Welcome to Emily's page
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Emily Polis Gibson
I enjoy writing about our life on the farm and have my essays, stories and poems compiled on the web at http://briarcroft.wordpress.com and at http://www.briarcroft.com/weblog.htm
I live with my husband on a 20 acre horse farm in Whatcom County, Washington state, between Bellingham and Lynden. Our children have moved on to new adventures and we are blessed to have them all home together over holidays and summers.
After growing up on a small dairy and beef farm first near Stanwood, Washington, then near Olympia, Washington, moving to the "larger" farm at Stanford University was a bit of a transition, but I quickly found my "home" in the Program in Human Biology, especially in animal behavior studies with my eventual goal to do field studies. I headed off to Tanzania in spring 1975 to study wild chimpanzees at Gombe, under the supervision of Dr. Jane Goodall. I was specifically studying mother/infant and weaning behavior.
The May 19th kidnapping of 4 fellow students and researchers by Zairean rebels ended that era of research at Gombe. The students eventually returned to safety after their harrowing ordeal, and I returned to the States to review previously gathered data on the behavior and socialization of several of the "elder" chimpanzees observed at Gombe over the years, to try to summarize "geriatic" behavior in those chimpanzees in the months before their death. My interest in gerontology began while working as a nurses' aide in nursing homes to help pay for my college expenses and that led me to organize the first Stanford undergraduate course on the "Biosocial Aspects of Aging" in 1976.
Following Stanford, I attended the University of Washington School of Medicine, graduating in 1980 and going on to Family Medicine Residency training at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. Group Health was one of the original consumer run Health Maintenance Organizations with a strong emphasis in primary care and prevention, providing many opportunities for activism in progressive urban health care. I remained in practice at Group Health in an inner city clinic for two years following my residency.
1976 at Stanford outside the Quad--1979 during medical school at University of Washington
1980--Dan and Emily
During my residency, I married Dan Gibson, a UW law student who I met at a Bible study held weekly in the apartment I shared with a high school friend who also was in law school. Dan came originally from Minnesota, but had spent most of his childhood on a dairy farm in Lynden, Washington. Our shared farming backgrounds, our shared faith, and shared devotion to family led us to look for a home outside the city. Dan clerked for a superior court judge in King County, then was a deputy prosecutor for several years, so when a prosecutor position opened in Bellingham, Whatcom County, we were ready to make the move in 1985, as I was pregnant with our first child Nate. We settled in on 5 acres in between Bellingham and Lynden, with a terrific view of Mount Baker amidst rolling hills and fields. We also bought our first Haflinger mare, even before Nate was born.
1981 wedding in Seattle
Over the years on our small farm, we have had milk goats, chickens, geese, ducks, Scottish Highland cattle and of course, the requisite farm dogs and cats. But our decision to become a Haflinger farm provided a focus for my life long love for horses and my interest in animal behavior. So as our family grew, with Ben born in 1988, and Eleanor (Lea) born in 1993, so did our animal family--necessitating a move to a larger 20 acre farm just down the road, with larger barns, more pasture space, but of course a tiny house requiring significant remodeling when eventually we could afford it.
With each of our three children --1986--Nate 1988--Ben 1993--Lea
Dan has continued to work in the Whatcom County Prosecutor's office, first as a deputy prosecutor in the criminal division, and over most of his career, in the civil division, primarily in land use, public works and personnel issues for the county. Since starting our family, and thanks to Dan's mother who has been devoted to providing grandmothering for our children, I've worked a part-time schedule in a variety of settings, including a private family practice for four years, medical director for a low income community clinic, and for ten years performed over 1000 forensic examinations of child abuse victims for a five county region, testifying regularly in court cases. For over 20 years, I split my practice between the local hospital, where I was a physician for the inpatient behavioral health Multi-track Unit, as well as medical director for the Western Washington University Student Health Center. I enjoy the combination of skills this necessitates--I stay "tuned" to inpatient medicine, as well as enjoy the young adults that populate the campus. I now devote nearly full time to my work at WWU. It does mean summers are at a slower pace as there are fewer students to care for, and I'm able to spend more time at home with our family and "farming". Though barn cleaning and haying may not be my children's first choice of things they'd like to be doing, we do our own farm work and chores, morning and evening, every day.
