By Suzanne Bostrom
Having grown up in large cities, my idea as a kid about “getting outside” looked pretty different than it does to me today. Getting outside often meant biking around my neighborhood or the city with my dad — versus mountain biking in the Chugach Mountains today.
Some of my earliest memories of being outside involved the time I spent at my grandmother’s house on the beach in Mexico. I spent hours building sandcastles, digging up sand crabs my dad would use to fish for surfperch from shore, and poking around in the tidepools.
The tidepools were some of the most incredible I’ve encountered to this day — teeming with little fish, sand crabs, barnacles, loads of sea anemones swaying in their little pools, and the occasional jellyfish.
Dipping toes and thinking like a fish
My sister and I would play games around the tidepools, with her always daring me to poke my toes in the sea anemones (a thought I find horrifying to this day!). At night, I would fall asleep to the sound of the waves or would stay up past my bedtime watching lightning storms over the ocean.
Those experiences sparked a sense of awe and a deeply felt love for the ocean and water that I carry with me even now.
Time with my uncle, a professional fly fisherman, sparked a different type of joy, this time around getting into wild places and going fishing. He taught me to find pleasure in spending hours wandering down remote streams to look for pockets where fish hide. He taught me to read the river and to think like a fish when casting my fly.
Road trip with mom and dad!
One of the more memorable trips I took as a teenager involved traveling around the country for eight weeks in a motor home with my parents. We visited numerous national parks, refuges, and other public lands along the way.
At the time, the thought of spending eight weeks in a motor home with my parents was my teenager self’s worst nightmare, but it wound up being one of the most meaningful and influential trips of my young life.
I remember seeing the giant sequoias and redwood trees in Northern California for the first time and being awestruck by their size and magnificence. I felt like a flea on a dog, hugging the trees and trying to wrap my arms and mind around how old they were, while also worrying about how few are left in the world. I remember visiting the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, and Lake Louise in Banff and being floored at the beauty of the mountains.
All these little pockets of time outdoors added up to something big for me. When I first came to Alaska, despite coming from a place that couldn’t have been more different, everything just felt right. It felt like home; it felt and still feels like it’s calling me.
I wound up moving to Alaska shortly after my first visit here and haven’t looked back.
My love for the outdoors has only grown since living in Alaska. As someone who deeply loves and appreciates food, I’ve particularly loved getting out with my partner for food-related adventures that combine our love for the outdoors with our love for food.
When I first moved to Alaska and lived in Juneau, one of my favorite things to do was to fish for crab, shrimp, and halibut. We would bait the crab pots in the morning and would find ourselves with a crab feast by dinner. Or we would drop a line down to fish for anything we could get. We would wind up with fresh rockfish or halibut and would spend the evening cooking some downright magical fish tacos.
The bounty of the sea is incredible.
I also love the seasonal shifts in what there is to enjoy and discover, with spring bringing goodies like spruce tips and fall bringing a haul of wild berries that you can freeze and enjoy all winter long.
“Getting away” is just beyond the hill
Living in Alaska during COVID only reinforced for me how special Alaska is and how blessed we are to live here. We are so fortunate to have so many opportunities to get outside, literally in our back yards.
Getting out for a hike or even an overnight camp during the early years of the pandemic gave me the freedom to feel like the rest of the world and the stress that came with it was millions of miles away. It allowed me to clear my mind, reset, and feel at ease — if only for a moment — during an incredibly tough time.
Three questions about spending time with/in nature
What do you think is the ideal amount of time for you to spend in/with nature?
As much as possible! I strive to get out as much as I can. Even if it’s a short walk on the Coastal Trail, I feel so much better and more refreshed from that time outside.
What does a meaningful experience in nature look like for you?
There are so many versions of what is meaningful for me; it can be a bike ride or ski down the Coastal Trail after work, or it can be a much more extended trip into the mountains. Being able to feel the sun directly on my face, no matter the time of year, breathes life into me. There is something about being in the mountains or out on the water that really makes my soul sing.
Describe one moment in nature/outdoors that left you with a sense of awe and connection?
I was lucky enough to visit the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge two years ago. There was one point when I was sitting on the tundra, looking at all the tiny lichens and wildflowers, watching the tussock cotton grass tufts blowing in the wind, and marveling at how many different plant species there are when you take the time to look closely. There were two jaegers nearby that were keeping a close watch on me. I was struck by the sheer quiet of the moment and felt so deeply at peace. I didn’t want that feeling to end. To this day, I still have a photo of the tussock cottongrass as the wallpaper on my laptop. I look to that image whenever I feel stressed. Remembering that moment helps to calm and center me.
Suzanne is a senior staff attorney with Trustees. Her story is the eleventh in a monthly series about how nature, getting outside, and being with land and water influences human health, resilience, connection, and purpose. Look for these stories in our monthly newsletters.
Previous stories in the series:
- Brook’s story: Finding joy on mountain ridges
- Dawnell’s story: A walk in the Arctic
- Bridget’s story: The outside life–an ode to icy slopes and jampacked campgrounds
- Lang’s story: Being in that exact spot, at that exact moment
- Brian’s story: A recipe for well being
- Joanna’s story: This seasick soul is lovesick for the sea
- Tracy’s story: My summers with dirt
- Ashley’s story: Just a country girl
- Rachel’s story: Nature teaches me I’m the protagonist in my own life
- Katie’s story: Howling pierced the morning quiet