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.