I would stare up at the mountain tops and if I was lucky I could see the little white fluff balls walking around way up there in the patches of snow and rocks and I would make a silent wish to be there instead.

Other things that saved my life are: 
Wolves Howling
Trout Splashing
Enormous Tree Roots
Birch Tree Bark
Canadian Geese Flocks
Sea Otters
Ice Skating
Totem Poles
Loons Calling

Other things that almost killed me are:
Grizzly Bears

This is me, age 37:

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