It is now after 10 PM and I sit comfortably on the couch of a stranger's home. It's the B&B side of their duplex in Kenny Lake. She's a professional who works in this area where I have come to do some of my own "working." I'm on a work junket, I guess you could call it. It's the rural outreach part of my "Rural Outreach Coordinator" position.
Last night I left Talkeetna and Willow, stayed in Wasilla/Palmer and got on the road this morning bound for this area that I don't know what to call. Maybe I'll call it "Almost Perfect" or "All This And Heaven, Too?" Almost made Talkeetna seem passe'.
I'm a happy little miss where I live in Anchorage, still discovering so many jewell-toned comforts and surprises. But when I found Talkeetna the other day, I had a deep desire to find a way to move up there and stay forever. It was dusk on Hallowe'en, downtown shops were staying open for trick-or-treaters, people of all ages, sizes and costumes were happily wondering down the streets, alleys and roadways--didn't see a lot of sidewalks. Snow was falling, and I found my way into the lodge I posted pictures of a couple of days ago--or was that yesterday?
I met people at Sunshine Clinic in--hmmmmm, was it Sunshine? They let me stay in the cottage up the hill that used to be the clinic proper. It got scary after everyone went home and I was the only one staying in that dark, dark area...milling around the big two-bedroom cottage by myself...hearing sounds that I didn't think should be there, looking for but not seeing any neighbors. More scary than living in my so-called "higher-crime" neighborhood of uptown Anchorage.
I met more people at the Upper Susitna Senior Activities weekly luncheon. And I met even more, more people in their homes along the way between Palmer, Wasilla, Willow and Talkeetna. And when I say met them in their homes, I don't necessarily mean by pulling up along the sidewalk and going up to the door, I mean by following directions like this; "Drive to mile 89.6, but it's not marked, but when you get to that lodge-pole-pine sign put on your brakes because you're going to turn immediately after the sign, drive down the road for the length of about 2 1/2 city blocks, turn left at the first tree..." One family I met lived at the end of a dead end street named after them!
My job is to find people who might be in need of the low vision services we can offer, but who might not know a center like ours exists. Then I can work with them. I depend upon referrals from other people or from community health centers or from people I meet at the Alaskan Federation of Nations Arts and Crafts exhibit who also volunteer at food pantries or senior centers or native health centers.
Sometimes I just go out and beat the bush---EVERY SINGLE PUN INTENDED! (Because, remember, that's what they call remote areas around here--the bush.)
Tomorrow early my new traveling companion and I will set out for Valdez to go talk to people in clinics, centers and homes in that area. We'll spend most of the day there, come back to Kenny Lake and visit Gulkana, Gokana, Something Lakey Lake or Tazlina or Some Such Copper Something Creek or River. I'll get it down when I'm more used to it. My colleague told me today that they don't really call things by official names, anyway--some people say one thing, some people say something else. As a matter of fact that's what someone told me about Sunshine, now that I think about it. It's the Sunshine Clinic because the area around there is technically or officially or traditionally called Sunshine, but some people just call it the Y because of fork in the road. The Y area.
I went 25 miles past my turn-off to Kenny Lake. (I only know I missed my turn when the mile markers for Valdez were just too close and I found a roadside place to pull in to ask for directions. It was closed but there was a man working in a shed who gave me directions. As I pulled away, a woman on the porch called after me, "BE SAFE!")
And then I happened upon this scene (below.) When I pulled over--well, I didn't really pull over, I just stopped in the road because, let's face it, where does one pull over on such a slick, snowy road out in the middle of no where--I got out of my car to get a closer look at it. I couldn't tell if it had just happened and someone might be inside or if it had been there a while. I got closer and heard the bing-bing-bing sound cars make these days when you leave your keys in the ignition. I couldn't see anyone inside but I saw an official state car pull up from a side road. I walked over to them to ask if this accident had been reported or looked into and there was a woman sitting in the passenger seat of the state car. She said, "That's mine and I'm all right."