Winter calling

Monday, January 23, and we’re back in Craig. Rob is doing a last round of work at the clinic here before the new “permanent” provider arrives in mid-February. “Permanent” (in the Alaska healthcare world) is the hopeful term for individuals who accept a position without a defined end date. Of course “permanent” with this usage really means that most likely, the position will be filled for a year or two. Sometimes people stay longer, but you never know. So providers who travel fill the gaps. I’m working in the front office. I don’t do clinical; I don’t do blood!

We came over from Ketchikan last night, arriving in a soft snowfall. Prince of Wales looks to have about the same levels of snow that Ketchikan has. What a week it has been for SE Alaska! This is the rain forest, we are not accustomed to bitter cold here. Often in the winter months, the average temperatures are in the 30s and even 40s. Last week, Ketchikan was in single digits, with winter storm warnings and heavy snow accumulation for the end of the week.

We live in a house built in 1920. It has been remodeled and updated over the years, but still…can you guess where this is going? I felt quite smug all week, hearing about frozen pipes and weather related issues, relieved that I wasn’t dealing with any of that. Until Friday morning, when I realized the water source for the washing machine was frozen. I put a small space heater in the laundry room to try to warm things up a bit, went off to my relief job in the Primary Care clinic, hoping to have things restored when I got home. It was a minor inconvenience. But the best was yet to come. Friday afternoon, when we pulled into our parking space at the house, I got out of the car and saw water gushing out from an exterior basement wall. I rushed in to see where the water was coming from and found the floor partially covered. I could hear the sound of running water and see the water level rising. A pipe in an exterior wall had frozen, and we were developing a small lake.

A few hours later, we had a claim in with Allstate, a plumber (thank you, Cory, for coming out so quickly!) had capped the pipe and restored water to the rest of the house, and the process of drying out had begun. There wasn’t any visible damage. Of course we haven’t been through the final repair process yet. The plumber said his company had so many calls last week, they were only doing emergency fixes. Cap the pipes, come back and do the full repair later. So I don’t know if there is damage within the wall, or how involved the repair will be. But our initial cleanup consisted of drying out a rug and mopping up. Oh, and paying the bill, which I expect to be just under our deductible, so likely we’ll get to pay the full amount. But I’m not complaining. If we hadn’t gotten home when we did, it could be much worse. Or more frightening to contemplate, what if it had happened this week?! I don’t like to think about pipes when we’re out of town. But that’s what insurance is for, right?

So, the washing machine thawed out in time to do laundry to travel, we are mostly dried out in the basement, and we’re back in the mid-30s now. Hopefully no more single digit temps, particularly while we’re out of town.

All of this just helps me appreciate the routine, the normal, the every day. It is very unsettling to realize you have a potentially major problem on Friday afternoon when you are planning to be out of town and can’t be home to address the issue. This was one of those times when I just wanted to turn the clock back a few minutes and have my to-do list from an hour ago.

Well, tis the season. Winter storms, delayed or canceled flights, pipes and snowy roads…all part of the joy. Funny, snow is so perfect around Christmas when it adds to the ambience and puts the finishing touch to the holiday atmosphere. But in January? Not so fun. After spending most of my adult life in winter climates…Colorado and Michigan and Alaska…I’m beginning to understand why people eventually want to live in year round warmth. I’m not there yet. I still like four seasons. But frozen pipes and washing machines definitely color my thinking! Or maybe I’m just ready for a week on a beach.

Well, off to work. And oh, the temperature is 35 degrees. It’s going to be a great day!

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Afternoon sunshine

We’ve had a break in the rain. Either the notorious climate of SE Alaska is getting to me, or we really have had more rain than usual this spring. Not sure, but either way, I’m excited to have a window full of sunshine to enjoy. I saw friends from Colorado posting on Facebook that they have snow. Yes, that happens sometimes in Colorado this time of year. I’ve seen it snow there on my son’s birthday, which is in June. And the first summer we lived in the Denver area, it snowed on the 4th of July. I love that state! And I miss it. But I do not miss the late spring snows.

The late afternoon sun is a luxury of only a few months. So much of the year here, the sun appears late and leaves early. And on rainy days, you get a sort of twilight effect, although this region of Alaska doesn’t have the extremes of dark and light like the far north of the state.

This afternoon, as I sit looking around, I notice the light catching on things that I don’t usually see. It plays with the color of paint on the wall, the clear glass vase on the dining room table, makes the room too bright to sit in my favorite chair looking out over the water. I can’t see my laptop screen with the light pouring in through the picture windows. On the way home I noticed more trees leafing out. And the most sure sign of spring? The clearest indicator that the season has come? The construction workers have descended on us. The main road through Ketchikan is under seige, with cones dividing the space for traffic and speeds reduced to the one lane crawl.

The construction boom is in evidence at work. The hospital is getting a new roof. I’m in a different mind set. I’m hoping to sell a house, and spring is the season for homes to be shown and sold. People are moving, new people come to town. Opportunity is on the horizon.

It’s a bit like pregnancy, except there’s no known delivery date. You just sit with the process, waiting for a call from the realtor that there’s a showing, then hoping for an offer to come along. Every morning I leave the house ready.

This afternoon, I pause. I would love to have an offer in hand, to be able to look at the next chapter in life. But nothing yet. Maybe tomorrow. For today, since I don’t have a choice, I’ll enjoy the light streaming in, the blue of the water, the view in front of me. The sunshine reminds me that a new season has arrived, that days don’t stay dark.

How’s your view today?