I leave Fairbanks today for Nome, a brief overnight layover, and a quick 45 minute non-pressurized 7000 foot altitude (or so) flight into Shishmaref. The flight facts I have acquired since reading: 'pregnant women should avoid unpressurized airplanes.' The next advice, 'if you simply must fly in a non-pressurized aircraft, make sure there is oxygen on board.' There isn't. So it goes.
I am nervous now! There is much to do. There is the uncertainty about what the next month of pregnancy will be like (having problems putting on my own shoes now). There are the general uncertainties about being on someone else's island and asking questions about very real lives. There is strange food and the impositions my job creates. There is insecurity and the goal of doing a good, just, thing. There are old friends.
In the short term, I'm hoping for the first week or so my daily life will revolve around baking and chatting. I will have to lug around my own decaf coffee. Lame. I should try to rope someone into taking walks with me on the airport runway. I should perfect the art of cinnamon roll baking. I should learn to cook short ribs. I should talk to the elders. I should wonder obsessively again about my chosen profession. I should set small goals.
When I'm in Shishmaref I stay with Rachel and Rich Stasenko. They are such anchors. Perfect hosts. What do you bring to people who save your life? I brought a blanket and two bars of chocolate that say 'OREGON' on them.
Now I'm in Nome, belly up to a bar, drinking soda pop and watching sports, trying to catch my breath after lugging 7 bags across the state of Alaska. Everyone's in carhartts and kuspuks. Such a security to be sitting here, even without a beer, as the exhaustion sets in and all there is to do is wait: for the next phone call, for the next refill, for the rest of the night to come and pass before flying out.
Flying out. Into a part of the world that I adore, and never fails to awe. But still flying out to a place that is not home for me.... and for this reason is intimidating.
But as the wedding vows went: We'll jump, and we'll see.