Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pole Star Country

I have never been in a place whose sheer beauty has made me cry until today. And I'm not just trying to be all googly and effusive--I really mean it. We drove from Anchorage down to the Kenai Peninsula today because Katy and Jon wanted to check out Homer, AK. Mere moments out of the city--actually, probably still within city limits, we were on a frontage road running parallell to the railroad tracks between us and the inlet, I guess. Looking out across the expanse, we can see huge, looming mountains with snow still on them. Ocean and snow-capped mountains? How?!

That was the more bland part. We got to rolling down the road and everything around us was green and greener and lush and then suddenlly a waterfall or a brook or a pond would appear and create an emerald wonderland that would take my breath away. It was kind of misty for a while, a little bit drippy and then the sun would peek through and I am not even going to try to describe this any more. I just couldn't believe my eyes. We were listening to a Mahalia Jackson cd on the way and I tried to say something, but the words got caught behind the lump in my throat and I had to tell myself to not burst into tears.

And again, we drove and drove and got here to Homer, which is kind of an artsy fishing village, but not really artsy in an annoying way and not really a village in a backwards way, but they really fish here and there is an area called the Homer Spit--a long jetty or sand bar build-up which I would liken somewhat to the Wharf in San Francisco only more real and gritty or to the marina in Santa Cruz, only more...fishy. It's surprising, because it has all these places tourists love, but it doesn't seem to bend over backwards to attract them. Mixed in with the fish houses are souvenier shops and then there's a whole area full of RVs and a couple of tents and then more places to buy and look and then some real fishing areas and some very old boats and rusty marine stuff. It's a trip.

Homer has a lot of cabins, B&Bs, inns and other accommodations, and hostels...because there is a lot to do here like fishing, kayaking, bear viewing, shopping, dining or flight seeing (in teeny little planes that look like toys!)

Homer is known to many as the 'Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea,' but it was made famous in Tom Bodett's tales as 'The End of the Road.'

Katy and Jon think they might want to live here.

Jon was trying to go to sleep just now, because it's late, but decided instead to take his book out to the deck (of the cabins where we're staying tonight) overlooking the ocean and read by the midnight sun. Katy has that Armstrong night-owl disorder. I think that could be a problem in a place like this.

Made It To Alaska Today--6/28/2011

It sure took a long time, and even after we got back into the good ol' US Of A it took a long, long time to get to Anchorage. Two-lane highway through the mountains for most of the way, a lot of gravel, wavy road, bumps, road work. Two serious accidents--not ours. And that road is quite remote.

BUT...I just got to where I had to quit taking pictures because I just couldn't keep up with it all. SO STUNNING and BREATHTAKING and WONDEROUS.

And weird, at times, too. Like the gray-haired hippie pulling a two-story hand cart along the Alaska Highway in the middle of no-where. And we thought the bikers were serioiusly crazy. And the truck towing a helicopter.

We pulled into Anchorage after midnight and it had been like dusk for a couple of hours. It is going to be strange getting used to the midnight sun, but very interesting!

Heading for Homer in a few hours just to check out the peninsula, etc., since we have a few days before I need to check in on Friday...just in time for a three-day weekend. Two are flying home Sunday morning. Wonder if I can find something to do after they leave...

Roadside Tally 6/27/2011

18 black bears, 1 grizzly bear, 7 Rock goats, 2 caribou, 1 fox, 1 porcupine, 2 Bald eagles, 1 horse (my favorite) some Elk, many bison and only 2 rock chips!

Oh...and a shiney little flamingo!

On The Canadian Road 6/24/2011

Katy, Jon (The Two--because I can't keep calling them the kids) and I (The One) stayed in Dawson Creek, BC, which is officially milepost 0 on the Alaskan highway, but it's a couple of days before Alaska.
Alberta was pretty and green, but nothing really breathtaking. Maybe in British Columbia we're closer to the Rockies or something, because it is getting prettier and prettier as we go along. It rained the last little part of our drive.

We stayed at the George Dawson Inn instead of the Best Western or other chains just because , well--when in Dawson... It's quite nice. Not poolside like the Two had in Helena, but we just need a good night's sleep.  Katy and Jon, mostly Katy, refuse to do karaoke with me in lounge--party poopers.

