By Jessica Cherry
Winter persists. While the stars shown bright on crisp, clear nights in Anchorage, we stayed south, on the volcano island, pulling light and moisture into our reserves. My husband twisted his ankle the second day, so I left him behind while I swam and explored. I found a place on the Westside that advertised Tai Chi and walked in, but no one was there. I went back to our rental and called, leaving a message. A few days later I got a garbled message. I called the number where it came from and arranged to meet a guy named Patrick, who was hard to understand. I learned the form a while ago, in the basement of a synagogue, right after 9/11, when I was living in New York City. Maybe it was time to get my chi flowing again. It seems to coagulate in Alaska’s winter. When I arrived, Patrick was flowing smoothly through the form. When he stopped to acknowledge me, he started to stutter and freeze up; ah, I understood. We agreed on what we were going to do and I stood behind him and followed. For ninety minutes, this stranger and I moved silently in a slow martial dance around a dark room. Finally, he said, Is that enough? Yes, my legs were done. We talked. Of course he was from Alaska. A wooden boat builder. Naknek, Kotzebue, Kodiak, Nome. I wanted to stay forever, he said. But I got sick. Yes, I nodded, and asked, Can I come back next year? His eyes sparkled. Oh, please do.
Jessica Cherry, PhD is a scientist, writer, and commercial pilot living in Anchorage and Fairbanks.