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Tatevik Mikaelyan: Third Place Creative

Thoughts of My Youth

As I watched the little hand of the clock across from me struggle its way toward 4 o’clock, I was approaching the final breath of my speech and we had time for another question from the audience. A young lady, whose bright blue eyes carried more depth in them than the ocean itself, asked me a question that required much more contemplation than did my entire two-hour speech. “Mr. Dyson,” she said softly, “how has your life in the baidarka changed you as a person?” I smiled and opened my mouth as though to answer, only to realize that in all the time since my life in baidarka I had not given any though to that question. I murmured for the remaining couple of minutes of my speech in search of a specific answer to the question, but my words led me toward an even deeper path of confusion. As the silent hall began to fill with whispers and awkward sighs, I softly said “I think we may be out of time.”

Now back at home, hearing the dearest womanly conversations of my wife and daughter, I think about the question from this afternoon, how had the experience of my youthful days changed me? Certainly, the young George Dyson living in the 90 ft. tree-house, able to climb it almost unconsciously, was gone.

As I vividly remembered each of my journeys and the people I met along the way who led me to my own ideas and powerfully inspired me to build the baidarka, my thoughts slowly guided me to the first real test of my canoe in the open water. While a large boat carried me and baidarka toward the Yuculta Rapids, my heart jumped up and down with slight excitement but so much more fear, for going through the Rapids at full tide was against all rules. Any doubt that I carried onboard with me emerged from the mistrust of my own work. I always appeared as a pompous young man, for I never cared much for communicating with others, but deep within me I was as uncertain about my life as a chick hatching from an egg.

Each beat of a wave on the side of my baidarka made it a stronger canoe for travel and prepared me for the subtle hardships of life which mold a person and test his (and her) strength of character. With my lifestyle I had an unusual advantage of viewing life from both perspectives: from sea to land and the reverse. The harmony with which the massive body of water met the rougher land, a mortal being could only imagine. I no longer feared. My course was, however, almost as unpredictable as the body of water on which I rode, but I welcomed the change. One day my canoe was taking me south, the next morning I was offered a trip to Juneau on a big boat full of farm-life. The next thing I knew, I was being introduced to the more orderly way of life: I, most unsystematic creature, now possessed the strange responsibility of doing the chores on a large boat.

Now, looking back at those years, I realize that I built my true identity while in baidarka. In Torch Bay, I was changing from a stubborn boy with his principles based solely on ambition, into a thinking adult with wiser values. I realized that although I could be in Tarr Inlet building my house, the existence of my desire and aspiration was the crucial detail, and not the actual work. I was beginning to have goals in life. I wasn’t much of a talker, unless the subject crushed my values and beliefs (a situation that often occurred upon my new acquaintance with the scientists in Torch Bay). The inability to avoid meeting new faces in life often led me to ponder the ways of all the people I had had the pleasure of meeting so far in my journey, and coming up with my own critique and conclusions. There were certain people in life, I decided, whose presence I did not mind, or even enjoyed; these were in my opinion the real people. Others, a demagogic category of people which included scientists and writers, I simply could not be around. Could this time have been my peak of understanding life? Probably not entirely, but I had certainly experienced plenty, including my acquaintance with individuals such as the “Mouse Woman”, to build my strong beliefs.

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