Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day Two in Alaska

After 25 years in Alaska followed by another 19 since moving on beyond Alaska, Alaska remains unique. The skies have been overcast so that the gray days are not much brighter than the short nights. Where greenery hasn't changed the view, development has. After three drive-bys, like a mirage, old familiar scenes juxtaposition over today's reality. Starter trees are now a forest and new roads are narrowed by shrubbery and cluttered with old or unused stuff.

Sometimes it's a name, sometimes it's a face transformed for 20 years ago, sometimes it's a combination and sometimes it takes some time, but slowly memories are jostled and time slips back 20 years. Sometimes an acquaintance's remark reminds one that live is not quite the same as in the lower 48. "I got married a couple years ago. And I got an indoor toilet. I'm so happy; I have everything I want." She continued, "Last night after selling souvenirs all day, I sat on the lawn chair sipping wine and swapping mosquitoes as the sun momentarily broke through the clouds and bad a cool day feel warm. Life is good. It would be nice to have enough money to not have to skimp every day." Then, commenting on the 200 tourists in a two street community of 600, "It's so great to get away from this busy cosmopolitan environment."

As we paid the clerk in a new grocery store, the first real one ever at this end of the valley, we asked how long she'd lived here hoping to determine her connection to someone we knew earlier. She said, "Seven year, " and I thought "We've been gone much longer than that." She added, "But my husband's been here 30."
"Now there's someone I might know," I thought and asked, "Who is he."
"Jack MacDonald."
So the small world concept just fell into place. Jack was one of our dearest friends when we lived here and was near the top of our list of persons we hoped to see while here. We gave her our phone number and a couple hours later he called. He lived along the route of our evening jaunt and we had an hour to use. It was a great reunion visit; as if we'd never been apart except we have many stories to tell.

We're here to visit our son and attend the wedding of the son of another dear friend. An early stop at their house led us to moving table under the tents in the field set for the wedding and washing pint canning jars to serve as drinking glasses at the wedding. Not exactly champagne flutes but more in keeping with the lifestyle of the families and the "green" theme of the wedding. At 35 years of age, Nate, the groom started teaching middle social studies and coaching three teams at a school in southern Arizona. Perhaps the closest connection between Arizona and Alaska is that they start with the same letter of the alphabet. Cassalan completed her masters in public health which included an internship doing a feasibility study for a medical clinic in the Trapper Creek area. She reported to the Sunshine Community Health Center board that there was a positive reaction to having a clinic more readily available to the residents and there was a need.

Speaking of the clinic, an institution that Gail, with the support of her husband, and the backing of a group of community members, started the Sunshine Community Health Clinic 25 years, opening on November 5, 1986, to patients with one and a half employees and a 50 thousand dollar grant, now has 40 employees and a multi-million dollar annual budget. Now in its third building, the clinic's growth mirrors the changes in the community and has lived far beyond its expectations and wildest dreams. Within a month during this anniversary year, a free medical clinic will open its doors for the first time in Polk County, inspired and promoted by Gail.

Bake some king salmon from Darron at Gunderson's and the day ends nearly perfect.

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