Was it just September that I left Slate Falls?

It could have been yesterday and it could have been a lifetime depending on my emotional and mental state.

So yes, I left Slate. Worked that last day until 1700, organized referrals, make the typical 60 calls to stubborn health workers across the district,  ran the last meds across to the band office at 1650, locked the clinic, got in my car, and drove away. BAM. Done. Finished. Goodbye, gotta go, gotta make it out before dark, see ya later, nice knowing you.


No more phone ringing. No more late night calls. No more broken fax machine. No more responsibility to keep things organized  or running smooth or keep people alive, and happy. No more wood smoke. No more tea and potlucks. No more laughing at Miriam racing off to the plane.

I was so sure I would cry the whole way out, part with exhaustion, part with sadness, part with joy.

But I didn’t. I was numb and calm. Had to get to Dryden before dark. Had to get oil changed, battery changed, and drive to MN the next evening. I spent the next three days driving to Orgeon.

Three months later, I am exactly 16 days away from my wedding.

Yes, you read that right. I’m getting married in 16 days.

To some of you that is old news. Some of you are like, “Um..WHAT?”

It is a long story.

Which can wait.

Nia told me he was the one, after she saw letter after letter come out of that old canvas mail bag this spring and never saw me send one in return. “He’s a rare man”, she said.

Somewhere in the next 5 months I found I loved him for the 2nd time in my life. Maybe for the first time, but that’s just too complicated. The best gift I’ve ever been given.

So I’m going to marry Justin Doutrich on the 26th in my simple, homemade dress, with lots of birch trees and “Except for Grace…”  written on the isle, because that what our story is. Grace. All Grace.

We will move back to Oregon and for the first time in many, many years I’m going to try to stop running, stop using adrenalin, and stop being in the middle of crisis. Maybe getting married when you are still totally burnt out wouldn’t be recommended in those Christian how-to  books, but I have it on official word from Jesus, Justin, and a psychologist, that I will be just fine—all reputable sources in my option. It will be an interesting ride.

I’m going to actually live in a Mennonite community for the first time ever.  Stay tuned for embarrassing stories to follow J

As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “ Wish me…wisdom, courage, and a sense of humor… I shall need them all”

The light at the end of the tunnel

“How are you doing?”

She is the critical incident counsellor for nurses working in northern communities.

“I have a pile of about six critical occurrence reports from your clinic dating back the last two weeks. How are you handling things?”

I laugh, because that’s what I’ve learned to do.

“I think I’m doing okay”, I tell her.

“The other day the shampoo bottle fell off the ledge while I was showing and I almost screamed. A  little sob of terror caught in my throat. So I’m a little jumpy”,  I explain. 

We talk some more.  About the last 20 months and all that that holds.  About the tragedy of the last week and the heaviness of everything. She knows. She’s been there too.

“But I’m leaving in two weeks”, I  say.

“Ah, so the light is started to glow at the end of the tunnel”, she says quietly.

Yes, in many ways it is. And yet in some ways I see all the light, the light of this experience fading as I most toward the beginning of the next.

Not an hour goes by that I don’t think about how these are my last two weeks. And how before I know it I will be miles away from the clinic instead of that short walk through the birches.  If I actually let it settle as reality I feel my heart squeeze, squeeze and I have to catch my breath.

I know I need to leave. I am looking forward to beginning a new season. I am burnt out and jumpy and tired. I have a lot of processing and sleeping and debriefing  to do.

Yet this clinic has become my world. And I almost forget what it was like to not have my life revolve around the health of these 40 homes tucked around the bay.  Slate Falls has become home to me, in many ways, but the clinic has become more than that–it has become my life.

I think back to what knew when I first moved up that March day, almost 20 months ago, and what I know now, and marvel.

I had no idea how all-consuming my job would become. I still had visions of hours spend in the bush or learning Ojibway or hanging out at duck camp. And I brought up scrapbooking material. I kid you not. I laugh now.

I hadn’t yet experienced how much just a phone ringing can send your whole body into panic.

I didn’t know how beautiful a small kind gesture, like a bag of chips or a cup of coffee could mean, on busy days. Or how satisfying it would be to care for people and know you made a difference.

I didn’t know that sometimes people don’t appreciate you, even when you do your best and you just need to grow a solid combination of an iron backbone and oiled feathers.

