Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coming Home


No matter where I’ve lived in my adult life—including a few “iffey” spots in my younger days—I’ve always loved coming home. From a trip, or just from a day at work. Being greeted by dogs who are happy to see me, sitting in my comfortable chair with a hot or a cold beverage depending on the weather, sleeping in my own bed if I’ve been away overnight, I just love coming home. No where has that been more true than since my home has been in Alaska.

Trips to the lower 48 are a huge culture shock to me. I wrote about it last year after my trip to Alabama in this post. This year felt much the same. There is such an incredible density of people everywhere; parking lots are crowded, freeways are packed with (mostly new) cars, restaurants are full, and everyone seems to be in such a hurry. Billboards are everywhere, yelling consume! Consume! Consume! And people are rushing to do it at a breathtaking rate.

There is so little wilderness anywhere. Even driving through the countryside, the land is fenced, tilled, cultivated. Roads are paved, lawns are manicured, everything is just so. The evidence of human occupation is practically inescapable, and that is what feels so different from Alaska.

Here we have pockets of civilization amid a gazillion miles of untouched wilderness. Here I don’t feel constantly squeezed by the joint pressures of population and consumer culture. Life down there feels to me like living in a pressure cooker. If you’ve never known anything else, then it seems normal, but the longer you’re away from it, the harder it is to go back into it.

And then there is the climate. It was 97 degrees with moderate humidity in San Antonio, and 94 degrees with horrid humidity in Alabama. Without air conditioning, you sweat just sitting still. At night it gets darker (so early!) but not much cooler. And as hot as it was in early June, it will be so much hotter in July and August. It felt like full-on summer to me already. How did people live there before air conditioning?

Arriving home in Alaska was jumping back half a season. We are having early to mid spring; the temperature was in the mid-forties this morning, and the air is clear, dry and cool, even at midday. The snow and ice are gone and the tundra is a thick green carpet in the early surge of flowering. Trees have tender green leaves beginning to soften the hard lines of their branches, and birds of all sizes are everywhere. The air is alive with their songs. The golden plover pair has returned for their third summer and is nesting about 200 feet from the front deck. The previous two summers they successfully raised a pair of chicks, and I am so glad to see that they are back.

The Kuskokwim River is in full river mode with boats, skiffs and barges plying its waters. The first barge arrived about a week ago, bringing our new gasoline supply; gas prices went from $5/gallon to $6/gallon overnight. The king (Chinook) salmon run has started and I hear that a few people are catching them. I can’t wait for my first taste of fresh, yummy king! Such delectable fish…

The hospital’s incredibly hectic pace throughout the winter has started to slow a bit as people move out of town to go to their fish camps for a month to cut, dry and smoke the salmon that will sustain them through the coming winter. We generally get a breather for late June and early July, as the daily census in the outpatient clinics drops by nearly half. After the intensity of the past winter, the slow-down is sorely needed by the staff, and gladly welcomed.

So as always, it is good to be home, and even more than I previously remember. For the last three evenings I have sat on my front deck at midnight, watching the sun keep his date with the horizon, filling my eyes and gladdening my heart with the wide sweeping view of tundra that rolls out endlessly to meet it. I love Alaska. I love coming home to it.

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4 Comments:

Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

Welcome home.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger RunninL8 said...

Welcome home to Coooooool Alaska! Such a good feeling, isn't it? I hear ya on the sensory overload of the lower 48. Obligatory visits back east are a major freakout.
Once and awhile my husband and I talk about where we will retire. Then we look out the windows and say,"What, are we NUTS!"
Give me the clear, the cool the clean...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 4:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Virginia Pullen said...

Hi, I'm a PA. I am strongly considering taking one of these Alaskan Rural jobs. I am from a small town (pop < 5,000)in Alabama, so, I'm not too unfamiliar with rural medicine. However, I know this would be a big difference than any other job. I have 10 yrs. of experience under my belt in ER and FP. So, I am asking your advice. I am reviewing the different jobs on ANTHC website. I'm not sure which is your site. Any advice on chosing a site or tips on whether to do this or not. I am primarily interested in loan repayment and the unusual experience. Thanks! Virginia - Florida virginia.pullen.ctr@tyndall.af.mil

Friday, May 01, 2009 4:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan-from Kansas said...

I have truly enjoyed your blog...I started reading it a couple of summers ago when I was considering applying for a WIC job in Bethel.

I lived in Anchorage over a year in the mid 70's so it was great to get a taste of what life is like in Bethel. I hadn't checked your blog in some time...it was sad for me to see it had come to an end...but I totally understand. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it that summer...Thank you!

Sunday, September 27, 2009 5:23:00 AM  

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