3 Months in Juneau and it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.

It’s different here in Juneau. And after 3 months, I’m pretty sure I’ve changed a little to accommodate it. I’m equilibrating, fitting in. I’m more inside my head than I been for a while. I’m more aware of my apartness from people than I thought I would be. Not alone so much.  Apart from. As in not ‘hooked up’ with close pals like I’ve been for years. I’m pretty much free standing – maybe a little wobbly. 

To be expected.  I’ve met a lot of people, many who I think will become good friends. We’re just not there yet. It will come I’m sure.  I’m being absorbed – people are nice and generous and are making space for me and I’m working on filling my own space. These things take time.

Nothing to be worried about certainly…and in all honesty I haven’t worked too hard at it.  I know I’m out there somewhere.  Some more depths and a lot of shallows to plumb. Figuring out me in Alaska. More specifically perhaps, me in Juneau – which is its own world I’ve come to understand. I’m adding and subtracting and absorbing things to think about at least. New questions about old answers.

Juneau’s footprint is very visual…but the place comes into you through your feet. Earth and shear bio-mass – and dampness, and water from everywhere – and temperature shifts – and darkness…and up and down grades…all of which slowly work there way up into your consciousness. And then overload your sense of equilibrium – and makes you wonder about your relationship with it all. There’s so much that is visually and experientially and tactilely new. I don’t quite don’t know what to do with myself.

It takes time. Especially in winter when rain and mist and clouds and dark form the filters you see things through. It can be a tad overwhelming. And it also tends to hide the things that drew you in in the first place, that made your heart soar. All sitting just out of sight behind this flat gray scrim.  You know they are there, you just can’t see them. Every once in a while the clouds and drizzle lift and the sun bursts out and you get a remainder peak.

While all this sounds (and sometimes can actually be) pretty bleak…the space created makes a impact on the way you look at things. Juneau’s grayness, and it’s “just out of reach” time delay behind the rest of the world – and its “fiord-like” topography has the net effect of closing down the urgency in caring about things that don’t really concern you.

Outside world things become irrelevant after a while. And that was a surprise for me. I’m not so sure I like it yet.  In all honesty, I miss the ‘diversion’ of worrying about things that don’t concern me – and the illusion of ‘being involved’ in the larger world. I keep wondering what I will do with all that time. I think I know. But letting go of diversion and “noise” is hard but seems almost a requirement for living here.

I think that worrying about stuff has been a bit of an addiction for me all these years – keeping me away from thinking about more important work. Like letting go and expanding a stronger sense humanity – and achieving proper size.

Not a very Christmas-y message, I agree.  But that’s what I’m thinking about heading into this New Year.

Life here is better (certainly different) than I thought it would be (I really tried not to build expectations)…and the daily involvement in my grandson’s growth from babyhood into little boy-ness, forces me to think about those same years that were so much a blur at the time we had and were raising our children. Spending serious time watching the miracle of it all is a really important piece in understand how the rhythm between beginning and the end go together. At least for me it is right now.

While I’m not at all sure where this is all going, I at least feel a sense of personal and perhaps spiritual evolution. And that feels right to me. I do miss my old and dear and easy comfortable friends (and if you’re reading this you undoubtably are one of those) – and my dear daughter Heather who stayed in St Paul.

Love to you each and all.  I miss you.

And Merry Christmas.




J.McD.Burke – Dec 2015



16 Responses to “3 Months in Juneau and it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.”

  1. Britt Says:

    Merry Christmas! You sound good, Joe. Like Juneau might be a really great thing for your soul. I loved reading this.


  2. Tom H. Frederick Says:

    Great to hear from you and read some insight, into the world of Juneau! Stay well and MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family.


    • jmcdburke Says:

      Hi Tom. Just talked with my sister Nancy who is living not to far away from you (at least as the crow flys). Nancy is in Marion MA just across from Falmouth. She’s been there for a year now having moved from Buffalo. She sends her best. Thanks for plugging in and leaving a few tracks. Hoping to get back that way i
      his summer. Take care friend. Love all around. Joe


  3. Tim Says:

    Joe, You are always so profound and thought provoking. Its one of the things I like most about you, you force me to look at things from a different angle, even when I don’t want to. I am sure Juneau and Duluth have some traits in common. At least warmer in Juneau though. I am so happy that you are out there, following the path less traveled. Its great for you and good for us!
    Merry Christmas!


    • jmcdburke Says:

      Hey Tim, the fun part about writing new stuff is that you have to think it through before you start writing. Lot’s of new stuff for me these days trying to sort through impressions and thoughts and feelings and about how I’m responding to everything up here. Then again the whole world is in play right now and that always gets my head going. It’s the nature of the beast, I’m afraid. Miss you guys.


  4. EdZ Says:

    The depth of this record is a superb painting of meditation upon a full life. Joe, my friend, you plumb such positive colors, as you always do. My hope for your writing of this is that it will land in the lap of anyone facing a gray world. The more we give the more we receive.


    • jmcdburke Says:

      I’ll call this weekend. I thought of you guys at Christmas but with a 4 hour time difference never found a time that wasn’t to early or to late. Mari and daughter Lisa joined us (son Jason and his wife Heather Paige and new little boy) up here over Christmas. We talked old times and if I had heard from you and Mary. Hadn’t…but will this weekend if I still have good numbers.


  5. Terry Bryce Says:

    Joe, You sound like Minnesota Joe but with a subtle slide toward, for lack of a better term, self ownership. I think I envy that. Your description of the visual is complete, I can close my eyes and be there with you in my head. Your grandson does not know it yet but he has been given a real treasure, his Gramps. They do change the way life appears and in my experience a bit of relaxation. In my case it was a loosening of the grip on the elusion of control. I miss you too!


  6. Dick Stanton Says:

    No idea you had pulled up stakes and went to a warmer climate. Merry Christmas!


    • jmcdburke Says:

      Hey Richard. Did indeed. Happened quick. One of those things I had been thinking about for a while and my son (who have lived here for 17 years called an said a nearby apartment had just opened up and I took off before I could talk myself out of it. So far so good. Good to here from you Dick. I see you on facebook every once in a while. Lets hook up that way.


  7. Chas Hersch Says:

    Hello Joe. It’s really great to hear from you and how you are doing. I loved reading about your thoughts and observations of your new reality. I miss you so please keep in touch.


    • jmcdburke Says:

      Chasmore! Nice surprise finding your comments. You never know who’s reading this stuff, but hooray if your tracking with me. Hope you and the kids are ok. Love you pal.


  8. John Ryan Says:

    How will you feel when winter comes? Read your words with a detached objective viewpoint, and you will be on the next plane to the sunshine. The Florida sunshine is waiting for me by the pool so I must go.


    • jmcdburke Says:

      Winter is something I have a reference point for. Cold, snow, wind, frozen hair in the nostril. Eye’s frozen solid in my head. Ah, Minnesota weather. Weather I understand. The worst of Juneau’s weather – for me – is the foggy gray, drizzle, wet stuff that precedes winter. If it even comes that is. It’s been amazingly mild and we’re almost through January. Then there always is that detached objective viewpoint you speak of. you may be right. The problem with self deception is that you’re never quite sure your doing it. Stay tuned.


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