I didn’t know how important it was to sit totally still and listen to people. Not offer advice, or try to fix anything, or worry that you are not being caring enough. Just sit. Totally still. And listen.

I didn’t know that I would become quiet.

I never would have guessed that I would become good at administration and the thousands of details that come with keeping a clinic functioning smoothly, driven by the necessity of being the only long term nurse. Me? The disorganized, absent minded RPN who hates paperwork?

I didn’t know there was something called Compassion Fatigue.

I didn’t know what it felt like to feel sleep deprived for days on end.

I didn’t know that a community of 150 people and one small gravel road could open my world up so wide.

I didn’t know how much I would come to love this community and these people and my job, even though all three were very, very different than all my expectations.

Yes, the light is at the end of the tunnel , and I am thankful.

But at the same time, I’m going to miss the light as well. The light of Slate Falls, and the light of all my friends and patients and coworkers , the hard florescent light of the emerge room at 3:00 am,  and the light of the cold fall sun, splashed out over the lake.

Just a few more months

First it was only going to be for three months, then four, then six more, and after that came another six.

And a year and a half later I hand it the letter that explains hows grateful I am for the experience, but yes, the rumors are true.

I will be leaving Slate Falls, September 31, 2012.

I know I’ll start to look back the minute I leave. Not wishing for it again or doubting my decision, but looking back with that clarity that  history brings. Going over the moments. The things I wish I would have done. The lessons I learned that I am not noticing yet.

Right now, it’s still just daily life.

And it is hard for me to see it as anything but that. I’m still getting up at 7 and getting to work by 830. I’m still packing lab coolers and organizing the pharmacy. I’m still walking home and covering for medical driver on the weekend. I’m still getting called to guard at the jail. I”m still dealing with the emotional remains of too many kids almost dying this winter.

But I know, as soon as my car pulls out of Rawhide Rd, and I realize this is no day trip to Dryden for groceries, it will all come crashing in.

All the joys, and victories, the regrets, and I-wish-I-would-haves will be brought into sharp focus by the very act of pulling away, of cutting off, of leaving.

So for now, I just do the next thing, and breath in the lake air a little deeper, trying to save up for the day when I won’t be able to run down to the dock to watch the sunset.

Just mostly tired

The other day I was talking with my Mom about people who write their lives out on blogs so you never have to wonder what is happening.

You always know were they are and what they are doing.

“Well, that is definitely not your problem”, she said.

Which is true, I guess.

I won’t say I’ve been neglecting my blog, because it’s not neglect when you only have an agreement to write only when you can.

I feel nothing would be relevant or make sense.

But that’s what I always say.

And maybe that’s why unconsciously I’ve pulled away from many of you.

After so long, it’s not really the thing anymore to write facebook messages asking for prayer when something traumatic happens. That was sooo last year, when it all was so new and fresh.

I can’t really write about daily life, as I’ve said before. And I can’t really discuss current topics since I don’t really know what’s current and trending. Is it still the thing to makes those cute little flowers for your Sunday cardigan or was that soo last year, like my frantic prayer requests?

I am still in Slate, just in case you didn’t know 🙂 And will be until fall for sure, though beyond that is unknown.

And I drink tea out of bowls now.

Um, so the black flies are back.

Also, I joined 11 other Slate Falls community members in an 180 km walk for prescription drug abuse awareness two weeks ago. We made memories to last a lifetime and I did my share of crying and laughing. It was amazing.

 I still canoe once in a while. And I help cook for potlucks and still remember how to clean fish from last summer. Imagine that! 

 I’m really tired a lot of the time and jump every time someone bangs on the door. Or when the phone rings. Or when someone gasps or yells my name.

Did I mention I’m tired? 

But I have lots of stories to last for many years and memories to savor someday when I won’t have think about the phone ringing or jump when someone yells through my doorway.

And I’ll probably smile and wish it all back.


“When you can look at your life

And say            


I don’t care if I get rich, or end up in the gutter.

I don’t care if anyone comes alongside

or agrees                 

                   or thinks I’m relevant.

I will stand here fighting dark things

with my last invisible breath

until I crumble to holy dust

and fall to the earth like                           

                              dandelion firework ash,

because this is True.

and what else is there.

…. ”

From Anthem; or Dance of the Hybris by Shawnacy Kiker

tea and cookies

I want to write more on here, I really do.

