Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Very Merry Christmas!

I didn't spend Christmas with my family this year. And honestly, I didn't miss them anymore than I have already been missing them since I moved up here to Anchorage. The thing about wanting to be near loved ones is that you want to share things with them. The whole time I've been enjoying all these new experiences, I've been wishing someone I know who would appreciate them like I do was also along for the ride. Naturally, I miss my kid and kid-in-law, and I've been places and done things that remind me of others in my family, some I will never see again in this lifetime, imagining what it would be like to have them along, but that doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying the experiences anyway. I certainly have. 

(This is how Katy decorated my first package from "home." She likes to surprise me with sentimentality.  I wonder where she gets that.)

I think everything I've been doing, seeing, being for at least the last several months, if not most of my life, ("the goodness of loving, the gladness of living,") has been every bit as wonderful, mystical and magical as Christmas usually is for me.  So, how much I miss my family now, (and a couple of friends, too) and how much most people miss loved ones who aren't with them at Christmastime, is how much I've been mssing them all along.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Second In A Series Of Delightful Christmas Readings

This is my all-time favorite!  I'm including passages of description because Truman Capote is such a crafty wordsmith, as well as a captivating story teller.  I won't include a spoiler, but believe me, this story is magically poignant.  You could read the whole thing in one sitting.  Please do.
A Christmas Memory
Truman Capote

"...A coming of winter morning...
"...It’s always the same: A morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: “It’s fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat.”

The hat is found, a straw cartwheel corsaged with velvet roses out-of-doors has faded; it once belonged to a more fashionable relative. Together, we guide our buggy, a dilapidated baby carriage, out to the garden and into a grove of pecan trees.

Three hours later we are back in the kitchen hulling a heaping buggyload of windfall pecans. ...Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet, oily, ivory meat mounts in the milk-glass bowl. ..The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: Our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight. At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame. The buggy is empty; the bowl is brimful.

"Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: Why, we’ll need a pony to pull the buggy home.

"...The black stove, stoked with coal and firewood, glows like a lighted pumpkin. Eggbeaters whirl, spoons spin round in bowls of butter and sugar, vanilla sweetens the air, ginger spices it; melting, nose-tingling odors saturate the kitchen, suffuse the house, drift out to the world on puffs of chimney smoke. In four days our work is done. Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on window sills and shelves.

Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth. Always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels.

 Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: Black crows swoop upon them screaming.

(While lying in a field flying homemade Christmas kites:)
My, how foolish I am!” my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. “You know what I’ve always thought?” she asks in a tone of discovery, and smiling not at me but a point beyond. “I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are”—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—“just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

First In A Series Of Delightful Christmas Readings Or Parts Thereof

(Not necessarily in order of their value to me, but as they come to me.)

Excerpted From A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas (a teaser--you would really love the whole poem and it's not that long or you could watch it on Netflix or something.)

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea...

"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons...

"Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang 'Cherry Ripe,' and another uncle sang 'Drake's Drum.' It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept. "

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peninsula Panhandle Ports; Juneau and Sitka

Tlingit totems.

Sitka, Alaska, the city itself, is like a living historic center.  It was settled by the Tlingit Indians when it was “discovered” they Russians. Alexander Baranof, Chief Manager of the Russian-American Company built a trading post in the late 1799 where Sitka is now. Relations between the two cultures deteriorated and the Tlingit’s burned down the Russian sector. Baranof returned, rebuilt, and became governor of Russian Alaska.
Salmon fishing was the main industry of this area until the 1950s when Salmon populations dropped. Today, tourism, commercial fishing, and the government are the economic mainstay of Sitka, Alaska. When we arrived, whole place was buried under an unseasonably large dump of snow. After skating around the slippery little town for a day or so, I finally broke down and bought a pair of boots--my only souvenier from this trip.
Temperate rainforests, such as this lush area, sport a larger biomass compared to tropical rainforests with their larger biodiversity...(or so I've been told.  It looks quite biomassive to me.)

Juneau grew from a Native fishing village inhabited seasonally to harvest fish, to become a hub for a large-scale hard-rock mining industry. The mountains surrounding Juneau were honey-combed into a giant underground gold mine: the Alaska-Juneau Mine (better known as the A-J Mine) and the Alaska-Gastineau Mill, owned by The Treadwell Gold Mining Company. The AJ Mine, at its peak, was the largest gold mine of its type in the world. Economic factors caused the mine to close in 1944. At that time it had produced more than $75 million in gold. It still has more miles of tunnels underground than there are surface roads in Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier:

A growler, or bergy bit?  From a calving glacier.  So very blue!

This lovely little home was being decorated right as I took this picture, so I didn't get the finished product, but nonetheless, what is a post about Juneau without a picture of the governor's mansion?

