"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Monday, June 25, 2012

OY! What a commute!

As I mentioned before, I am staying out of town this summer.
I'm in the green, rolling hills north of Fairbanks, 
the ones where gold was first discovered in this area.
I have a 13 mile commute to the hospital each morning.
Could be stressful and tiring, I know. 
One thing I really, reallyREALLY dislike in life is traffic.

See the kind of traffic I have to deal with each morning:
I can TOTALLY handle this.  Even enjoy it.

As I begin to coast down from the higher elevation, I can see pretty Fairbanks below.
She sits in a large, expansive valley, almost a bowl.

I can pick out the buildings that make up the college and even 
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital where I work.
Surrounding the city are the hills and, further beyond,
three great mountain ranges.

Just a few miles into my trip, the jagged, snowy peaks of the
Alaska Range peek over the tall trees. 
This vista always makes me smile.

And then the pride of the Alaska Range grandly appears.
Mt. McKinley, or Denali-"The Great One", the tallest peak in all
of North America, greets me.
Not every day as the clouds sometimes fill the horizon.
But on the days this massive mountain glows in the sunlight,
I am buoyed upward by its silent, powerful presence.
It simply does my heart good to whisper,
"Good morning to you, too."
So you see, not only is there NO stress in this commute,
it blesses and centers me and I begin my workday with a song in my heart.

My friends, I wish I had a better camera than my basic little Canon and I realize
this picture is rather poor quality.  
But, please look beyond the blurriness and graininess
and join me in recognizing greatness when you see it. 

Here are two pictures I took of the same mountain a couple of years ago.
Kathleen and I were on an adventure to go into Denali National Park 
and were thrilled to see all of this mountain as it often has its summit
sheathed in clouds.

That was a very good day. 
So is every day I have to live and work here.
And I never mind the commute!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MIdnight Sunshine

Isn't it odd how some things in life just never grow old?
Those things that, no matter how often they are experienced,
still bring excitement and wonder to our souls?
Things such as:
 a baby's laughter,
the freshness and silence of winter's first snowfall,
the lonely, haunting call of geese heading south,
the fragrance of freshly mowed grass,
and summer solstice in Fairbanks.

Yes, today is the longest day of the year
and it means there will be no darkness at all.
Since the day is not over yet, I'm using some pictures from
the past few years here.

Tonight, at 10pm right now, the sky is as bright as noon.

 This picture was taken at midnight.  
Mr. Sun is still up and shining bright.

The actual sunset is scheduled for 12:48 AM tonight...
The sunrise is officially 2:58 AM.
The two hours in between fill the sky with rosy glows 
as the colors of the sun's setting and  rising blend into one.
Honestly,  for weeks the night colors have been just like this
and they will remain so for many more weeks to come.
But, just the knowing that this is the official longest day
makes me want to stay up and gaze at the skies.
But, alas, work begins early tomorrow morning and I must sleep
to make it through the demands of the day.  
So, I will go to sleep under blue skies
and wake under the same.  
I'll miss the short spell of pink as the sun dips briefly below the horizon,
but my heart will still be glad.
I've just had another solstice in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
And it doesn't get old.
Good night.  Or is it morning?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Family Togetherness

 I have returned to Alaska for another contract as a travel nurse
at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
My job is the same and I slipped into the role more smoothly than 
I had ever expected.  
I recognize many staff and they all accept my presence as normal, 
even though I've been gone 8 months.
Even quite a number of patients that I've treated in other summers
remember me and we chat like old friends.
It has been a wonderful return.

There is one BIG change, however.
I have chosen not to stay at the apartment from the past
but I'm living with Josh and Kathleen at their home in the hills
north of the city.
I drive the country, unpaved road to their house each evening
and am greeted with a good meal, smiles and hugs.

And enthusiastic greetings and smiles from my sweet, little
granddaughter, Abigail.
If she's on the deck when I pull in the yard,  she waves her arm
so much that her whole little body wiggles.
Now who wouldn't choose a welcome like that?
She's decided she likes wearing my shoes, besides.

