The Arrival (Of Spring)

I will start this post by saying that I am not an abstract man. When I see a Jackson Pollack painting I think, “Now that is a waste of paint.” When I start a book that jumps between characters and times and uses abnormal punctuation and non-linear story development, I typically quit reading. When I read a poem that I cannot understand I typically do not finish it. And when I watch a movie like The Arrival that jumps between past, present and future in a way that I cannot understand, I normally take the movie out and put in something like Braveheart or Michael or something easier to understand. I want to understand the world around me, and when a creative person thinks they’re going to through me for a loop I tend to slink away from the discomfort and hide in my tiny bubble of what is understood.

With that being said, The Arrival is a movie about aliens, and because I love the idea of alien lifeforms from other planets I was able to push through the confusing and slow parts in anticipation of what was to come. And then… nothing really happened, nothing in the sense that it wasn’t like Independence Day or Fire in the Sky or Mars Attacks!
So I ask the question, What the hell was The Arrival really about?

But since I am writing a “movie review” I will try to stick to the facts.

I am not sure what the weather is like in your part of the world, but in this part of Alaska we have very loooooooooooooooong winters that lead right into summer that goes waaaaaaaaaaaay too quick and then “BAM!” there is winter again. The Arrival of spring is here, and yesterday my wife said she was walking with the kids in her t-shirt because it was 40 degrees. Finally, 40 degrees! The Arrival of warmth to our cold bodies brings so much joy I can hardly express it. Far more joy than The Arrival brought, no doubt, so much joy that I sit in my classroom grading papers with my smiling face toward the sun. So much joy that I take my lunch breaks walking laps around the track. So much joy that I have 14 or more flats of seeds started in my classroom window that are also reaching their little bodies toward the sun.

Can I get a round of applause for the sun?!

“Woo, yeah!!! Let’s go sun!”

Did I mention that Amy Adams was super boring and dry in this movie and it drove me a little crazy? Which is maybe why I’m writing so wild right now and letting my weird, goofy side fly… Or maybe it’s because I didn’t fall asleep until after 11 last night and then woke up at 4:30 to The Arrival of the first slivers of light coming in from our big northern windows. The sun has begun her yearly dance of staying up all night and it can be tricky to sleep.

Did I mention that my wife, Savanna, smoked salmon for her first time a couple weeks back that was so damn good I literally opened the smoker and took a bite and said, “Oh my God! Yes!” As I looked at the smoker full of goodness and realized we still have at least 50 pounds of salmon in the refrigerator.

Back to the important matter at hand: The Arrival of Spring. I will provide a brief list of seeds currently growing in my classroom with hopes of eating delicious grub this summer.

Beets, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sunflower, nasturtium, salvia, phlox, big max pumpkin, winter luxury pumpkin, long island cheese pumpkin, sweet meat winter squash, kabocha squash, buttercup squash, muskmelon, saved pumpkin seeds, saved sweet meat seeds, reisenstraube tomatoes, silvery fir tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, golden nugget tomatoes, basil, hot wax peppers, jalapenos, datil peppers, tabasco peppers (they haven’t sprouted), dazzling blue kale, lacinato kale, echinacea, red romaine lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cilantro, dill, green lettuce…

Hundreds of little lifeforms in the classroom remind me why I love this time of year so much. The Arrival of warmth sparks The Arrival of my family’s passion of growing and working with plants.

Last year we grew roughly 135 pounds of potatoes from 15 pounds of seeds, and we are hoping to double that this year. We have roughly 30 pounds of seed potatoes leftover from last year’s crop, and we bought 15 pounds from the Anchor Point Greenhouse before they were all sold out. So mathematically we should grow three times the amount, but we don’t want to be disappointed. Word around the Kenai Peninsula is that Alaskan growers are having a difficult time purchasing seed potatoes this year because last year’s crop was so poor. So if you’re in Alaska and you’re reading this, go and buy them now.

