Even though I use psuedonyms to protect my family when I write, this blog isn't exactly anonymous. Though the blog is accessible to the general public, I know who most of my readers are and they know who I am. That, along with not wanting to be a grouch (and have it so self-accusingly documented), is why I hesitate to be totally honest sometimes. When I feel inclined to divulge too much of the truth, I usually opt for silence. My mother taught me, as many of yours probably did, the old maxim "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". I have tried to be positive and have managed to confine my blogged complaints about Bethel to the weather and the scarcity of baby swings. But I am about to explode. At the risk of being negative and possibly even offensive, there are a few things I have to express about living here.
First, though, I will say something nice about Bethel, and that is that the people here are very kind. Remarkably kind. Go-out-of-their-way helpful. They're so nice, and I worry that I don't know what I can do to reciprocate. I am nice in return, but it's hard that I'm in a position where I can't help them as much as they help me. They're so nice that it makes me feel bad that I'm having a hard time in their town, even when they couldn't possibly do any more than they already do to make it pleasant for me here. As though their kindness could make up for such desolation.
That said, this is a really, really difficult place to live. The lack of availability (and/or the exorbitant cost) of things I consider very basic to simple living, along with the dearth of wholesome entertainment options for a raising a small child, make it difficult to get from day to day. Lots of people here just let their kids wander (streets, tundra, whatever), but LittleBit is obviously too young for that, nor would I be comfortable with it even if he were older. It's so chilly here so much of the time, and when it approaches being pleasant out there's not really anywhere for him to go out and run around. I worry that we spend too much time inside, but outside is so rarely an option, and a limited one at that. I just wish there were a warm, sunny, grassy park where we could play. Bethel doesn't have that.
The feeling of isolation from the rest of the world is oppressive. With the exceptions of Esquire and LittleBit, everyone I love is very, very far away and I can't get to them except by pricey plane tickets, and then I'm leaving Esquire alone. There is nothing to do here, and I can't drive over to the next town for a little field trip. I've already driven all the road there is in this part of the world and seen what there is to see. In a few months I will wander into the tundra for berry picking (is this part of the state too desolate for bears?), but that's months away. There is nowhere to go. But for a $500 trip into Anchorage, I am stuck here. That's a bit of an indulgence, it seems. I feel like I'm at the far end of the world.
I'm one of those shallow people that needs to be surrounded by beauty and order. Bethel is not pretty. The insides of some buildings are nice (the place we are housesitting is a beautiful home, and I have to say, a real non sequitur), but most everything else is shabby, dirty, run-down, sad-looking. The tundra is a flat expanse of greys and browns and damp. The spaces in front of buildings (I won't call them yards) are bare, pitted stretches of mud. There are no sidewalks, no streetlights, no flowers, no lawns, no trees, and the few tiny playgrounds that do exist are broken down by the harsh weather. It's a very severe landscape.
And the light, oh the light! I worried that the lack of daylight in the winter would push me over the edge, by why wait for winter when the summer has a devilry all its own? Insomnia, and an unhealthy mania pushing at the edges of my brain. It's also thrown off LittleBit's sleep schedule; he stays awake, exhausted, until unholy hours, though he does nap more during the day.
I fear that my perspective may be skewed by my mental state. I have been feeling more depressed since arriving, and it's so hard to gauge how much is biology and how much is geography. I think I need an adjustment in my medication, and anyway it will run out in mid-June. I'll have to get that sorted out soon.
If you've made it to the end of this entry, thanks for listening to my grievances. There are more, but I'm going to stop here. LittleBit is stirring, and I can occupy myself for the afternoon with entertaining my child. Indoors. Is it too early for Goodnight, Moon?