An Education in Fire {Alaska Trip 2015}

We were tired after a long day of playing like children in the infinite Alaskan winter and the bite of the crisp air was beginning to wear on us. We quickly retreated to the cabin, seeking shelter and a place to thaw our souls.  It's warm window lights beckoned us inside with the promise of hot chocolate and lazy naps.  Ripping our snow boots off as we stomped through the doors, we hastily made our way to the loving embrace of the couches...falling into them like the arms of an old lover. Christine, covered head to toe in her striped onesie, melted off the couch and made her way to the stove. Her face wore a stubborn determination as she furrowed her brow and began to pick up logs of wood to place them in the stove. She was going to start a fire.

Mark and I looked on as she searched for a match, undoubtedly questioning if we were going to freeze to death that night. Finally, after a long period of watching Christine poke at the fireplace, Mark began boasting his prior experience as a Cub Scout and stepped in for assistance. She resisted him as he continued to voice his suggestions.

"You have to blow on it to give the fire oxygen," Mark urged. "This is an education in fire for you."

She turned and gave him an evil glare. I laughed at them from my little corner of the room. They were like siblings bickering in their pjs. Both stubborn. Both pushing one another to be better in their own way.

"An education in fire," I thought. "Beautiful."

After a bit of coaxing, the fire finally ignited with a brilliant glow. "Take that Mark Groves!" Christine shouted. She was satisfied with herself and walked away with a proud smirk.

It was New Year's Eve and we had yet to spot the Northern Lights. There was a lot of talk of a recent solar storm making for powerful Auroras but, so far, we had just seen a lot of cloud coverage. It was the reason we had come to Fairbanks and with the end of the trip drawing near, we began to fear we may not be able to check "See Northern Lights" off our Bucket List.

Christine had brought a list of questions to help us reflect on our experiences in 2015 and to set our intentions for 2016. We sat around the kitchen table in our pajamas, sipping on moonshine and beer and opening our hearts to each other. I felt vulnerable and safe at the same time. We talked about the things we were most grateful for. We discovered that, sometimes, the things you are most grateful for in the end can be the very thing you feared would destroy you in the beginning. We talked about the people who had influenced us most over the course of the year and my heart felt overwhelmed. As I sat there with two of the most inspiring people in my life, it all suddenly made sense to me that my hurt was a gift.

We took a short break from our goal setting to peer out the window for a light check. THEY WERE OUT! We jolted up from our chair and threw our snow boots on, grabbing our cameras and scrambling outside in our pajamas. The cold could not pierce the excitement we felt in that moment.  We set up our cameras and began to take pictures. It was all happening, just as we'd imagined...only better.

"5-4-3-2-1! Happy New Year!" The clock struck midnight and a rush of fireworks filled the sky beside the Auroras. We popped our champagne and began to pass the bottle around, each taking a celebratory gulp. I stood there below the dancing curtain of neon mist and felt myself become part of something bigger. I could feel my face fill with wonder and all I could seem to whisper was "it's just too much." It was suddenly so clear to me that life can be this good. That living your life with passion can bring you to beautiful people. That life is meant to lead us to moments that make our hearts ignite.

This was my education in fire.

I put together a little video from our trip. Watch until the end for some funny outtakes of us being dorks. Song: "How Much Light" by Ryan Adams.

All photos are by me, Christine Chang, and/or Mark Groves.

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