Last fall we felled over fifty trees in the yard before our neighbor came over with an excavator to move the trees into piles and continue clearing. With his help, we have expanded our growing space outdoors by at least 50 fold. So this year, we will focus on designating a 50 x 50 foot area for a garden while picking up sticks in the other areas before planting a cover crop. He also cleared out a ten foot wide swath around roughly 5 acres of forest from west to east and north to south to keep out wildlife. Perhaps the fence will spark The Arrival of apples to our trees. Who knows if we will ever harvest apples…

Another project this summer is to build a root cellar. Our neighbor will come over again this June or July to dig a hole in the side of the hillside and we will have another neighbor deliver a couple dump trucks of gravel that we will use to fill sandbags for walls. We will use pressure treated 4 x 4s for the roof that will be covered in Earth. I am really excited about the possibility of us storing all of our crops next winter underground.

So while I can honestly say I didn’t really enjoy watching The Arrival, the director, Denis Villeneuve, did a great job of representing non-linear movement of time in the ordinary mind of a person. And the movie could not have been made if it were not for the short story, Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which the movie is based on. So often the untamed mind jumps between future, present and past and all over again again, and if anybody were to get a glimpse they would probably be confused as all heck about what is actually going on. Just like I was about the film.

Perhaps this strange way of time traveling is what I am doing right now in this blog post. But this morning, as I was standing in my living room at 5 am watching the red sky brighten while listening to the breathing of my three girls, crowing of roosters, and snoring of dogs, I was happy. You’d better believe it, I was so dang happy to have this wonderful life so full of riches. Twenty years ago, when I was 18, I would never have guessed that if I stayed resilient, hopeful, hard-working and gritty eventually The Arrival of a wonderful life would come. Through a lot of hard work, and luck. It seemed like a distant dream or fantasy, and I wanted to give up so many damn times. But it has arrived, as well as the spring time sun to wash away the winter time greys.

In less than two weeks our bees will arrive and we will plant little seedlings in our greenhouse for early salads. In about a month we will plant the entirety of our outdoor garden. In two months our daughter Primrose will be three, in four months our daughter Marlena will be one. What the hell am I rambling on about anyway? Oh yeah, how excited I am about The Arrival of spring and so many other facets of life.

I will end this pathetic “movie review” with a few haikus I wrote this morning while sitting on the couch at 5:30 as Primrose’s feet rested against me after she stumbled out of bed saying, “Daddy, Daddy” and I picked her up sideways and held her until she fell asleep and then set her on the couch and covered her in a quilt and sat down to drink my coffee and write some words on paper… she cannot sleep in bed without me at this moment just like her sister cannot sleep in bed without her mother and both her mother and me have not slept in the same bed together for longer than a couple of hours for over 3 months and let me tell you sometimes it can be really really difficult but other times it can be the sweetest damn thing this side of the Yukon River.

What was I saying about abstract writings and people who don’t use proper grammar and punctuation?*#$

Either way…

I watched The Arrival for the first time with a buddy in Olympia, Washington when it first came out and I left thinking, “I will never watch that boring movie again.” And let me tell you, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE re-watching movies. And so here I am, working a job I never thought I would work, being a father and husband I never thought I would be, being happier than I could have ever imagined, and re-watching a movie I never thought I would re-watch. Life can be so damn mysterious and unpredictable at times! And you know what, this time around, I enjoyed The Arrival and it’s weird complexities and strange concepts of time and language and communication and the weird seven legged aliens that looked like big jellyfish and the cute flashes between the mother, boring Amy Adams, and her cute little daughter that literally brought tears to my eyes because I have my own daughters now. Watching movies can change people, and while I cannot say that watching The Arrival changed me in any shape or form, it at least changed me enough to write this weird diatribe that has been a lot of fun while at work with a class half-full of students writing their own blogs and working on their own projects. And you know what, I can see the American flag and the Alaskan flag blowing in the wind outside my classroom window as a raven flies by and I think, “I am so damn happy and blessed to live in such a wonderful place.”

Sunrise & sunset
Snowmelt pools in mud puddles
Flocks of birds outside

Northern pink sunrise
Stariski Valley wakes up
Roosters crow, dogs bark

What to do with dog?
To keep or to say goodbye?
She loves a soft bed

No house in sight
A distant light in winter
No cars in earshot

Rare is country life
Exodus into cities
Slow and quiet life

Until next time, my friends, get your plants started and get outside to enjoy the weather!

Published by secretgardenalaska

A family of four living off grid in Alaska.