Weathering winter with new perspective
Last updated 1/11/2023 at 4:17pm | View PDF
My husband and I have a running annual competition to see who can go the longest without complaining about the winter weather. This year he won swiftly when the blizzard-like conditions settled in just ahead of Christmas.
Though I've lived in the Midwest all my life and am not unseasoned to the climate, I find myself on Zillow daydreaming about a Florida address once the temperature drops. I lament the frigid weather, sunless skies and days cut short by darkness, so when I read about a wife and her husband thriving in Alaska, something in me held on to their story.
Luke and Amy Bushatz moved to Alaska in 2016 in search of healing after Luke came home from an Army deployment in Afghanistan broken mentally and physically by PTSD and a mild traumatic brain injury. His unit lost 20 men in five months, and Luke survived several improvised explosive devise attacks to his vehicle, even as other soldiers with him did not.
At home in Washington State during Luke's deployment, Amy endured the anxiety of his absence while caring for their son, who was just five weeks old when Luke left. Once Luke returned, they struggled under the weight of the traumas they carried together.
It was in the moments spent outdoors camping as a family that Amy saw her husband unencumbered by his woundings, as if he'd set down a literal backpack. The couple ultimately discerned that a drastic move to Palmer, Alaska (near Anchorage) and its plethora of outdoor offerings was needed. The move allowed Luke to leave active duty Army and join the National Guard against the backdrop of majestic mountains and away from triggers like crowds and traffic.
While Luke's recovery progressed in their new setting, Amy found herself overcome with exhaustion and a sense of loss at having to start over. The weather and diminished sunlight were depressing, and she spent most of the first year sheltered from the arctic elements inside watching Netflix.
Then a moment came on a cold and rainy day in 2017 when Amy realized she had a choice. She could allow the circumstances of her environment to alter her perspective and diminish her capacity, or she could shape her own attitude to challenge her adversities.
Amy decided to spend 20 consecutive minutes outside everyday regardless of the weather to see what happened. Subsequently, Amy's love for the Alaskan outdoors grew, as did her time spent outside.
She felt her mental health so positively changed that she started a podcast called Humans Outside to share her experience of healing in the outdoors with others.
My story doesn't closely resemble Amy's, but I've felt limited by my circumstances and frozen by challenges I've faced. We can't always change our present situation or rewrite our past, but we can move forward with courage and faith, step outside and reach for a new perspective, no matter what the weather brings.
- Jade Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].