Oldest son Nate is
a high school English/History teacher in Tokyo, working at the
Christian Academy of Japan. He is
thoroughly enjoying his life in Japan, living in an international community with
families and students from all over the world. He is a writer, a singer,
a storyteller and it is always a joy when he can come home to the farm for a visit. Nate has his own blog
Middle son Ben graduated from Wheaton College outside of Chicago with an interest in political science and the history of Christianity. He is 6'4" and enjoys theological studies, sports of all kinds, and is a very devoted student with possible plans to go to graduate school eventually for a future career in the public sector. He got his first taste of acting playing the part of Mr. Bumble in "Oliver!" and has gone on to the lead in "Lilies of the Field", "42nd Street" and "Les Miserables". He placed fifth at FFA Nationals as part of the Lynden Christian Farm Business Management team and in high school enjoyed working for a local dairy farmer and stocking groceries at a local store, served as a Resident Adviser in college, and worked as an intern in local county government in the summers. He spent a year in Denver doing inner city student tutoring as part of Americorps' City Year and is now serving as a Teach for America teacher in Kyle, South Dakota for two years on the Pine Ridge Reservation, working with Lakota adolescents.
Lea is a sophomore at Wheaton College, with a focus on becoming a middle school teacher. She is loves spending time with the horses, her friends and her big brothers. She also loves to act, and enjoyed playing the lead character in her 6th grade musical and has been part of the musical productions in high school Her high school choir headed to Carnegie Hall for a performance of Beethoven's Mass conducted by John Rutter in the winter of 2010. Her summer work has been with the Migrant Childrens' Head Start program and she hopes to become a Spanish teacher.
Each child and their unique passions have brought such immeasurable joy to Dan and me.
Both our fathers have passed away--mine from a long battle with lymphoma in his early 70's, and Dan's from heart problems and a stroke in his mid-80's. My mother lived in Lynden for 12 years before passing away at age 88 in 2008, and Dan's mother died in 2012 after several years of failing health. We were blessed to have had both our mothers so close by, and our children are blessed to have known their grandmothers so well.
1994--at the Fair with our filly Trillium--- 1999 with Lea
I am continuing to play piano--inspired by the need to be ready to play every 3 weeks in rotation at our small Presbyterian church, Wiser Lake Chapel, and have been crazy enough to organize the children's Christmas program for most of the last ten years. We also host an annual Easter sunrise service on the hill on our farm--a long standing tradition in our neighborhood with as many as 90 people attending, and always finish off the service with hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls in the barn. Our children attend Christian school in Lynden where I've served on the School Board, and our church life is vital to each of us.
After winning my first horse in a radio station-sponsored essay contest on "Why I Should Have a Horse" when I was 11, I never lost my love for horses. Many years later, after finishing all my schooling, I began to research horse breeds that would fit with our growing family. The Haflinger horse became our ideal farm companion. As part of a world wide Haflinger horse community, I have devoted many hours to promotion of the breed, locally at our annual regional fair, with a 7 day display of our horses, serving on the national registry board, as well as organizing and managing a regional group of owners/breeders. What I enjoy most, however, is the connections made with other Haflinger owners all over the world via an internet discussion group that connects our common interest, and we find we have so much else in common as well despite our varying locations and backgrounds.
Writing is something I'm exploring through on line classes through Stanford, keeping a web blog as well as my Farm Blog and also have published a number of stories in Country and Country Extra magazines. I've contributed regularly to medical blogs as well, especially KevinMD.com.
From a Washington farm to The Farm at Stanford, briefly in Africa, then almost a decade in the city and returning back to the farm we call BriarCroft--I've not left the farming life behind, nor the animals that bring me so much joy and wonder. I hope our children will someday remember how precious these years were and will return to the farm--if not in actuality, at least in their hearts.