Contrast is still the essence of meaning: coming home after a summer away.


I can write and compute on a plane

I regard ennui with disdain

     I’m loving the list

     Of the things that I missed

As I fly away from the rain

As I write this I am airborne and homeward bound.

Yesterday, Les, his wife Beth, their son Gavin and I discussed the Alaska primaries in the very long Anchorage afternoon.

Much passionate discussion follows any election.  Of the last twelve weeks, I spent ten in the bush.  I’m not an Alaska resident.  I had no emotional investment in the recent vote.

But I have a great appreciation for our current marvelous epoch.  An hour’s worth of minimum wage work buys more goods and services than it ever has, and the quality of those goods and services just keeps getting better every year.  During my long years of student poverty and minimum wages an hour’s work before taxes bought me a pound and a half of chuck, now an hour’s minimum pay fetches two pounds of rib eye, and the meat is a safer product.

 In 1979 when postage was eight cents I bought a used Zeiss Ikon Contaflex camera for $65.  My $150 digital camera can shoot 100000 pictures without buying film. The same shirt pocket-sized machine takes high-definition movies with sound. 

To my regret I cannot name the poet who wrote about forever awaiting the rebirth of wonder.  I still marvel at the fact of flying and computing at the same time.

Last night Les and I picked up dry ice at an Anchorage supermarket.  We stayed up late talking and looking at the photos and videos we’d generated during my Alaska adventure.

I didn’t sleep much, I was too excited about coming home.

We got up very early and loaded frozen fish and dry ice into the coolers.  We relished the last minutes of our company and made plans to get together again in January or February or March or April or May. 

He dropped me at the airport and I stood in line with people carrying fishing rods in rigid cases.  I talked about the good fishing and good company and times I’d enjoyed. 

In the Seattle airport I sat next to a Japanese woman on her way to a town close to Sioux City.  She did a year as an exchange student there, returned to Japan to become a nurse midwife.  She does not share call with anyone, and we talked about the difficulty of constant vigilance.  She doesn’t have time to practice piano but we talked about music.

On the Seattle airport tram I spoke with a man who had been fishing in Alaska, and had one good day with the silver salmon.  HIs joy grows as his work morphs from auditor to financial officer.  Auditors are necessary, he said, but he feels he’s doing more good and adding more value in his current position.

Contrast is the essence of meaning, whether in the natural cycle of things or in the progression of one stage of life to another.  In eight weeks of continuous daytime in Barrow, I missed the relief of night and I didn’t see the sunrise or sunset.  The beautiful, clear Anchorage afternoon sunlight yesterday took on more beauty for having followed thirty continuous days of rain.

The wonderful parts about day-to-day life lose their wonder;  when they come every day they are taken for granted, but when we go and come back we can relish and savor the ordinary. 

We lose track of the really neat people and things around us when there are no spaces in our togetherness.

I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  I’m taking a year off for adventure while my non-compete clause ticks.  I spent eight weeks working in Barrow in far northern Alaska, and a month vacationing in southern Alaska.


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2 Responses to “Contrast is still the essence of meaning: coming home after a summer away.”


    Hi Dr. Steve,

    Really like reading your blog, thought this comment really reminds us not to take life for granted…not that I’ll remember very long!

    Welcome back home!…Charlie

    “The wonderful parts about day-to-day life lose their wonder; when they come every day they are taken for granted, but when we go and come back we can relish and savor the ordinary.”

    • walkaboutdoc Says:

      It is good to be back, smell the corn growning, and not have to think about which jacket I have to wear. And it’s really, really good to have darkness at night.

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