A Beautiful Place
It really is beautiful here in Kenai, both the area in general and the spot where our house is located. I can’t imagine a more restful and healing view to gaze at while recovering from surgery than this lovely image of mountains and sky. Sometimes the clouds obscure all of it, but when they clear, Oh! They take your breath away. I can watch for hours as the light shifts on the face of the mountains while the sun moves in a low arc across the southern sky.
October and, so far, November, have proceeded as they were planned. Jody and I managed (thanks mostly to Jody) to finish up in Bethel on schedule. We even had time to squeeze in a steam bath at Henry’s on our last night there. The last bunch of packing and mailing happened, gifts were distributed to friends, utilities and services terminated, everything taken care of.
We showed up at Alaska Airlines for our one-way trip to Anchorage with a large and motley assortment of belongings which Jody had creatively packed in three 33-gallon Rubbermaid trashcans with the lids strapped and duck-taped on, and a burn barrel made from the tub of an old washing machine and packed with tools and stuff. We had regular suitcases too, but the trashcans and burn barrel were an outstanding element there in the Alaska terminal. We handed them up for weighing and checking in, and the gate agents never raised an eyebrow.
“What??” Jody said to them. “We don’t even get a smile for this? We’re packed in trashcans and a burn barrel, for goodness’ sake!”
The agent just shrugged and said “Hey, this is Bethel. We’ve pretty much seen it all around here.”
My friend Joan, who was there to see us off, took a photo to commemorate the trashcan departure.
Leaving Bethel for the last time was very bittersweet. I know I will be back, so it was not really the last time, but it was the last time I would leave as a Bethel resident. When Jody and I landed there the week before, it already felt different. For the first time ever, it did not feel like coming home. Watching the town grow small as the plane lifted off felt like a door closing, the end of an era.
Ten years. I grew and changed a lot in that time. I went from the emotional wasteland of an ill-fated, never-should-have-happened, emotionally abusive relationship to the lush garden of the soul-mated love that I share with Dutch. I was married for the first and only time in my life, right there in Bethel. I became a writer, something I’ve worked toward my whole life, but never managed to accomplish. I created this blog, which is something I am proud of. In the two-plus years of its existence, I have written essays on a wide variety of subjects concerning bush medicine and Yupik culture. Even in the last six weeks, when I have not written a single word, the blog continues to capture seven to eight hundred hits per week, just from people searching the internet for subjects related to things I’ve written about. That is truly satisfying to me.
I will go back to Bethel to work and to visit dear friends there, but it won’t be the same as living there. I won’t be a member of the club anymore. Bethelites have an esprit d’ corp that comes from surviving the isolating location and harsh winter weather. If you only come to visit, it doesn’t include you.
But I will look forward to those visits, because Bethel will always be special to me. In its own way, it is also a beautiful place. Bethel forever changed my life, in ways which were all good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos by The Tundra PA.
1. The Alaska Range at sunset, from the mouth of the Kenai River
2. Mt. Redoubt, from my deck.
3. Mt. Illiamna, from my deck.
Labels: Life in Bethel