Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I had plenty to be thankful for. I was cold, alone in the dark and weary on my long walk home.

I started walking to campus because I was restless and bored after being cabin-bound for days. I wanted to be outside in the light and fresh air. And I wanted to mail some documents to Tina Ullman, a designer in Ohio who is in the final stages of completing my brother’s website, and I’d promised to deliver the final edits on the text.

As I crested the first hill, I met Nancy, and her dog, p.d. (puppy dog). As we walked and talked, she asked which route I take to school. I follow the roads from Yankovich to Ballaine. She suggested I take the trails to campus.

“Oh it’s much shorter,” she said.

I’d been curious about the trails, so I followed her advice and entered the trails across from the musk ox farm.

Pretty. And tough. The ground was uneven with the frozen imprints of other walkers and boots after the previous days of freezing rain.

I walked and walked. I stopped at a crossroads to check my way—I had picked up trail maps—I’ve been told it’s “verboten” to walk on the ski trails, so I was making sure I stuck to the “walking/snowshoeing” trails.

Occasionally, a skier shussshed passed. I checked my watch. 12:46 p.m. I’d already been walking an hour and I was nowhere near campus. Another hour and I reached campus, but I was on the West Ridge. I had to ask my way and then walk more than a mile back to the Wood Center.

I was tired and grumpy—and then I discovered the post office was closed.

I couldn’t get warm and I didn’t want to make the four-mile return trip. After a brief stop at my office, I drank a half-liter of water and started home on my regular route. My gloved fingers stung and I shoved my hands in my pockets. I started thinking about the wilderness first aid course I’d taken the previous weekend. I was breaking the rules already.

I needed help. It was getting dark. The wind picked up and I was weary. I called my friend’s cell phone. No answer. I called their house. My friend answered and said they were all warm and snuggled in front of a fire. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help and inconvenience them.

I resigned myself to the long walk home. I bowed my head against the cold and falling snow and called on my will, which refused to come out and play.

I lifted my head and said out loud: I would really like a ride home, please.

Fifteen minutes later,  as I shuffled along Yankovich: Cheryl.

A voice in the darkness calling my name.

“Cheryl, do you want a ride? Get in.”

I recognized Steve, a Native Alaskan and one of my students. Not a fairy-tale knight in shining armor. The Alaskan equivalent: an Eskimo in a white Ford Explorer.

And the timely answer to my urgent prayer.

“Thank you. Thank you,” I said as I tugged the car door shut.