But for the last few months I’ve been snagged by all the little issues that writing about my life in on public place bring.

Especially since my job encompasses about 85% of my life right now. Actually make that 90%.

I am learning everyday.

If there is one thing that this last year has taught me it is how full of mess and failing and general not-awesomeness, I really am.

Last winter when I was up here I felt it. I always knew “experiences” are supposed to change you. And often we picture that change as hard and uncomfortable, maybe, but very grand and something that is really nice to say and makes a great Facebook status. “I’ve been so stretched and changed!”

Those first few months I found out what it really feels like. I haven’t been stretched and changed. I had my insides, my preconceived notions of myself, who I thought I was, kinda ripped out, shown to the world, and picked apart into little pieces. Granted, they don’t stay like that. Eventually everything fits back together again, but the shape is always different.

Grand could be a giant pink balloon that’s lost all its helium. Finally you just stomp on it and throw it out.

I am learning.

Learning how to relax. How to lean into it all, and not fight it.
Learning when to take breaks.
Learning that God doesn’t love me more or less for what I do.

Learning when to say yes and when to say no and when to say, “Maybe next week”
Learning how its okay to say I’m lonely some days.
Learning how to embrace the life I am experiencing while grieving parts of life I am missing.
Learning to let a bad day be a bad day and not beat my heart up over it.

And the best part of it is that God and these dear wonderful people of Slate still love me and give me cookies and have me over for tea, even when I mess up.

Well, God doesn’t give me cookies or tea….. (wait, hold on, actually, I guess He does. Hello Esta. Yes, that’s right He does. Thanks God for tea and for the cookies at the police station.)


(sheesh, Esta)


If this is sharing
then I know why they teach it in kindergarten.
Which makes sense, really,
cause we’re just in preschool
you and I.
We still walk wobbly
and the blocks are stacked
slow, one at a time, because our hands
still have a lot of growing up to do.
The tower leans a little,
each new cube making it sway.
We lift our sticky fingers to our mouths,
eyes big,
Isn’t that how it is? Friendship?
Standing side by side,
each adding wooden blocks,
taking turns.
It’s like we’re five again
learning to color together and share
our crayons.

I don’t want to forget


I don’t ever want to forget.

Never let me forget how you have made my life and called it good. Never let me look back and say you didn’t care–because you do. Or say you never blessed me–because you did.

Snow squeaking, lungs on fire, with sunshine splashing across white, making it flash.

Gray hair falling over her face as she leans on the table, steadying herself, stretching to see over the piece of cardboard curtain. “It was just like God threw a thousand diamonds across the lake yesterday.” Yes. Yes. Just like that.

Medications and laughter and Glen at the coffee table, poking his head in my office to tease me. Those blasted combinations on the filing cabinet that always get stuck.

Lost lab coolers and broken fax machines that never get fixed. Housemates that change every 5 weeks. Pregnancy tests and blood work.

Chopping wood with my red axe.

Kneeling over the fish net, one hand pinching between the eyes, the other with the silver nail, pushing the nylon away from the scales without tearing.

I build an alter with all of it.

But it’s not just those things that I want to remember and never forget.

Let me remember the late nights. The cancelled planes. The aching heart moments. The moments when I have to say no and the phone clicks down hard.

I know I will want to remember those too some day.

I will want to remember how I didn’t know what I was doing or what was the best thing to say. I will remember how sometimes I felt so frustrated because I felt helpless to change things. I will remember how some days I did the wrong thing and some days I did exactly what I should have.

And when I remember it all let me never say it was not good.

Love your very own,


Two blocks

you and I,
sometimes we miss each other,
two blocks apart, heading north and south.
More likely, I miss you,
half on purpose, afraid you won’t show up,
leaving me in a corner café alone.
Still more afraid you will come,
God himself,
and sit across from me,
stale muffin crumbs scattered across the table.

Only, that is frightful honesty.
All the rest of the week
I think it’s accidental, you and I,
missing each other
two blocks apart.



This picture was taken this summer on a canoe trip that left us lost for an entire day, going over all the wrong portages and paddling the wrong creeks in the hot sun. 

Life Lesson of 2011 Meets Picture. Sometimes I need aesthetics like I need salt and vinegar chips on a road trip.