Meredith and Daniel
Meredith grew up in urban northern California. While her mom says she came to Alaska and never went home, Meredith says she came to Alaska and found home.
Meredith had visited a boyfriend in Alaska in February and they had a great time and she loved Alaska. They agreed she would move to Alaska for the summer and see if the relationship went anywhere. She got herself a summer job and headed north to Alaska. Two weeks before she was supposed to leave, he ghosted her. Meredith had already packed everything so she decided he wasn’t the only reason she was going to Alaska and she would go ahead with the adventure and at the end of the summer she would drive home if she didn’t like Alaska.
Meredith rented a dry cabin, as in no running water and an outhouse, in a ghost town 47 miles southeast of Downtown Anchorage. Portage was destroyed in the 1964 Alaska earthquake when the ground in the area sank about six feet, putting most of the town below high tide level. Her neighbour was Daniel. His ex-girlfriend was Meredith’s boss that summer so she avoided Daniel not wanting to create any dramas at work. Luckily the ex moved away. By the end of summer, Meredith had decided she was going to stay in Alaska and got a part time job in Anchorage. Meredith decided to stay in her cabin for the winter and Daniel and her became friends. Meredith was leery at first–she thought Daniel might be a hermit as he had lived in the cabin for 15 years and he was now single. He turned out to be very friendly and helpful–offering to share his new generator in January.
Meredith knew he was a good guy when he made homemade pasta for her mom while visiting and shoveled off the steps to the outhouse to make sure she didn’t slip. Her mom will say that’s when she knew he was the one. The turning point in the relationship happened when Meredith invited him to attend the official start of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. This race is a famous long distance dog sled race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome. The Iditarod trail runs from Willow–80 miles north of Anchorage up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. From this point forward their relationship changed. Daniel later confessed that he knew much earlier he wanted to date Meredith because he had to walk past her cabin to get to the outhouse and she had left her curtains open and he saw her walking around in her underwear.
Meredith and Daniel lived across from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where Meredith worked part time. There was record snowfall that winter and the snow drifts were so high up the side of the electric fence, it was no longer a barrier as animals could jump over it. In April, while the park was clearing the snow on the inside of the fence the power was turned off, and Shaguyik, a 2 year old, 300 pound Kodiak bear jumped over the fence. The Conservation Park was being paid to manage two orphaned Kodiak bears for the Orsa Bear Park in Sweden. They were scheduled to be moved in June.
After a couple of months theWildlife Centre gave up trying to find the bear. In June, by chance it was on the day the other bear was being moved to Sweden, a bear showed up on the property where Meredith’s and Daniel’s cabin was located. Their landlord’s daughter taught horseback riding to children in the area and that’s what she was doing the day the bear arrived. They ushered the children inside and news spread fast around the property to bring your dogs and children inside because of the bear. This bear’s behaviour was a little different–it wasn’t running off the property, it was hanging around. The Wildlife Centre had been called and told there was a bear and did they want to come look at it. However, they didn’t believe it was their bear as it had been months since she had left and also they were focused on the presentation marking the departure of the other bear Meredith received a call from the Wildlife Centre about the bear and then called Daniel and told him there was a bear on the property. He was standing by the horse pen where their landlord’s extremely valuable show horse was panicking as the bear had come out of the woods and was about 30 feet in front of them. In Alaska you’re allowed to shoot wildlife in defense of life and property and Daniel shot the bear to protect the horse. You are required to turn in the hide with paws and claws attached to Alaska Fish and Game. Daniel was in the process of doing this when the Wildlife Centre came to look at the bear. Initially they didn’t think it was their bear but just to be sure they got a scanner and sure enough the bear had a chip in its neck. They were very upset as they had become emotionally attached to the bear and had raised it and named it–not to mention they lost a significant amount of money when the bear escaped. Their landlord was very thankful Daniel had saved his horse while the Wildlife Centre staff were extremely hostile toward Daniel. Meredith was angry that they were treating him this way because they had a chance to come and see the bear and decided not to. Daniel didn’t get angry with them and instead empathized, “I’m so sad that they’re so sad.” The fact that his response was one of compassion, made Meredith realize how much she loved him and that he was the “one.” Fish and Game did an investigation to ensure that it was a justified kill and determined that as soon as the bear left the Centre it was a wild bear and it was endangering livestock. However, Meredith left her part time job and her friends from the Centre returning only last year–seven years after the shooting of the bear.
Meredith is a planner and she was trying to figure out when the best time was to get married and when they would have to get engaged in order to make that happen. Daniel was not having that. They had talked about getting married and every time they went out somewhere special Meredith thought this would be the proposal. After about a year, Meredith realized she didn’t care if he proposed or not because she couldn’t imagine her life without him. She had already committed her heart to him. Three weeks later on the Summer Solstice he invited Meredith to go camping with him on Porcupine Island on Kenai Lake. Meredith really didn’t want to go but went anyway. They got to the island early in the morning, set up camp and he started cooking on the fire. Daniel, while standing there started talking about the live action Cinderella movie he had seen with his friends recently and how the movie made him think about who was important in his own life. It made him think about how hard it would be if he were to loose her and she’s not sure what else he said because at that point he got down on one knee and pulled a ring out of his pocket. Daniel totally surprised Meredith and the ring he had was her maternal grandmother’s who had been married for 53 years. Meredith’s aunt messaged Daniel via facebook and offered Daniel the ring after they had only been dating 8 months. The next summer Meredith visited her mom and her mom told her that her aunt had offered him the ring and Daniel accepted it. Daniel was a little upset about this breach of secrecy.
Daniel called her dad and asked for his blessing just before they left to go camping. Daniel was adamant that Meredith’s mom not know because she can’t keep a secret having told Meredith a year earlier that her aunt had given Daniel the ring. Her husband did spill the beans to his wife but Meredith’s mom kept it a secret despite calling Meredith just before they left on the camping trip.
They got married the following year on June 21–summer solstice. They chose that date because they wanted their guests to experience the midnight sun as most of them were from out of town. During the time around solstice in Alaska, the sun will set and then rise up again after only a few minutes. They rented a Bed and Breakfast in Talkeetna overlooking the Denali Mountain–the tallest mountain peak in North America. They had 40 guests and it was a joyous quintessential Alaskan three-day long party.
As a couple we have the same sense of humour and we laugh a lot. Meredith has learned that responding in the moment can do more hurt than is needed. The initial response isn’t always what she really feels. For example, when Daniel lost his wedding ring, her immediate reaction was to get angry. Instead, Meredith didn’t respond because she didn’t want to dump her feelings on him just as he was leaving for work. When he got home they were able to talk about it and she told him how sad it made her feel that he had lost his ring. Meredith looked for it and found it so in the end the problem was solved without any drama.
Not quite a year into their marriage, in January, at midnight, the roof collapsed in the cabin they were renting. The next day they had to move everything out. In two years they moved four times until finally living in a camper trailer on the front lawn of a home they built together on a piece of property they had purchased earlier. No longer in a dry cabin, they were each allowed one splurge item–Daniel’s was the oven and Meredith’s was a bathtub. Building a home by yourself is both exciting and stressful and their ability to step back and not react and also just allow space for the other person to be who they are, were critical skills to keeping their relationship on track.
They joke that if they ever ran into the guy that brought Meredith to Alaska, Daniel would shake his hand and say “thank you.”