Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer of Change

Long time readers of this blog have probably noticed that it has changed quite a bit since I first started writing it two years ago. It is less about bush medicine and more about bush culture. And, frankly, it is more about me than I originally intended. The first change has evolved out of a general concern for patient confidentiality. The hospital decided that I could not post any pictures taken in their facilities, and that made me less interested in writing the medical stories. There was so much to write about the culture that I hardly noticed the shift.

The second shift, to writing more about myself, came more gradually. As much as I thought the blog was not about me back in the beginning, it was to some degree. It is just a little more so now.

The biggest change of all is now happening, and I am not sure just how this blog will go on after it is done. This is my last summer in Bethel. And I am already spending it alone.

Dutch and I have been feeling for the last few months as though the time was coming when we would be ready to move on, to turn the page, to live our life someplace different than Bethel. In April he applied for a position with the City of Kenai; it was offered, he accepted, and a month ago he moved there to start his new job. I am required to give much more notice, and can’t leave here until the end of September. Four months apart until I can join him there. He started exactly five days after our wedding.

Kenai (KEEN eye) is a small town (population 7,400) in southcentral Alaska, about 60 air miles and 150 road miles south of Anchorage. It is on the Kenai Peninsula at the mouth of the Kenai River. It is on Alaska’s limited road system, therefore not “in the Bush”. And it is in the land of tall mountains, big trees and beautiful ocean—the “picturebook” part of Alaska.

We found a wonderful house through serendipitous good fortune: a friend here had a relative there who was looking for some reliable people to lease the house for a year. And dogs welcome! It was perfect. It is right on the Kenai River, has a great fenced dog yard, and moose wandering through the property on their trails down to the river. The deck on the back looks out over the tops of tall fir trees, eagles flying up the river, and the Alaska Range marching straight into the Pacific Ocean. I am so ready to put a hot tub on that deck.

One of the best things about this change is that I will get to keep part of my old job, one of the parts I like the best. I will continue to do Radio Medical Traffic with the health aides in the villages by fax/phone from Kenai. And I hope to be able to fly back for an occasional village trip as well.

Once fall comes, I will no longer live on the tundra, but I will always be The Tundra PA. The beauty of the tundra has taken up residence in my heart, and it will always be part of me. Tundra Medicine Dreams will continue but may be a completely different type of blog. My interest in writing and what I want to write about is shifting along with all of this. It is time to start writing my novel.

Leaving Bethel is a huge change in my life, along with the loss of my grandmother and the acute loneliness of being separated from Dutch. The second two are a deep ache in the heart, lessened a little by all the planning and details for the first. There is much work to do, sorting, packing, cleaning, and selling off the big things like the boat, the snowmachines, and my truck. I’m not a packrat, but I’ve managed to accumulate a fair amount of junk in my ten years here.

All three dogs have stayed in Bethel with me, but now that Dutch is somewhat settled in to his job and our new house, it is time for Bear to go and keep him company. I’m planning a trip over for the 3-day weekend of the 4th of July, and he’ll go along as part of my checked luggage. After that it will be just us girls here in Bethel—me, Pepper and Princess.

And if I stay busy, the summer will go by quickly; there are fish to catch and berries to pick, as well as patients to see. It’s all good.

109 days until October 1st. Not that I’m counting.

Photos of moose by Dutch: the first just outside his office at City Hall, the second about a block from our house. Isn't it just such a Cecely moment? Feels like Northern Exposure all over again.



Blogger RunninL8 said...

...Wow! What an exciting new chapter awaiting you! I always get a vicarious rush when hearing about people embarking on a new life journey!
Kenai is wonderful! We spend a lot of time on the peninsula dip netting, clamming, camping on Anchor Point, visiting Homer... Perhaps we'll meet you on the mouth one fine dip nettin' morn! Would love to meet you now that you will be "close"!
Keep busy, take care of you, and enjoy the full summer. I hope it goes by quickly for you. Bittersweet, isn't it?
Looking forward to that novel!

Friday, June 13, 2008 9:45:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Hello! I have never left a comment before but I've been reading your blog since I moved to Alaska last year and find your stories about Bethel very interesting. I moved to Kenai from Anchorage a couple months ago and it is a lovely community. Far more rural (geographically and culturally) than one might expect for a place so much closer to Anchorage! In any event, good luck with your move, I hope you find the Peninsula to be a happy place to make your new home. Liz

Friday, June 13, 2008 3:45:00 PM  
Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

So beautifully put: you will indeed always be the Tundra PA. And you will always be a blogger, your blog meandering along after you.

Looking forward to reading your novel.

Friday, June 13, 2008 3:51:00 PM  
Blogger Karen Travels said...

Please keep blogging no matter where you are! It is weird to say it, but you will be right down the road from me!! Well...kinda.

I look forward to hearing about your new adventures!

Friday, June 13, 2008 4:20:00 PM  
Blogger CrankyProf said...

WOW! Congratulations on the new chapter in your lives! There's so much ahead of you!

Plus, MOOSE! Woohoo! Who wouldn't like real moose in the yard? (Unless you need a moose-sized pooper scooper...)

Friday, June 13, 2008 5:26:00 PM  
Blogger TBTAM said...

Life is change. Live it fully.

Keep blogging.

Friday, June 13, 2008 7:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog one day about 4 months ago when I was looking for something...anything... to make me feel like the torture that I was putting myself through was worth it. You see, I was nearing the end of my first year of PA school and was feeling pretty beaten down and not very smart. I was wondering if I had made a mistake...if the school that had accepted me had over estimated my worthiness and my intelligence. Finding your blog about serving a rural Alaskan community was not only auspicious, it was ironic. I grew up in Homer. The things you speak of I understand. Reading about how as a PA you are making a difference in people's lives...people who really need it, snapped me out of my PA school funk. I'm now in my second year and in my first rotation and loving it! I can't believe I waited 20 years to do this. So thanks. Hopefully when I'm finished with school I will be able to touch peoples lives like you have with you skill, care, and compassion.


Saturday, June 14, 2008 8:34:00 PM  
Blogger KuskoMama said...

Wow, TPA... congrats on your decision to start a new adventure in a new town. The Peninsula is beautiful!

Monday, June 16, 2008 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous AlaskanWindSong said...

Wow.. do I understand the bittersweetness... I love my bush village, and I also hate the changes coming to it with higher fuel costs, the number of people leaving... mostly I hate that I am leaving. I also know I cannot stay here forever even if I wanted this job forever, and I never wanted it to begin with. I wonder how I define myself and my life after the years I've defined a large part of my identity from being in this remote place. I know I'm still me and all that and that I am much more than place... it's really hard to explain to people who haven't been here and totally become part of things. (Some people come out here and never do become a part.)

Mostly I worry that all the people who call here - depressed, suicidal, lonely, whatever... will have no one to call when things change hands... but one could become a little too co-dependent there.

We are likely heading to Kenai, too... at least for the first year or two... then to ANC, possibly to become a PA, lol... I know I cant handle ANC right away after almost 5 years in the bush. Even before here, in Palmer, or more outside of it, I was 12 miles out of town on the side of a mountain with propane lights... this is going to take some getting used to. :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2008 7:42:00 AM  

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