beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

On Moose, Starfish, and Childhood Friends

Upon landing in Alaska last Friday, my littles and I were told by our resident Alaska expert to minimize our moose expectations. Lots of folks visit mooseland, after all, and only the lucky ones have random, non-orchestrated moose sightings. We should keep our eyes peeled, just in case, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

Twenty minutes later, we saw a moose.

An enormous, killer moose wandering down the street of the neighborhood where we stayed.

Why, hello, Random, Non-orchestrated Moose! How nice of you to drop by.

Equal parts surprising and THRILLING, it was just like my first open water dive in the Puget Sound when I discovered thousands of killer starfish…  totally new, incredibly cold, completely invigorating, and undeniably wild.

(Psst… I might be known, from time to time, to use the word “killer” in a slightly exaggerated, mildly dramatic sense. But that’s hardly pertinent right now.)

My kids played this weekend in the wilds of Alaska (read: a moose-friendly, suburban neighborhood) with their childhood friend, Spencer –

– who taught them Essential Moose Safety rules like Get Inside The House NowNowNow and Don’t Go Anywhere Near That Moose and I’m Telling My Mom!

I love Spencer. He loves his friends out loud.

And I got to play with my childhood friend, Jeff, who’s Spencer’s dad.

Now, Jeff and I grew up together in Southeast Asia, so we collected some unique experiences in our younger days. But, setting aside flying over remote jungles, waiting out hungry typhoons, and getting days off of school because the pesky rebels attempted to take over the government again,… some of the most memorable and FUN events in our early teenage friendship center around embarrassing Jeff with my socially inappropriate antics. And Jeff, bless his heart, spent a lot of time with me in international airports trying to convince me to either a) follow the rules, or b) JUST SHUT UP. That he believed either of those things was even remotely possible still warms my heart. Friends; they insist on believing in you.

Twenty-eightish years later, Jeff’s still largely a rule follower. Which is pretty rad given that he’s an airline pilot and WE ALL WANT OUR PILOTS TO FOLLOW THE FREAKING RULES. There are checklists. There is protocol. And there are Ways that Things are Done.

And I still do embarrassing things and can’t shut up. I just hope I’ve learned to channel it a touch better than I did back then. In fact, the only thing that’s really changed is the fact that Jeff and I long ago realized that we enjoy our differences as much as our common ground. (Probably because we’re so mature and stuff.) It’s made for a beautiful friendship, I tell you. Truly.

In fact, we’re so close that I found Jeff a wife. I picked out one of my very favorite post-college friends and introduced Carleta to him. (I might be giving myself a little more credit than I deserve, but ssshhhhhh… don’t tell.) Jeff, being emphatically not stupid, rushed Carleta into a whirlwind romance, and managed to get her to say, “I do” before she could say, “What the… ?”

And then, in exchange for procuring him a wife, Jeff taught me how to scuba dive. Something about how I wanted to, and he’s a rule-following instructor, and Carleta was willing to watch some of my kids so I could pursue my diving goal. Frankly, she had me at “childcare.”

After days of tests and training in a pool, Jeff took me to the Puget Sound outside of Seattle for my first open water dive. He then spent one hundred years utilizing his extensive crisis-management training to convince me to release my full-body death-grip on the buoy and descend with him under the freaking water where people can’t breathe. There, I proceeded to point with shock and wonder at every single starfish, and Jeff proceeded to laugh his neoprene-clad butt off at me. Because, um, there are a LOT of starfish in the sea. But, you guys, some of those things have, like, eighteen arms.


To make a short story incredibly long, we saw a moose in Alaska!

And then, the next day, we saw another moose!


It was like the starfish all over again. But this time with my kids.

Because, just like being in a quiet world under the water with a friend I trusted, quite literally, with my life, it was… Totally new. Incredibly cold. Completely invigorating. And undeniably wild.

And a reminder that our very best memories are made when we’re spending time with the people we choose to love and living life to the hilt.

Here’s to childhood friends who embrace our differences, champion our strengths, rally us to be better, and, most of all love us, year after year after year.

And thanks to Jeff, Carleta and Spencer, who made our wild Alaska dreams come true.


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13 responses to “On Moose, Starfish, and Childhood Friends”

  1. That looked a lot like our neighborhood, although neighborhoods here tend to look more alike during snow season. We have a well-travelled moose path right in front of our house, but have I seen one there yet? No. I have seen several up the street, and I always want to knock on people’s doors and make sure they see them too. I can’t imagine getting used to the sight. They’re so magnificant.

  2. I love the moose sighting! My husband and I have an enormous amount of video and pictures of our first Alaska moose (2 of them!) that were really far away – really tiny in the pictures – – and then a day later we saw a lot of moose really close up. It makes us laugh to see our tiny moose pics :). If you hit a moose and kill it in Alaska, can’t you take it home and eat all the meat? Some crazy law like that……

    • Hanna, actually the Alaska State Troopers do maintain a list of people who have signed up to “collect” moose that have been hit and killed on the highways. The catch is that when the State Troopers call, you have to be available and willing to go pick up your moose no matter what time of day it is or how cold it is otherwise they just go to the next name on the list. My unscientific hunch is that many more moose are hit and killed during winter when it is dark and cold than in the summer so we haven’t signed up since neither my husband or I are keen on butchering a moose on the side of the highway in the dark when it is below zero.

  3. Love your pictures and such a great description of Spencer. From the tropics to winter Alaska…..such good friends are hard to find. And moose and starfish too; you are truly blessed.

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