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Happy Thanksgiving and We're Having a Baby! 11/25/2004

Greetings from Fort Yukon! It is 40 degrees below zero on this Thanksgiving morning. Four hours and nineteen minutes of daylight today, and losing 11 minutes each day.

In winter, a four foot blanket of snow transforms the landscape into something other and clean. Snow is the canvas- the blank page. But sharp and severe beauty is created by frost. All around us are towering, slender spruce trees and among the spruce, are countless birch trees stripped of leaves with billions of fine twigs reaching away. Each thin twig and spruce needle is growing a fuzz of fine crystal frost. It is this coating of frost that fills out a twig to a dozen times its size, and it is the repetition of this phenomena a billion times over on every branch, bush, and chain-link fence that makes me stop my hurried walk and just look at the world around me. At dawn, as I walk home for lunch, the sunset illuminates each frost covered surface to create a radiant, beautiful moment.

Stephanie and I had an amazing time in Alaska this past summer. It was our first summer in Alaska and we were eager to see other parts of our new home state. Our summer started with a Memorial Day weekend trip to the Kenai Peninsula. We went with another young couple from FYU. The other guy and I hiked in to a mountain lake where there was a cabin, and Stephanie and Carissa flew into the lake on a float plane to meet us. In June, both Stephanie's and my mom came to visit. The four of us spent time doing the touristy thing around Anchorage, including an unbelievable wildlife and glacier viewing cruise. Stephanie and I spent a sunny week in Juneau (uncommon since Juneau gets more clouds and rain than Seattle). We finished the summer with a trip by bush plane into the ANWR to stay with the Korth's- our neighbors from Fort Yukon- at their remote winter cabin. We landed on a gravel bar, pitched a tent 20 feet from a patch of fresh blueberries and piles of berry-filled bear scat, spent 10 days over three hundred miles from the next person, kayaked alone for 17 miles down the 35 degree Coleen river, crawled across the tundra foraging for big, fat, sweet blueberries like a bear until our mouths were as blue as an Umpa Lumpa and our teeth ached from the acid. It was world-class adventure travel worthy of the pages of Outside magazine.

We have been a little out of touch since our last "Greetings from Fort Yukon" broadcast email. We've been running ourselves ragged, and we've learned that though we are out in the bush, it is all too easy to import all of the same pressures, habits and lifestyle traps from the big city.

Since the school year began, we have both been incredibly busy. More so than either one of us would prefer. I have taken on teaching two hours of English in the local high school each morning. This is in addition to my regular office job. It's really a good deal for me. I'm also taking two night classes from UAF via teleconference and the internet. Stephanie is busier with her work as well, as her teaching is a little different this year. We keep telling ourselves that this is just for a season and that we will be able to back off and reclaim some down time eventually. We'll just keep telling ourselves.

About a month ago now, I had some intense belly pain on a Sunday afternoon. On Monday I went to our local clinic, and the PA there suggested I go to Fairbanks to get checked. I asked about a timeframe, if I should go by the end of the week or the end of the month. He said, no, go tonight. Luckily there was one more flight to Fairbanks that day, so I jumped on. They discovered a ruptured but contained appendix. They operated on Tuesday, and Steph and I got a good look at what it means to be far from quality medical services when in need. Appendectomy is fairly routine, but real medical emergencies like severe burns get flown to Seattle- 4 hours by air. I turned out fine, though. Five days in the hospital and another week at home. Now I'm back to 100%.

So. It feels weird to drop this in among all of the mundane details of us and what we are doing, but we are really happy to announce that Stephanie is pregnant. She is about 8 weeks along now. She had her first doctor's visit last Monday in Fairbanks, and everything seems healthy. She had a sonogram and got to see the heart fluttering on the screen. She even got a picture of the sonogram. Everything is well. Stephanie has even been blessedly free from any morning sickness or any other side affects- other than being a little more tired than usual and a little weirder than usual. Or maybe I've been weirder. I've been bugging her with suggestions for names: Carbide. Ring. Union. Union Carbide. Jack. Yukon Jack. Yukon Jack Daniels. For now, I just call it Cletus. Cletus the fetus. We are delighted. And the timing is perfect. She is due in early July. Babies are no longer (routinely) delivered here in the village. Expectant mothers are asked to leave the village one month before the due date so that there are no emergencies requiring a medi-vac or a village delivery where full resources are not available. This works well for us. Stephanie will be able to finish her school year, and I will be off-contract by then as well. We will be getting an apartment in Fairbanks for the summer before returning to the village by August. You can bet that more updates will be coming.

As Stephanie and I sit around our Thanksgiving table with good friends later today, we will also be thinking of you and your families as you gather around meals of your own. We wish we could be with each of you to share a meal and a gathering of celebration and thanksgiving. Though we are apart, we are thankful for each of you and wish you and yours all the best.

Posted on Thursday, November 25, 2004 at 09:21AM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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