Ms. Fairbanks Fred Meyer 2011. I’m wearing our receipt.

I sent Stewart into the wilderness of the protein powder aisle and who knows when I’ll see him again. We’re always like this on our first morning in Fairbanksslow and semi-dazed. Our flight usually arrives around midnight the night before, which is 1 a.m. for us. Even at that hour, the sky holds some light as we gather our bags and find our way across town to the place that will keep us for a few days while we shop and sort and pack for our stay at the cabin.

After we wake up, fuzz-brained and mostly unslept, we slowly unspool ourselves toward coffee, breakfast, and a long, long list of things to do and get. What keeps us from completely unraveling is our inventory and shopping list, which lets us track a ton of details in a trustworthy way. It took us years to fine-tune our system, but now the notes and records we carry out at the end of one summer are acceptably reliable when we’re packing for the next. Because memory does not serve.

Think about it: How many boxes of cereal were in your kitchen cabinet on September 15 last year? How much olive oil did you have then? Half a bottle on the counter? Was there still that extra one in the cupboard near the sink? What about cumin? AAA batteries? Two-and-a-half-inch drywall screws?

Without a thorough inventory to guide us, we’d end up with a lifetime supply of Q-tips and low-sugar pectin but no toilet paper. Things like this have happened.

2006: Too many Q-Tips!

Our current inventory is fourteen pages long, covering items from allspice to Zantac. We’ve winnowed it over the years but it still contains a few things I would get rid of if  Stewart would let me. This is an ongoing but good-natured tension between us: I’m an expunger, while he is more cautious. The inventory makes my feelings clear:

  • Pilot Bread for Armageddon
  • Cracked grain cereal (4 pounds, looks like birdseed, we will never eat this)
Provisioning 2011.jpg
Later that day in 2011. Stewart looks good. I look like I might lose it. (And it’s probably not all wine in that box.)

Our Fairbanks preparations aren’t an exact science, but they get us where we want to go with enough space for visiting friends, stopping for soft serve ice cream cones, and taking naps when shopping has exhausted us to the point where we can no longer find or use our words, much less locate the rest of the things on our list.

Before we go, here’s an example of what the shopping list used to look like . . .


And here’s (a small part of) what it looks like now that we have a solid inventory and an iPhone notes app with cheerful check marks and the ability to live-share our progress even when we’re across town from each other.

Photo of a shopping list in iPhone notes

It’s so neat!

Last night, as we lifted the last round of boxes into the back of the truck, I took a calculated risk and said, “Don’t you think we’re getting better at this as the years go by?” A few hours from now, distance, weather, and time will be happy to test my confidence.


4 thoughts on “provisions

  1. Oh, I loved reading this: the details, wonderful photos, your fantastic sense of humor and way with words! Bon voyage or however that might be said via helicopter! Much love to both of you……


  2. Oh Shae. So good to read and see your annual blog and so glad you do it. Miss you. Me and mine are all well . I send my love and prayers for safety and satisfaction and joy. Ellen


  3. How do you DO this every year??? I can only imagine It speaks to the indescribable pleasure of being there at the cabin. Thank you for your efforts to make it describable for your armchair traveler friends.


  4. Happy travels you two. Wonderful to read this Shae. I’m imagining you in Fairbanks. Big love and hugs to you both.


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