I just received a most welcome phone call and one that I could just about guarantee I wouldn’t have received in the lower 48. I use a local service here in Talkeetna to plow out my driveway after we receive snow; across this past weekend we did get roughly four inches of the white stuff. Sadly I have no garage – folks in Alaska don’t seem to use them which I still do not understand but I am going to rectify this situation come next fall – so my Ford Escape sits in the driveway pulled up close to my front porch. Parking in such a manner allows the front end loader to clear new snow not only from the entry point on East Barge Drive but also from the entry point on Question Lake Circle. Because the vehicle sits outside it’s at the mercy of the weather which is something I’m not fond of having but will remedy in the fall of 2014. I’ve also learned that if I’m not going to be using the car for a few days and its going to be getting cool at night – as in below 0 F – its best to leave the few inch accumulation of snow on the vehicle. Doing so does keep the car just a bit warmer and it prevents the build up of thick ice on the windows due to radiational cooling on those cold nights. It never occurred to me that it also makes it look as though there’s been no activity at my house…
The phone call I’m referencing came from the service that plows my driveway; the driver noted the car didn’t look as though it had been moved since last time he plowed (it actually had but I park it in the same spot to insure he can get by to plow out the south end of the driveway). In addition although it was 36 hours since it had snowed the vehicle was covered in said snow; I left it this way for the aforementioned reasons. When he finished plowing out the neighbor’s driveways he returned home and asked his wife to check in on me. Thus the phone call I received; she said she’d called yesterday and left a message but somehow that one must’ve become lost in the ether as I never received it. I was extremely grateful they took the time to both notice a potential problem situation and then follow-up on said situation! Because I am sixty years of age, live alone and am new to the area I have yet to really develop a network of friends and contacts so I love the idea that some of the locals are already watching out for me. I knew this was the case in rural Alaska from speaking with many locals in a number of rural locations during my previous visits; however, this instance really brought home the importance of such a support system. Given its been pretty cold of late (Sunday the temp range was 15.3 F to -3.4 F, yesterday it was -3.4 F to -17.0 F and today we bottomed out at -19.1 F and have only reached -18.5 F as of 12:16 AKST) if I had slipped and fallen outside I would be in a world of hurt within a very short-term. In addition with the furnace running much more regularly the potential of issues with CO poisoning increase. I suppose there once was a time I might have resented having someone being so vigilant regarding me but that’s sure as heck not the case now!! I also feel more like one of the community members knowing that I’m on someone’s ‘radar screen’. Sure, I have other local friends who would check up on me if I missed my KTNA newscasts or suddenly stopped emailing them but either of these could easily take days to be noticed.
This kind of ‘watching your neighbor’s backs’ mindset is something that’s simply an accepted way of life in rural Alaska; conditions can be dangerous up here and because the locals recognize this potential they naturally feel the need to check up on their families, friends and neighbors. I must admit that from my walks and driving around this immediate area I pretty much know which of my neighbors are away for the winter and which are still around. If I were to one day see tire tracks on an unplowed driveway of someone living close to me whom I hadn’t seen for weeks or even months you bet I’d walk the driveway to the house to investigate. By the same token for the three places closest to me I’ve become accustomed to the kind of lighting they display at night (I cannot see this or them from the late spring into the middle fall because of the leaves on the trees but their evening lighting is visible to me in winter) and if said lighting should disappear for a few days I would feel obligated to make a close pass just to make sure everything is okay. I suspect this kind of ‘friendly support’ was practiced by our distant relatives as they moved west and began to establish new neighborhoods and towns.
Without question I sleep better at night knowing that should something happen to me I’m building a support system that would ensure Anana and Qanuk wouldn’t be left trapped in the house for a week or more. I also have a strong urge to reciprocate and will definitely try to be such a ‘good neighbor’ to those around me. I really enjoy this ‘esprit de corps’ as it makes my life a bit more secure and comfortable as well as allows me to meet folks and let them know I’m watching out for them as well. I realize most areas in the lower 48 do not face the same potentially dangerous issues we rural Alaskans face as in extreme weather, large mammals, earthquakes and similar but one wonders whether such a perspective wouldn’t benefit those people as well..? If anything it might begin to break down that growing sense that ‘strangers’ cannot be trusted and anyone with any interest in another without being friends is something to be concerned about and implies potential danger. Ultimately I see no negatives to fostering this mindset but sure can recognize a host of positives..!!