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January 26, 2011

Fearing the Unknown

Their adherence to routine is why many live predictably, taking on 9-to-5 jobs. They seldom venture beyond the confines of their own neighborhoods, and when they do, it’s with a set destination in mind. It’s these very same people who avoid sticking their necks out for a cause.

We’ve seen this around here with the no coal movement. Many have continued to ignore what appears to be a grim reality. Within a year, they may find themselves living within hailing distance of not one, but several strip mines.

There are many folks in the Mat Su Valley who’ve embraced the cause and are deviating from their usual routines in order to keep the mines from going in. I’m one such individual. Being a trail rider, I’m concerned about access issues. I won’t be able to ride my horses in an area where blasting is going on. Tinni, Raudi, and Siggi are fairly calm, but not that calm. And the coal dust, which will travel on the aforementioned heavy winds, will be especially hard on Tinni, who has heaves, a chronic respiratory disease. It’s the supreme irony, that he’s named Tinni because the Icelandic translation of his English name is Coal. He’s jet black, and his coat shines like the mineral he’s named after when he’s brushed.

If the mine goes in, we’ll move, in part because I’m as attached to Tinni as I am to Raudi, although in a different way. When I first got him, we came up with this agreement. He watches out for me when I’m on his back, and I watch out for him when I’m on the ground. For example, he does not flinch when (out on the trail) snowmobiles race past, or when ATVs come rumbling up behind us. And I minister to him when he needs it. For example, a few weeks ago Siggi and Tinni were sparring, which prompted the former to rip out a huge chunk of forelock out of the latter. I found the big hairy wad of mane on the ground, then followed the blood droplets to its source, Tinni’s forehead.

Tinni was doing what he does when he’s in pain, standing quietly by himself by the far corner of the fence. Pete and I put him in the small pen and doctored his wound. We cleaned it up, put Furazone on it, and did TTouches. This happened during a warm spell, which was good because had the wound gotten frostbitten, we would had to call the veterinarian. Undoubtedly, the old guy would have had to have had his head shaved. Tinni the Skinhead. No, not a good thing. So I have and will remain attentive to Tinni. If we move, he will come with. I would not have it any other way. I made a promise to him when we got him, which was that he would always remain in my care, and I intend to honor it.

Some time ago, I finally came to the realization that there’s a difference between moving and traveling. Moving is a major pain in the ass. You relocate what you own, the whole shebang, and start anew. On the other hand, travel is a whole lot more fun. You pare down, and discard what you can’t carry on your back, bicycle, sea kayak, or horse. When you move, you maybe have a general idea where you’ll end up. With travel, you probably do not. I understand that these are generalities that I’m taking to extremes, but this better enables me to make my point, which is that moving is less unnerving than traveling. Travel. Some can’t picture themselves being innovative enough to survive that which might befall them.

I’m a bit this way, and getting more so I get older. At the same time, I am living in a time when the fear machine is driving people’s actions. I, who read the Anchorage Daily News on a regular basis, now fear bears, cougars, and deranged men. The response that I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned this to friends is, “On your next trip, carry a gun.”

I’m lucky. I was born relishing change and have always enjoyed exploration-related challenges. I enjoy showing readers the path of my thinking. This path also mimics the paths that I travel, be they literal or figurative.