The night before, we stayed with a friend of mine who I haven't seen for 28 years, since Korea, actually. She lives in Albuquerque but is visiting her mom in Calgary. Quel timing! We stayed up late talking while Two went to bed, saying they would drive today while I slept. Not the most rem-state sleep I ever had, but I did ride the whole 10 hours in the back seat dozing and daydreaming and trying to see where we got off track when we got lost.
Snacking on jerky, sunflower seeds and diet sodas on the road, we were ready for a nice supper at about 9 pm: steak (with shrimp, scallops and mushrooms in hollandaise) for me, roast beef and french fries for Jon and ginger beef over rice for Katy. Drooled over the dessert choices, but we passed them up. I don't know how, though, because listen to this: White chocolate cheese cake with fresh blueberries; tiramisu cheesecake; Hawiian cheesecake (coconut shortbread pastry crust, pineapple filling, coconut cake and pineapple mousse on top sprinkled with raspberries.)

Everytime one of us braves a broader look at the map, a groan fills the air. We have taken to just looking at the day's journey and not further. Still, though, not a horrible experience.

Katy wanted to keep driving while we had sunshine. We finally stopped just a bit ago. It's 10PM and the sun hasn't even been hidden by the mountains, yet. We're still in BC--drove about 10 hours today, but it was slow going on winding mountain roads, some construction and travel behind a moving house. 

In Coal River--My credit and debit cards have been bound because of unusual activity in Canada which raises red flags. Can't call my credit union til Monday, but I have American cash which some places take--like this place tonight. But we'll mostly be just driving tomorrow, too, not too much shopping. We have sunflower seeds and salami in the car. Some weight loss shakes, too. K&J have cards that a debit card that might still work. They will have to call tomorrow. $7 Canadian for emergencies.


Now in the Yukon:

This picture was taken outside the door of our motel room at about 10 PM and the one below was taken at about midnight.  Weird to try to sleep when it's still basically daylight.  It feels like you should be doing something, especially on a trip when there's so much to do.

Some very beautiful vistas, lakes, trees like you wouldn't believe, rivers, hot springs...

Once I get to Anchorage and we have reached the time for Two to go back to Utah, they will still have a 13hr trip ahead of them on Saturday night/Sunday morning--6 hours of layover! They've been on the road since Wednesday. Good thing they are still young and like each other!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do Me A Favor...Open The Door And Let Me In

Almost midnight the day before I leave Montana.  Katy and Jon will be here sometime tomorrow-this-evening.  Leave-taking is a whole sticky ball o' wax and I realized that one of the most difficult things about it is giving over the keys.  When I left my beloved little apartment in Ogden, I looked at how empty and clean it had become in spite of my thinking that getting it to that point was a slow, tortuous death and I would not live to witness the final vacuuming.  I wanted to move back in.  I didn't want to shut myself out by forfeiting possession of my keys.  It was after office hours and I had to put my them in an envelope and drop them in the rent box in the lobby.  Boy, was that envelope sticky!  It did not want to leave my fingers.  It felt as though I were dropping something precious into a deep well.

Tonight, as I was talking to some people I have grown close to in the last couple of weeks, I was suddenly struck with the familiar realization that again, I will have to hand over my keys.  That's a hollow feeling.  Everyone else gets to keep their keys for a few more weeks and they will continue to go in and out of our Summer Program home, cheerfully, dramatically, emotionally, proudly in and out of our shared lives, only not ours so much anymore but theirs.

One more thing to not be a part of anymore.  But I have a feeling that some part or parts of living in Alaska will claim me and the place will have keys aplenty for me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Torn Between Two Lovelies

In four days I am leaving Helena, Montana for Anchorage, Alaska where I have a job and an unparallelled adventure waiting for me.  Specifically just for me. Me.  Perfectly designed to fit the one and only, genuine, original me.  Unless...not.  Unless the job and opportunity in New Zealand is where I'll be when I get to where and what I am meant for in this, my season of This Is Big. 

I had decided not to complete the application for the position in New Zealand, but I received an e-mail today explaining that I had been "shortlisted" in the selection process and they would like to interview me over the phone SOON.  I'm sure this doesn't mean much to anyone who doesn't know how much I have dreamed about living in New Zealand for the last several years.  And how many times I had not thought of even visiting Alaska, until the opportunity to relocate to Anchorage landed in my arms with a giant heave-ho-let's-go!