And finally, a couple of studies in contrast.  Just for fun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm A Sucker For A Pretty Tree

 You might have concluded that from all my posts that include pictures of trees,

 and pictures of things framed by trees.

Artificial trees
that hover over darling little play-pretties

and trees with snow-hooded artificial lights threaded throughout.

But I think my favorite Christmas tree so far this year is the floating tree I can see right out my north-facing window when I'm watching and waiting for my turn to finally see the ever-tauted Aurora Borealis.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Go And Tell My Friends That I Remember Them

Just in case they've forgotten me way up here.

I do have to say, though, that even at this time of year, the homesickness is bearable.  It must be the Alaska air.  Couldn't be that I'm old enough to have lived long enough to understand enough to know enough.  Could it?  Actually, tonight it is less bearable than it has been and I think it's because I broke down and decided to do some holiday cooking.  We're having a party at work tomorrow.  Since I've been here I haven't brought any of my mad culinary skills to light.  Have felt neither the need nor the desire. 

But I brought with me on my trip up here some of the jars of green tomato mince pie filling I canned in Utah where I could get all that fresh and hearty local produce.  I'm pretty sure my rustic pie will not be completely consumed at the dinner tomorrow because people just don't know good pie when its set before them.  Because it's not pumpkin.  Never mind that it has great Willard Montmorency dried cherries and Meyer lemons with zest and peel and Aunt Yvette's pears and apples and yes, even green tomatoes in it.  Freshly ground-from-whole spices.  Riverdale Gideon's honey and brown sugar.  Why, I think it's even better than homemade Amish apple butter and that's some statement coming from me.

(Remember, I said it was rustic.)

I bought a Tur-Duc-Ken, too, for the first time.  Hooo-eeee, but that was spendy!  I might even have to like it at that price, whether I want to or not.  We'll see.

It's not just the food, of course, that heightens the awareness of my being "all alone" up here in this frozen land.  (I have never heard such noisy snow, by the way.  Walking on it cancels out any other sound.  Driving on it sounds like the gears are grinding.  Is it because it's such cold snow?) 

The fact that I am all alone up here has at least a little to do with my flashing melancholy.  I miss Katy and Jon, probably the most...and the little kids in the family...and the big kids, too.  I miss my mom and my siblings and in-laws. Old friends. I miss the neuroses that burst upon the scene at this time.

Right.  I'm not really all alone.  I have friends.  I have invitations.  I have those interesting voices in my head.  I'm happy. 
It's Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On The Road To Glennallen...Or White Is A Color, Too!

It is now after 10 PM and I sit comfortably on the couch of a stranger's home. It's the B&B side of their duplex in Kenny Lake. She's a professional who works in this area where I have come to do some of my own "working." I'm on a work junket, I guess you could call it. It's the rural outreach part of my "Rural Outreach Coordinator" position.

Last night I left Talkeetna and Willow, stayed in Wasilla/Palmer and got on the road this morning bound for this area that I don't know what to call.  Maybe I'll call it "Almost Perfect" or "All This And Heaven, Too?"  Almost made Talkeetna seem passe'. 

I'm a happy little miss where I live in Anchorage, still discovering so many jewell-toned comforts and surprises. But when I found Talkeetna the other day, I had a deep desire to find a way to move up there and stay forever. It was dusk on Hallowe'en, downtown shops were staying open for trick-or-treaters, people of all ages, sizes and costumes were happily wondering down the streets, alleys and roadways--didn't see a lot of sidewalks. Snow was falling, and I found my way into the lodge I posted pictures of a couple of days ago--or was that yesterday?

I met people at Sunshine Clinic in--hmmmmm, was it Sunshine? They let me stay in the cottage up the hill that used to be the clinic proper.  It got scary after everyone went home and I was the only one staying in that dark, dark area...milling around the big two-bedroom cottage by myself...hearing sounds that I didn't think should be there, looking for but not seeing any neighbors.  More scary than living in my so-called "higher-crime" neighborhood of uptown Anchorage.

I met more people at the Upper Susitna Senior Activities weekly luncheon. And I met even more, more people in their homes along the way between Palmer, Wasilla, Willow and Talkeetna. And when I say met them in their homes, I don't necessarily mean by pulling up along the sidewalk and going up to the door, I mean by following directions like this; "Drive to mile 89.6, but it's not marked, but when you get to that lodge-pole-pine sign put on your brakes because you're going to turn immediately after the sign, drive down the road for the length of about 2 1/2 city blocks, turn left at the first tree..."  One family I met lived at the end of a dead end street named after them!

