We’re back! After two weeks of traveling and hanging around Anchorage waiting to travel, we got back a week ago Thursday. Salad greens sprouted nicely in our absence, thanks to the long days, plastic vole-proof barrier, and good soil preparation. By throwing our coffee grounds onto the raised bed daily through the winter, we kept the snow down. Once the sun came, the dark grounds soaked up heat, making for a quick thaw and warm(ish) soil.
The tundra is flowering with berry blossoms and wildflowers, but is not yet providing much food for the birds, who have for the most part finished their musical nesting phase and moved on. We have seen trumpeter swans and geese flying by, a bald eagle coming in for a landing off the dirt highway, and a small flock of ptarmigan, no longer wearing winter white. Some believe Alaska’s state bird to be the mosquito, and if size, song and swarm count for anything, it could be.
Most mornings start with a run, hike or bike, where we try to keep moving fast enough to avoid getting bitten. By the time we get back our porridge (oatmeal mixed with most every whole grain known to mankind) is ready to eat before we start our day. Gary has been designing trellises to fulfill some custom orders he got at the Alaska Botanical Garden fair, where he nearly sold out of those he brought. He spends some of each day gathering wood and building them, and splitting wood to make bundles of firewood to sell at the campground. He sometimes lights a damp, smoky fire to keep bugs at bay, and almost always works with a head net on.
I’m a mess of welts, the mosquitoes having traced both the Big Dipper and the Belt of Orion on my right calf alone. Still, I go out to get water at the campground well every day or two, and to fish and tend to the garden. When I look up, I see Ella tormented too, pawing at her face, rolling or scooting in self-defense. Ella and I have spent more time indoors due to mosquitoes than we ever did due to the cold.
After traveling to the Block Medical Center outside Chicago and University of Washington’s Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, we don’t have much to report. Unless a review of the slides of Gary’s tumor shows a different diagnosis, it’s not clear that there is anything to do other than get routine scans and continue on with his diet and program of supplements. The folks in Seattle were somewhat more patient-centered and articulate, but their advice did not differ greatly from what we heard in Portland.
Gary’s diet is heavy on whole grains, fresh organic fruits and vegetables (mainly vegetables), with fish a few days a week, no dairy, no sugar, no refined grains, and no alcohol. I’m finishing off the last of the wine and sweets. When we’re with wine-drinking steak- and dessert-eaters, I switch teams, but in general I’m eating the same foods Gary is eating. It takes work to plan meals, but what we do eat is very good.
This diet is only possible because it’s summer here. To maintain it, and to facilitate the inevitable travel to Seattle or wherever Gary gets his medical care, we plan to leave this idyllic spot before the snows fall in September. Aunt Vee and my cousins Joan and Glenn have been wonderful to offer to let us stay at Vee’s place near Ashland, Oregon. It’s beautiful, too, 160 acres of oak savannah and gushing springs far from the city lights, a place where we can grow and buy fresh organic produce year-round.
It will be a beautiful place to get our footing for whatever comes next, and we’re so fortunate and grateful to be able to land there. We are grateful for so much. Gary’s sister Karen and her husband Scott have made us at home at their place longer and more often than is entirely reasonable, and we have been well fed and entertained and cared for (Ella too) by friends and family here. We’re grateful to each of you, too, who though distant has kept us in thought and prayer, given us encouragement, recommended some reading, or just made us feel less alone by sending us a photo or note about your goings on.
Even strangers have helped us: while in Anchorage we met with a sarcoma survivor. Warren was diagnosed some 14 years ago, had a hard fight of it for over five years, but at 65 (two years ago) ranked as the top racquetball player of all ages in Alaska and is top-ranked today in his age group nationally. He had some great insight and encouragement for us.
My San Francisco home is on the market now, with its first open house today. It was a lovely city home, quiet, in a great spot with great neighbors. (http://www.610duncanstreet.com) I bought it in 1991; I could never afford it now, but luckily I’m not looking to live in San Francisco. I’m also putting my snowmachine and sled on craigslist and alaskaslist, and starting to get organized for the move.
I’ve loved every minute here, except maybe one or two moments when I was under siege by mosquitoes. We still have time enough to enjoy: we’ve been hiking with Glenn and Terri, savoring fresh halibut from Ed, chatting with campground hosts Jim and Bona, catching grayling for dinner, watching Ella swim, running a little farther each time we go, seeing a new wildflower almost every day. It’s hard to imagine leaving. But wherever we go, we’ll make it home.
Sunrise: 4:04 a.m. (as compared to 3:41 a.m. on June 20th – 23rd)
Sunset: 11:58 p.m. (as compared to 12:14 a.m. on June 20th – 23rd)
Weather: High 54°, low 36°, rainy.
What we’re reading: Edible Forest Gardens: Ecological Design and Practice for Temperate Climate Permaculture (two volumes), by Dave Jacke.