From Alaska to Nebraska, contrast is the essence of meaning.


Today while planning my work

I went faxing to recruiters and clerks

    From Barrow, Alaska,

    To Grand Island, Nebraska,

This business has plenty of quirks.

I spent much of the day hustling up work. 

When I decided to make my career move in February I planned to do a palindromic geographic reiteration of the places that had brought me to Sioux City in 1985, but things didn’t work out.  Instead I made a very long first step in this next phase of being a doctor, to Barrow, Alaska, as far north as a person can go in the United States.

At about that time I put too many items on my list for a year: an armed forces installation, an Indian reservation, New Mexico, Wyoming, and a prison.

It turns out that the defense bases need a lot of doctors but want a six month commitment. 

I’m currently getting credentials for an Indian reservation clinic, and a one month placement in a prison health facility looks good.

I have confirmed an actual job for the last week of October in Grand Island, Nebraska. 

Most people in this country think of Interstate 80 when they think of Nebraska, and their conception is of a flat, boring place.

I would agree that the Platte River Corridor is boring, but Grand Island lies just south of the Sandhills.

A majority in this country, including most Iowans and a distressing number of Nebraskans, have never heard of the Sandhills, a place of quiet and peace and incredible beauty. 

At the end of the last Ice Age, sand accumulated in dunes in what is now western Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota.  When the Europeans wiped out the buffalo, the natural overgrazing stopped, and the dunes sprouted grass.  In the last hundred and twenty years, the Sandhills have been able to support more and more life.  Because water moves freely through the sand that comprises the district, many lakes dot the area.  The water table is very shallow, though scant rain falls.

The air is clear there, and the sand soaks up the sound.  The first time I went I was struck by the lack of noise.

I enjoy Sandhills people.  There is no pretense about them; if there are 200 people in an area the size of Rhode Island and half of them live in town, there is no room for a phony but there is space for almost everything else. 

Once, in Arthur County, I tried telling a shaggy dog story, but I did it with a straight face, and when I got to the punch line, nobody smiled.  At the point I realized that if I would impose on the sensibilities of my audience for such a tale, I would have to announce it as a joke.

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One Response to “From Alaska to Nebraska, contrast is the essence of meaning.”

  1. CHARLIE MILES Says:

    I HAVE RELATIVES WHO LIVE IN SCOTTSBLUFF, AND HAVE HAD OCCASION TO DRIVE THRU THE SANDHILLS IN THE PAST FEW YEARS. WHILE I APPRECIATED ITS BEAUTY, IT TOOK YOUR DESCRIPTION IN THIS ENTRY TO MAKE ME PAUSE AND DECIDE TO TAKE MY TIME NEXT TIME THRU AND SMELL THE ROSES ALONG THE WAY. THANKS FOR THAT NUDGE!

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