My job is to find people who might be in need of the low vision services we can offer, but who might not know a center like ours exists.  Then I can work with them.  I depend upon referrals from other people or from community health centers or from people I meet at the Alaskan Federation of Nations Arts and Crafts exhibit who also volunteer at food pantries or senior centers or native health centers.

Sometimes I just go out and beat the bush---EVERY SINGLE PUN INTENDED! (Because, remember, that's what they call remote areas around here--the bush.) 

Tomorrow early my new traveling companion and I will set out for Valdez to go talk to people in clinics, centers and homes in that area.  We'll spend most of the day there, come back to Kenny Lake and visit Gulkana, Gokana, Something Lakey Lake or Tazlina or Some Such Copper Something Creek or River.  I'll get it down when I'm more used to it.  My colleague told me today that they don't really call things by official names, anyway--some people say one thing, some people say something else.  As a matter of fact that's what someone told me about Sunshine, now that I think about it.  It's the Sunshine Clinic because the area around there is technically or officially or traditionally called Sunshine, but some people just call it the Y because of fork in the road.  The Y area.

I went 25 miles past my turn-off to Kenny Lake.  (I only know I missed my turn when the mile markers for Valdez were just too close and I found a roadside place to pull in to ask for directions. It was closed but there was a man working in a shed who gave me directions.  As I pulled away, a woman on the porch called after me, "BE SAFE!")

And then I happened upon this scene (below.)  When I pulled over--well, I didn't really pull over, I just stopped in the road because, let's face it, where does one pull over on such a slick, snowy road out in the middle of no where--I got out of my car to get a closer look at it.  I couldn't tell if it had just happened and someone might be inside or if it had been there a while.  I got closer and heard the bing-bing-bing sound cars make these days when you leave your keys in the ignition.  I couldn't see anyone inside but I saw an official state car pull up from a side road.  I walked over to them to ask if this accident had been reported or looked into and there was a woman sitting in the passenger seat of the state car.  She said, "That's mine and I'm all right." 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still Finding Gold In Alaska

First snowfall this winter in Anchorage. It was the Sunday before Hallowe'en and people were already trick-or-treating downtown. I always like to take a walk on First-Snow Days.


I also like to take a drive on First-Snow Days.   Here's a view from Turnagain Arm.

I wonder if someone should tell these turkeys they might need a bigger house, since it's going to be the two of them, now.

This is the Day After First-Snow Day in Talkeetna at a cafe/lodge where I chose a warm molasses ginger cookie over a slice of Granny's potato chocolate cake for my Hallowe'en treat.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

You Say Bushcraft, I Say Splendid!

Before I came North, (yes, with a capital "N,") I went in search of blogs about living in Alaska.  I found quite a few and my favorites were about "living off the grid," and various other wilderness survival posts.  (Where was all this blogging about lashing your own snowshoes when I was doing that kind of thing back in the day?  Don't you dare make a comment about how long ago that was!) That search led me to two of my favorite blogs to look in on, and oddly enough, neither one of them is about Alaska. 

One is written by a wizard (I hope he doesn't mind my using that epithet to describe him) honing out a wilderness life in Seoul, Korea.  Well, if you know much about me, you know how this just carved it's way into my heart and psyche.  Manta was a mere college boy at the time I was falling in love with his country.  (They told me back then that living in Seoul would be like camping out in New York City.  I don't really know what that means, but it certainly was a huge adventure.)I know he was studying very hard, because getting into college in Seoul has never been easy, I think.  And he's a literature instructor or professor or teacher--not sure which--but if it's literature, it's smart.  I could be a bit biased about that, but not much.  This is one of my favorite posts of his, but check them all out--you won't be sorry.  He can turn anything into something better!

The other place I love to visit is Buzzard's place.  Across the pond.  He mentioned something about Ulster in one of his posts--so you know what that did to me, too.  I don't know what a welig is, but I think I like weligs because of his post about basket-weaving.  He has a lot of other good stories and wonderful pictures of enjoying and employing the natural world, including, but not limited to worms in cod fish, diving gannets, snow-laden Lord Conway's limes, berries on bushes becoming berry jam in jars, among a myriad of other delights.

Manta and Buzzard, I hope you don't mind that I am linking to your sites.  I can't even get permission from you because for some stupid reason, I have been unable to comment on your blogs.  I can't figure out why, because I used to be able to.  Maybe some day soon I will get someone more savvy than myself to help me with that problem.  In the meantime, I keep looking for your latest posts, savoring each word and image, sorry that I can't post comments about them..  I'm also going to post links to facebook, hoping you don't mind.

These are qayaks made at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  I might have to do another post about this.  In the meantime, I wanted to include a picture of "bush crafting" without taking it off someone else's blog.  This is a picture from my own camera.