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Emily Grossman

September 19, 2005 at 9:27 AM


One of the reasons I hate flying so much is that I am certain that I will forget something important when I leave. I can make a list and check everything off, I can begin packing three days in advance, I can triple check the house before walking out the door, but it doesn’t matter. Something important will be overlooked. Twice before, I got the departure time wrong and missed the plane. Twice I left my return tickets on the plane. This time--for the fourth time, actually--I left my wallet behind and couldn’t get back to it in time to still catch the plane. Luckily, this is the Kenai airport, and they just let me fly without it and had it sent on a later flight with a friend. Unluckily, in the craziness of the wallet scramble, I forgot to prepay for long-term parking until we were in the air. Why can’t I just check my luggage and file in line like everyone else? Chronic absent-mindedness and traveling don’t pair well.

I wasn’t nervous about the tiny landing strip at Dutch Harbor or the frigid Bering Sea below; in fact, I was so bored that I picked up my knitting to pass the time. I have to explain this fact because what happened next is difficult to convey. I had an “episode”. I’ve had perhaps three of these in my life, and I don’t know what they are. The first sensation was that the noise from the propellers was abnormally loud, and the vibrations were rattling my brain. I felt confused. Next, my right thumb went numb, as though it was having a circulatory problem. I stopped knitting and observed the numbness extending through the rest of my hand. I felt dull and nauseous, so I moved to the front of the plane to see if it would help. The glare of the sun’s reflection on the water became blindingly bright, and I shut my eyes. The symptoms eventually passed and were replaced with a mild headache and extreme fatigue. At no point did I feel anxiety. Twice before, I have had stroke-like symptoms similar to this (numbness on one side, into the face even) that were followed by a migraine. And every time, they occur in the fall. By the time we landed, I was okay again. I guess I just hope it’s a migraine (although my head never really pounded this time) because I have no insurance and am completely healthy otherwise. It’s difficult to know what to do about something that only happens once every couple of years.

We landed in Unalaska safely and were greeted by the local arts committee, who guided us to our hotel. What a windy, treeless, volcanic mountain landscape that surrounded me! The wind alone justified our rental car, even if there was only four miles of pavement in the entire town. We were warned about parking according to wind direction, so as not to buckle the hinges on the doors when we opened them. Regulations require houses in Unalaska to be built to withstand 250 mph winds, or so I’ve been told. The air smelt of salt and fish, and its moisture layered the mountains in veils of slate grey, rose, or creamy gold, depending on the sun’s mood. I was immediately enchanted.

As exhausted as I felt, we still couldn't rest until we had a good rehearsal and some practice in our fingers. A full schedule lay ahead of us, and I didn’t feel I could possibly be prepared enough for it. Even if I was, I told you I don’t go to bed early.

Sun on Mount Makushin

From Mellisa Nill
Posted on September 19, 2005 at 3:47 PM
Beautiful picture Emily!

I eagerly await future details of your trip.

Just don't make us wait too long, ok?


From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 19, 2005 at 3:50 PM
What a gorgeous picture! Hope you are feeling ok, Emily.
From Mellisa Nill
Posted on September 19, 2005 at 3:49 PM
How scary a feeling for you.

Did it happen again on the return flight? Do you think you should get it checked out?

Now I'm worried about you!


From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 19, 2005 at 5:51 PM
I did a little research while I was thinking about it last night, and it seems those are classic symptoms of a pre-migraine aura. I probably won't die from that any time soon, so don't worry.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on September 20, 2005 at 3:01 AM
What a beautiful photograph, Emily, and what an exciting trip. The last time I flew, my wallet was stolen in the airport when I arrived or shortly thereafter. We don't get airline service around here like you do. I would feel better if you would see a neurologist, even if your problem was just a migraine. For some people, including me, migraines can be brought on by changes in atmospheric pressure, as in a plane flight or an autumn storm, perhaps? Any way, enjoy your stay and tell us more about it.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on September 20, 2005 at 3:12 AM
Giving your life savings to a neurologist is not called for here. Furthermore, in the words of the anesthesiologist as she wheeled my brother into the operating room, "Don't go to a doctor unless you're sick."
From Maria Allison
Posted on September 20, 2005 at 2:30 PM
Hi Emily, I'm enjoying your comments on our trip so much. Thanks for posting that gorgeous photo. Always love reading your blogs. Hello out there to everyone. xoxox
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on September 20, 2005 at 5:39 PM
I was able to attend part of the program, and I must say it was outstanding!

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