Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Farewell Old Wire Road

First, a brief history of Old Wire Road, the Blog:
When Cymande and I began this blog (in 2006 and 2 years after moving here) our intention was to share our experiences in the rural South with our family and friends. The National Health Service Corp directed us toward North Central Florida and it was a strange place to live to after Cape Ann, Massachusetts. When we looked at homes around Lake City we felt ambivalent until we drove down Old Wire Road.  The name, length, dirt, and canopy of  live oaks was intruiging and romantic. The drive south down OWR seemed to bring you back several decades. The old farm house needed plenty of work, but it also had a southern-ramshackle-gothic appeal to it.

We quickly realized that adaptation was going to be a challenge.  We had moved far from our comfort zone.  The ocean, that we could see from our apartment in Gloucester, was now an hour away. The Florida heat was unbearable and the cold, surprising. The food was barbeque or a chain or a barbeque chain. The culture: frankly, we were horrified by this place and planned on moving the moment our three year contract with the NHSC was up. It seemed no one shared our beliefs and the level of social conservatism was actually threatening (Dick Cheney was enthusiastically received at the Lake City Rodeo grounds and we had to remove our Obama stickers due to hostilities directed at us). People are fundamentalist with their religion (in a humorless 'you-are-going-to-burn-in-hell-for-eternity' way). People causually litter (excuse me, littering?). People drive around with offensive bumper stickers and occasionally monsterous confederate flags. I've heard all manner of racial slurs in and out of the pediatric office (I actually recieved a short essay from one of my teenage patients that apologized for his use of the n-word and how the confrontation changed him). Until someone lives in the rural South they just have no idea what it's like (both the good and bad).

We've also met many amazing, open-minded, intelligent, independent and lovely people here. We've met hunters that have a profound relationship with the land; they care about the stewardship of the remaining forests as much as we do. Four Rivers Audubon is a great group of people and we never spent enough time with those folks.

The natural environment was the protagonist and antagonist at OWR. There have been natural disasters: hurricanes (4 our first year, a week without power without a generator, showering in the roof runoff), prolonged droughts, huge forest fires, several tornadoes and we even had a small earthquake. Aside from the extreme weather, the Southern landscape with its spanish moss, huge live oaks, longleaf pines and numerous springs has been a joy to explore and discover. Ichetucknee Springs is amazing (without the often obnoxious Summertime tubers). The fields and forests around OWR are full of life that we rediscovered every season.

We work/worked with a great group of people that are devoted to the health care of underserved children and families.  There are countless stories to relate here, but I would be breaking federal law if I went into detail. I can say that over the years I have attempted to save a patient's flea/mange infested dog at 11pm (I'm not qualified, the dog died and I was bitten), pulled large parasitic worms out of diapers, and advised patients after they paged me that the best option would be be to "leave the smokey bar with their infant," and that "No, I don't know what humidifier you should buy"(at midnight while they call from Walmart). There are countless stories like these.

Then, there was the self-discovery (or self-distraction) via the remodeling an entire cracker farmhouse and creating a home to raise children in. Of course, conceiving children seemed easy enough in theory, but it turned out to be an unplanned adventure that Cymande beautifully and humorously documented on her infertility blog. Then, raising children seemed easy enough in theory, especially since we had been practicing general pediatrics for 6 years. Moss and Giles have presented us with tears of joy, temporary insantity and every derangement of the psyche in between. 

The people of OWR helped us survive and created the place.  Thanks to Charles for providing art, music (we jammed), labor (constant scolding) and serving as manny (male nanny).  We had a good run (nihil est sanctum).  Allison was/is (forever) OWR's biggest fan and if we ever felt depressed over our isolation she made us feel lucky to be there. Ross visited regularly and finally brought his family along and stayed during the brief 'Airstream Casita-phase'. Gio commandeered OWR periodically and left a trail of empty wine bottles. To Chantal, Jenn, David, Soleil, Ron, Robin, Lara and so many others that have come through, we thank you for being part of OWR. Thanks to all our friends that visited via the blog; we felt like you were here too.  To our family: Connie, Lee, Anthony, Faye, Shannon, Tobias, Kira, Lucas, Chris and anyone else I'm forgetting: thank you, you made us feel loved and provided support when we most needed it. We were so lucky to have all of you plan vacations at our home in the middle of nowhere.

When I began this blog I challenged myself to post at least monthly with something interesting to read or look at. Now, we are at 120 posts and well over 13,000 views (I know, some sites get that in an hour).  I'm proud of the views because they are mostly from friends and families that are genuinely interested in what we were doing out here. Though we also have a sizeable number of people that end up here looking for a photo and information on (in descending order of hits): 1. Giant Intestinal Roundworm.  I'm glad I could gross people out over the entire world (many of the hits coming from SE Asia) 2. Sam Rivers. Sadly, Sam passed away this year, but I'm so happy that Cymande got to see him and that Giles and Moss got to attend their first concert in utero. 3. Hyphema in the Infant. Our personal experience with Giles' hyphema has helped many healthcare providers and parents that have gone through a similar strange experience (He's completely recovered by the way). I never enabled commenting on the OWR blog due to my inability to keep up with comments and my avoidance to engage in political/ethical commentary about minutae. I wanted OWR to be a combination of humorous anticdotes coupled with a little pastoral beauty. It worked sometimes. Sometimes, I got a bit political (out of horror and frustration), and other times I got absurd, and finally, there were gratuitious baby photos (but I aware of this and that makes it OK, and besides, they are cute as hell and I love them so much, right? the answer is 'yes').

What's Next?
We moved to the Duckpond in Gainesville. Things are different. Over the past 8 years on OWR we literally had one neighbor introduce themselves. People driving down OWR strangely defied the 'friendly Southerner' stereotype by refusing to wave.  Our last week even included an episode where our neighbor of 8 years yelled at Giles, Moss and myself for looking (yes, looking) at her cows.  I suppose people isolate themselves in the country for a reason. Now, we have neighbors coming to our new house, stopping us in the street, introducing themselves and generally being very friendly and accepting. There are childeren everywhere.  There are men with long flowing beards riding skateboards. We saw a man on a recumbent bicylcle being towed by two harnessed dogs chariot style. There's all manner of quirky authentic weirdness. Downtown Gainesville, two parks, the Thomas Center and a pond with ducks and geese are outside our front door. There are even chickens (we tried to bring two of ours but they were too obnoxious, we are looking into a quieter breed). The boys are starting in a new Waldorf-esque school.

Recently, we were at the park and talking to a new mother about living in the Duckpond. We told her our story about OWR and how we wanted a community, less isolation and more access to cultural activities. She told us it was her dream to move her family out of the city and have a small farm in the country.  To this common dream of urban dwellers we say this completely without irony "been there, done that...".  Who knows, we may do it again someday.

But for now, here we are: Duckpondia.    

However, before we post we must unpack.
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