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Bridging Love Over the Blue Abyss

I live in my cabin in the Alaskan spruce forest, and my husband lives in suburban Melbourne, Australia.

Five years ago, after a decade of racing sled dogs around Alaska, I concluded that the time had arrived to follow the wandering soul inside me again. Sunny Australia represented an attractive opposite of a white Alaskan winter so off I flew. My parent's friends urged me to call a family with three sons upon my arrival. Not knowing a soul, I decided "why not?"

Bridging Love Over the Blue Abyss

It began at the opposite ends of a telephone line, two accents conversing, each unknowing of the other--one the newly arrived tourist, the other the welcoming host. By the end of my visit, I never noticed the fireworks exploding in Ivan's heart and was oblivious to my own attraction to the outdoor-oriented son. He later admitted that he strongly knew, within four days of our meeting, that we would eventually marry.

Three years passed, during which Ivan made three journeys to Alaska, and I suffered a nasty auto accident just as I began recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This period (filled with heaps of letters, newspaper clippings, and Ivan's calls) gave us time to gently discover and adjust to our different cultural attitudes. Our friendship turned serious after the accident, for we were reminded just how precious life can be.

We now spend married life sharing countries. I spend five months of the northern hemisphere winter in the southern hemisphere's gardening season. Ivan spends two months with me, experiencing spring in the Alaska wilderness as my seasonal fisheries research job takes us literally "up the creek". Thus far, this has functioned fairly well, although missing each other's simple touch is the pits. But we both heartily agree that enduring temporary separation is by far better than existing in an "it will do" relationship void of true soulmate passion.

Laughter is our glue, and we view the larger differences as learning adventures: driving on the opposite side of the road, a lack of roundabouts in the US, Ivan living at the research field camp without city amenities (running water is the river!), navigating visa paperwork through vastly different government and business systems. Shared adventures are our building blocks.

Even the mundane chore of grocery shopping evolved into an event for adventure. Its not only a chance to bond past to present through traditions in family foods but demonstrates Ivan's unending patience and acceptance of my illness. With the slight lingering of my CFS, we search out markets in Melbourne to fulfill my fresh food diet requirements. The Aussie suburban supermarkets definitely aren't known for their produce variety. When this situation becomes dire, Ivan makes a "Herculean" effort to finish up work early, thinks of fresh food markets available in other suburbs, drags me out of the house, and encourages me to explore different cultural shops which carry diverse produce. I am awed by his sensitivity.

Our biggest frustration to date is how Ivan's family and business partners have had difficulty accepting that the two of us live in different countries. When I'm in Australia, I feel the very real and expected social change women make once they marry, realigning priorities centered solely around their husband and family. This Aussie social issue is intensified by Ivan's Eastern European family background. His parents are concerned for our happiness yet influenced by traditional values.

His business partners are worse. Ivan is in a career position where he could easily arrange extended time away from work, but he can't. Earning that extra dollar is all-consuming to his two corporate partners. They refuse to even try compromsing on Ivan's request of extended leave; both seem very afraid to experience risks beyond traditional lifestyle boundaries. We often quietly listen to each other's rantings over the dinner table, offering support, or on occasion being the devil's advocate.

In contrast, my friends, especially in Alaska, support us in our decision to create a life which is nourishing and respectful to both of us. I come from a part of the world which encourages individuality. We stand firmly together in our belief to create a life which suits us, despite the roles society demands. Creativity, well-rooted in realistic expectations, is our guide.

Sooner or later, we both truly believe we will turn away from stifling beliefs and follow our dreams. But until then, our next "date" will be to watch a comedy rental movie together, thanks to cheap phone rates. (It's really no more expensive than two adult tickets into a theater!) Our relationship continues, as it began..... on opposite ends of the phone line. I love hearing Ivan's laugh, it's so precious.

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