NZ points to consider:  blindness field/adults, travel across the country, working in remote, as well as accessible urban areas, variety of public contact, culturally diverse living situations, magnificently stunning and indescribable natural environs, breathing sea level air (big, giant plus!)

AK points to consider:  blindness field/adults, travel across the state which is as big as a country, working in remote, as well as accessible urban areas, variety of public contact, culturally diverse living situations, magnificently stunning and indescribable natural environs, breathing sea level air (big, giant plus!)

Drum roll please...


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Montana Tough

Eleanor and I went grocery shopping.  I was afraid it would be a bit of an ordeal for her, but she claimed she felt like it was a treat.  They have wheelchairs with baskets on the front, so we tooled around the store with one of those things Ph.D.  I should have taken a picture of her little head peeking over the precariously balanced sweet potatoes and half-n-half.  I also should have waited until we got all the groceries put away so I could get a better picture of that wonderful orange counter top!

Before shopping, we went out to lunch and I suggested a few places to gauge her interest.  I mentioned a little old-fashioned soda fountain we went to last summer when I was here and she said, "That place that messed up your order?"  She was right!  I had forgotten that.  The wrong kind of hot dog, or something. How had she remembered a little detail like that?  So we went somewhere else.  Didn't matter.  We just like to go out to lunch. 

As we were driving, she told me about the three times her back had been broken.  She says she thinks she was born with shoulders placed too forward and as a child they whacked her across the back and told her to stand straight.  That didn't help at all, she said. Now, she sees a physical therapist who helps her not to stoop so much.  Gives her exercises to straighten her shoulders. I snapped the first photo as she was getting ready to pose and the next one when she was ready for the camera.  She how hard she works to lift her shoulders?  Never too late.

Eleanor has lived a hard-scrabble life, many of those 90 plus years here in Montana, and she entertains me with so many endearing stories that I have a hard time walking away from her when I need to get back to work.  When I walked into her house after not having seen her for over a year, I was greeted with a big grin and a light in her blind eyes that rivaled the repeating rainbow that appeared that afternoon--right in the very place it showed up on a sunny rainy day the same time last year!  This is my last Montana Summer, as far as I know. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Too Pooped To Pop!

I thought moving pretty much cleaned my clock, but I have landed in this demanding little world of "it never gets too late to start a new task." I don't quite know what to think of it, either. My body feels completely wrung out and stomped upon but my spirit just keeps chuckling. At least this year, I'm not having to get up at 5:30 EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK like I did last year. Seven thirty AM to 10:30 PM is a shorter shift. Not exaggerating for effect, either.

I keep thinking about going into detail to prove how tough this venture (the Montana leg of My Summer of This is Big)really is, but I don't quite have the heart for it, because I'm just so pleased with the state my mind is in. Not that I know what that state is, though. I feel somehow transformed but not able to determine from what to which! It feels significant and transitory, like a bridge. From somewhere across something to somewhere else.

This is my third year working for Montana Association of the Blind Summer Orientation Program (MABSOP)and while in some ways it feels as though I never left this place and we all never really lived anywhere or any other way than what we are doing right now, there is so much of it that is strange and new and almost incomprehensible. Part of that is due, of course, to the fact that each time I come here, it's in a different capacity: O&M, Hostess, Office/Computer/Assistant--and by assistant I mean you could never think of the diversity of tasks that come my way.

OK, here's one for you: Drive to the nursery and pick up some donated tomatoes for our kitchen on your way to get some discarded lettuce to take up to the bunny ranch. And by Bunny Ranch, I mean that old place out past the Junk Car Ranch, where when you get out of the car and open the trunk which is full of lettuce, the bunnies come hopping, running, skittering, rollerblading right up to your ankles like so many roly-poly rodents--well, the ones not in cages out back or being bottle-fed in the house, at least. I tried to take a picture, but they knocked the camera out of my hands. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Am What I Must Be

On my last day in Ogden, on my way out of what I call "The Contiguous" for an indeterminate length of time, here's what I have to say right now:

This movie got under my skin when I was a kid and the title song has been a fixture in our family over the years for a number of reasons, the main one being: the movie got under our respective skins. It was also useful for coding messages to taunt younger siblings, as well. It's fun to sing and it is appropos of a theme song for me and my roving spirit...when not much else can explain the me of me.