A Love Letter to Derek’s Watch

While Derek was in Korea, it was often running I turned to when I felt lonely or sad or just existentially funky. When Derek left, aside from leaving a giant chasm in my heart (kidding, kind of) he also left his big clunky Garmin watch that he bought for runs with his team when he was in college.

The Garmin was on the counter right where he’d left it and it kept catching my eye. One day I decided to put it on. The watch was far too big for me and wobbled around on my wrist no matter how tight I strapped it, and sometimes held charge poorly. Nevertheless, I took it out for a test run.

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Behold, the Garmin itself.

I gained a strange sense of comfort running with his Garmin watch. It felt good to know that the watch sliding around on my skinny wrist had once sat securely on his, accompanying him and his track teammates or just him alone on many a run through the suburbs of Chicago. It made me feel connected to him, doing something he loved with the watch that had so faithfully kept track of his runs for so long.

The longer he was gone I started to find myself wearing the Garmin even when I wasn’t running, a tangible symbol of connection and closeness when he was so far away. And in a weird way it really helped. If I couldn’t be with Derek or talk to him very much, at least I could be doing something that he loved and holding something of his with me. I’d find myself subconsciously touching it, wiggling it around and thinking of him.

Military life brings with it many difficulties, including extended times separation and minimal communication. At times it is just plain hard, and I don’t want to paint the picture that just playing with Derek’s watch made it all hunky dory. But it did remind me of some truths I could hold onto when the hard stuff felt really hard.

So, dear Garmin watch, this one’s for you. Thank you for reminding me that Derek and I can be connected even when we are apart. During this absence a dear friend of mine encouraged me that God can still grow people together in marriage even when physical distance separates them. In its own strange little way, the Garmin reminded me of that. But now for now, he is home, and to quote an oft quoted Derek-ism, “all is well with the world”. I am so thankful.

Cold

Now that winter is over (ish, sorry if it starts snowing today and I jinxed it), I decided I want to think about the cold. One of the most extreme things about living in Alaska is obviously the winters. Not only can temperatures dip below -50 Fahrenheit, but there is also the matter of darkness. On the darkest of days there is daylight for around 3.5 hours, but it’s hardly what we might call daylight. Rather, the sun hovers on the horizon in a nearly constant state of dusk.16700365_10154379073168634_8303843053106982672_o

Safe to say, I was very scared of this weather before we moved. I have never been someone who loves winter and I always feel more like myself in warm and sunny weather. In Chicago I would constantly whine about the cold and send pouty snapchats with the temperature filter on to garner sympathy. (Now I laugh at myself. I complained at single digit temperatures. Ridiculous.)

There is a poem by a modern day spoken word poet named Sarah Kay titled “If I Ever Have a Daughter” that went viral a few years ago from a Ted Talk. The poem is average, a little cheesy for me, but there’s a line in it that says, “sometimes getting the breath knocked out of you is the only way to reminds your lungs how much they like the taste of air”. That line is the best way I can describe what it feels like to be outside when it’s -30 (or more). Your eyes suddenly feel dry, the air is sharp and cold, and it’s a physical shock to the system. And you remember how much you like not feeling like that.

But it also completely grabs your attention, and that’s something I like about the cold. It is like the irritating person who you can’t help but pay attention to because they demand your ear saying, “listen to me right now, I have something to tell you.” And so I started to listen to the cold, and a funny thing began to happen. I learned from something I didn’t really want to learn from.

One beautiful thing about winter in Alaska is that there is hardly any wind. Unlike Chicago where the wind and lake effect in certain areas can feel like a million small icy knives stabbing you at all times, the cold here is more still. It honestly does not feel that bad. The cold and stillness combined create a really peaceful effect. At times in winter when it was light out and I was outside, I felt like I was disturbing something. The nature was so still and quiet, I felt that surely my presence was ruining something beautiful. Every branch on every tree was completely still and completely covered perfectly in snow and it was lovely. I don’t even like winter and it took my breath away. Beauty lies even in things that we may have despised our whole lives. (This is also a miracle because I am not an outdoorsy person. Until now my favorite part of being outside is either 1) the beach or 2) dinner al fresco. I would never describe myself as adventurous in any way.)

Cold is neither good nor bad – it’s cold. Sometimes it feels awful and horrible and I want it to leave. It’s draining and exhausting and I don’t want to go through the immense effort necessary to sustain life in this cold. (For example: plug in my car, worry that it won’t start, try to push a grocery cart across a parking lot completely covered in inches of ice that won’t budge, wear snow boots exclusively for 3+ months straight). But I was shocked to see that there were things I liked about the winter here, and I am grateful for that.

After people ask about the cold and I tell them about it, oftentimes people respond to me with, “I could never do that,” and a shake of their heads. But here today, I would like to tell you that you could. You absolutely could. I am honestly the last person on earth I thought could remotely like cold. And I don’t love it. But there are good things about it. God in his goodness does not ever place us anywhere that he is not and he teaches us through it all. So cold, I learn from you. (And I am happy that you are gone for a while.)