Moving to the other side of town has provided new views for the author on morning walks. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

Moving to the other side of town has provided new views for the author on morning walks. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went to the Woods: Home is where the baleen is

It seems like a real, authentic Southeast home needs to be centered around a good piece of baleen.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

It’s steelhead season, but I’ve sold my boat and been distracted with all that goes into planning to build a house.

As a result, instead of the sickening feeling of a steelhead shaking loose, my wife and I watched in horror as the price of materials shot up while the stock market dropped.We have all the forms and drawings and now it’s a matter of waiting until we can break ground. And by “we can break ground” I mean, “we will pay people who know what they are doing.”

We do plan to be involved in jobs that suit us, so we have moved to a location near the build site so after work we can walk to the site and sweep, collect, burn, move or haul whatever needs to happen.

It’s pretty exciting, but I know there will be plenty of stress during the process. Still, we will look back and likely appreciate we built rather than bought.

We haven’t drawn up some really unique plan, in fact, it’s pretty generic, but it fits us. We aren’t architects, we aren’t woodworkers and we aren’t looking at having our home featured in a magazine. We wanted a functional, comfortable home capable of comfortably having guests and enough money left over we can still afford to do interesting things away from it.

Though we don’t have any intentions of leaving, we also considered resale and wanted to make sure we weren’t attempting to make a statement because often times there is a different statement that is communicated than the one intended. For instance, when we were still wondering if we should buy a home or build, we looked all around Alaska to get a frame of reference. We saw one that seemed to make two statements:

1. The builder liked beautiful wooden beams and open space and

2. The builder spent all the money on beautiful wooden beams and open space, and there wasn’t enough money left over for a second bathroom.

We decided the comfort of the home is really about how the interior is decorated and that we don’t want it to look like the inside of a Sportsman’s Warehouse. There has to be some happy middle ground between one that looks like a Pier 1 Imports showroom complete with a plethora of cheesy Pinterest quotes on painted pine, and an animal morgue.

It seems like a real, authentic Southeast home needs to be centered around a good piece of baleen. From that point there can be some unique Alaskan decorations such as Native art by locals. My childhood home in Klawock didn’t have baleen (maybe that’s why I’m advocating so hard) but it did have a warm and comfortable feeling supplied by wooden beams and local Native art.

Of course I am getting way ahead of myself here. We haven’t even ordered materials and I’m putting the finishing touches on the living room.

This time of year is typically reserved for recycling old memories on social media, looking forward to the draw results and an occasional trip to the river for steelhead if the water is good.

But not this year. I’ve become immune to excitement regarding the announcement of the draw hunts, because I know I won’t draw. I’ve even moved past trying to reverse jinx it by saying I won’t draw, but hoping I will. I view my money as a donation to the state, simple as that.

As far as the steelhead go, however, even planning, designing and applying to build a home isn’t a good enough excuse to keep my flies dry.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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