And Grandma's car has a different car seat--
this one is front-facing so she can feel the wind blowing her hair.
Yay for watching what's coming for a change!
 I never wanted to stay with this little family for such an extended time
and still have the option of moving to Wedgewood Resort.
But Kathleen comes up with new reasons EVERY day
examining why I should stay with them.
  The silken threads of love seem to be binding me here.
I have a pretty little room to myself with windows looking out at dozens 
of tall birch trees and blue skies, birds and moose. 
 Reminds me of a college dorm room, all my personal things in one place.  
It feels good.  And right.
And I like waking to a tiny hand knocking on my door, calling "Mamaw!"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

People Along My Path

We can learn so much from others.
One great benefit of my job as a nurse in an outpatient setting is that a vast array of different people come and go every day I am working.
Sickness is an amazing equalizer.
Butcher, baker or candlestick maker...
doctor, lawyer... you get the picture.
My patients are vulnerable, hurting or weak and I have the
privilege of treating them in an effort to improve their present condition.
And I totally believe in holistic nursing whereby I touch
body, soul and mind.
And that means talking and mostly listening.

This sharing is certainly not limited to a hospital IV infusion room.
We  each have the wonderful opportunity of getting to know others
 if we are willing to reach out and try.  
Now, I must confess that I am often so tired from preparing for a trip
 that I get my window seat and curl up (as much as one can 
in a cramped airline seat) and go to sleep.
My back to the person next to me, my body language shouts,
"Leave me alone!"
But, once in awhile I make eye contact with a seatmate and a conversation ensues.
And I'm never sorry I did!

On the Seattle to Fairbanks flight, that's what happened.
This young man is from Moldova, an eastern European country
near Romania that used to be part of the USSR.
"A very small, poor agricultural country," he described in a thick accent.
His mother a teacher, father a farmer.
His father needed him to labor on the farm but understood his son wanted to expand his horizons by spending the summer in the US.
A sophomore in college near home, he is returning to Fairbanks 
to work at the Pump House Restaurant for the second year. 
I doubt his limited English skills could enable him to work
 as a waiter and, indeed, his job is a busboy.
We chatted about the great restaurant and how my daughter 
had her wedding dinner there 6 years ago.

He had been traveling for 2 days already 
and was very tired on this last leg of his journey.
He spent over $2,000 for his fare.
He did not know where he would be living but had a friend who was
 (hopefully) picking him up at the airport.

He was polite and pleasant and though I could not understand the
pronunciation of his name, he chatted comfortably.
I see  him as brave.
(Although if he were mine I'd see him as reckless, I must admit.)
20 years old and venturing to a far off land, speaking another language.
Unsure of lodging, transportation and working a poorly paid job.
I wonder that his pay covers his air fare, never mind meals and housing.
But he recognizes the poverty back in Moldova
and wants more choices for his life.
His experience in America is limited to Fairbanks,
but he grins and speaks of how much money and opportunity
is here in America.
Our brief time on the flight caused me to ponder on all I take for granted.
Opportunities.  Money. Security. Freedoms.
A sober pause to reflect on my life.
Thanks to a young college student far from home.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wild at Heart

The view from my window proves I'm no longer in Texas.
No cacti...
no mockingbird singing...
no 90 degree days... 
no deer in the backyard...
no backyard even.

But a moose recently grazed her way through the woods just outside
and I am wearing a sweatshirt and warm pants. 
My Alaskan summer has begun once again.
And I am ever so thankful.

As the plane left Seattle at 9:30 pm, it was dark and stars shone.
These would be the last stars I see until September.
Barely an hour into the northwestern flight
I noticed a faint line of yellow marking the horizon ahead.
From 33,000 feet above, the curvature of the earth is so evident.
And lovely with the glow of light marking it.
Such a strange phenomenon:
 the later the hour became, closer and closer to midnight,
the brighter this horizon grew--
the band of light growing wider and higher and redder.
Defying what my mind expected for the time of night.

Massive, snow covered mountains glow in setting sunlight
and tall, dark Black Spruce darken the land beneath the plane.

Our descent into Fairbanks connected with my soul 
and I recognized the wide, silty banks of the tangled Tanana River
meandering wherever its glacial waters choose.

My heartbeat quickened as I acknowledged the wildness of this land.
People may have settled here but nature dictates their course.
The land of Interior Alaska will not be tamed.
And this harsh and beautiful wonder thrills me.
The expanse of forest, height of the trees, twisting of rivers, 
and massive mountains all shout of excessive sizes.
Just because they can!
No borders limit them--one cannot stop a glacier grinding forward.
Nor a raging forest fire devouring hundreds of thousands of acres.
And my soul expands with this environment.
I am reminded how big my God is when I am here!
His mighty hand created all my eyes see!

I sigh and am filled with peace as the wheels touch down.
I pray I am ready to begin yet another brief span of time here
in this great place with people I love.