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To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

Jimmy was back. He entered the store as his old positive self. The
last I’d seen him, months ago, he was strapped in a strait jacket while
state troopers loaded him into a plane for Nome or Anchorage. He was
back again and stood before me without apologies, explanations,
embarrassment or shame; as if the wild blip months before never
happened.

I told him that while he was away I’d finally met his elusive
brothers, Unksy and Gooksy (see MY ESKIMO FAMILY 66). He didn’t respond in a familial way — as if I’d
met an extension of himself. I didn’t recognize a trace in his demeanor
as to connectedness one might expect or exude when talking about family.
Maybe because he was the polar opposite of his brothers. While he was
gregarious and always out and about the village, his brothers were
hermit like and seemingly introverted. I suspect, in hindsight, the ALL
the people of Golovin, because of their isolation and dependence,
were one big family.

As for me, I wanted nothing more than to feel and believe I was
intimately unquestioningly a part of a familial group. My immediate
family and I were not close or very much involved with each other’s
lives. One of my two brothers died when we were all teenagers. My
remaining brother and two sisters did not cry together or console one
another. The event steeled our emotional disconnectedness into
adulthood. I wrote letters home over the many months in Golovin
but had yet to receive a letter from the family. My mother sent a large
gift box for my birthday to the astonishment of Maggie. “What does she
do for Christmas?” she asked.

Where mother made extraordinary efforts to send me gift boxes for
birthday and Christmas, news and information from home barely existed. I
received two or three letters consisting of newspaper articles on
menstrual cramps or frostbite with a short sentence written in the
margin. I hated those “letters”. Perhaps my time in Golovin
symbolized the conflict within between belonging — not belonging —
the longing to belong — and emotional isolation. The months I was in Golovin, my inner thoughts of why I was there were not entertained by me.
The adventure remained an adventure. I wished my sibling could share it
with me. Soon, however, the moment would come when I realized I was
outstaying my welcome and my child-like needs were intruding on family
that was, ultimately, a group of strangers.

In the meantime, my devoted admirer, Jimmy, was back.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Snow Drift in Nome

Snow Drift in Nome

Dry Dock in Nome

Dry Dock in Nome

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To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

Finally, between three and four a.m. we decided to
pack up our sleeping bags and fly out of there. The gas pumps were
closed but Donny figured we would stop later that morning. A Cessna 170
is not equipped with sophisticated instruments. Navigation is done with a
literal typographic map, compass and a watchful eye. Our eyes were
blurred from lack of sleep, but we had the moon. My pilot radioed our
flight path and we were on our way out of the cloud of pesticides.

Donny woke me from a sleepy stupor to help him navigate. We had been
riding high above a highway, but he wasn’t sure anymore if the highway
we followed was the right one. Looking out over the landscape, it
appeared we were the only souls awake and the only souls lost. Donny
dropped altitude enough to where I could supposedly read interstate
signs. Of course I complied without hesitation, but at, what?, 90+ miles
an hour?, my head had to whip from front to back in order to attempt to
catch a letter-a number-a symbol . . . Between the odorous pesticide
lingering in my nostrils and the ever threatening nausea from plane
induced vertigo, I wasn’t much help. Actually, I was barely conscious of
our situation from fatigue and fighting back air sickness.

With the rising sun, Donny was able to determine our geographic
position. Another more dire problem arose. We had a mere estimated 20
minutes of fuel remaining. The typographical flight map was thrown into
my lap for me to study. I sorted the landscape around us with the lines
and symbols on the map. The map was a wonder to me: every airport no
matter how small, every hill, no matter the size was mapped. I wondered
who had the patience to determine then draw out such detail?

There it was, an airplane symbol off the side of the highway not too far from
our location. Not too many minutes later, we soared over a line of
trees then onto a grass airstrip cut from the edge of a farmer’s field.
The plane halted just in front of a gas pump that had to be 50 years
old. I asked Donny how many minutes of gas he felt we had left. “About 10.”

On the ground with a mere 10 minutes of fuel remaining was a minor close
call. We could have landed just about anywhere I figured. A major
inconvenience, for sure. How do you get a plane out of a field miles
from anywhere? We were safe. No problems. Just tired. Next time,
however, our close call would be a serious one with potentially grave
results.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Al Can

Some of the terrain we would eventually be flying over

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