Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Secret Language Of Planet Desmond Chapter 1


      So secret and possibly unutterable, that I am struggling with even beginning this post!  Maybe all I can do is tell a couple of stories in my own language and hope a particle of understanding distills somewhere. 
      When Desmond was born one very early Monday morning before dawn, I was already sleeping fitfully, knowing that the whole process had been well underway for several hours by then.  Call it a startle-stir, that strange sensation that woke me moments before my son-in-law sent the announcement via text message.  Of course, I didn't have far to go to retrieve my phone as it was on my pillow at the time. 
       I was feeling a little disappointed that I was so far away, but also relieved that I could at least try to hide from the anxiety behind sleep; whereas if I had been there watching my very courageous little girl laboring without pharmaceutical intervention and not being able to take any of the pain away from her, not to mention chewing on the idea of the unmentionable risks, and well, you know why a mother would be anxious about her child giving birth under any circumstances. 
        So yes, the swelling, welling emotions in those first moments are probably quite universal, but something happened to me that I did not expect.  I immediately starting loving everyone in the whole wide world!  I imagined what this baby looked like (before they could get around to texting pictures) and I actually felt palpable feelings of LOVe lovE Love--just love...for everyone.  My mind said to me, "You love everyone! This is a gift that came with Desmond."  
     I can be cynical.  I questioned even that feeling I was feeling in my own feelings.  I decided to test it out and while Katy and Jon and Desmond were finding the beginning of their way on a new planet, I was experimenting with the age-old earthly conundrum of "what is love?"   I plumbed the dark recesses of my mind, no light task for you know those caverns are many and can be quite abysmal, for names and images of people I might have a difficult time not having hard feelings towards, and there were absolutely no hard feelings, no lingering animosity, no rememberance of what it felt like to even be angry at someone.  AND, I felt no guilt or remorse at my own selfish history of harboring any of those feelings.  Check and mate, right?
      Naturally, that was but a passing phenomenom, even though that blessedly sweet and serene babe is still my grandson and still blessedly sweet and serene.  Sure was great while it lasted, though.
      I didn't even feel that magnanimity when my own daughter was born.  To be sure, I felt that intensity of love, but it was all for her, the rest of the world be what and where and who they had to be, quite uninterrupted by my existence and my purpose of being and my love trained on that "new" life in my arms. 
       I know, can remember, a bit of what Katy is experiencing as she and Jon and their son try to navigate the nuances of inhabiting the new lovely, loving Planet Desmond...trying to keep vertical and balanced as the surface undergoes upheavals of tectonic activity and impact cratering and even erosions of sorts.
      Katy sent me the picture of Desmond below, explaining that he will often just "be" there gazing at her for several minutes at a time with this look on his face.  He hasn't learned the words, yet, or even that people have tried to create words for experiencing a feeling.  This feeling.  But I absolutely know what this look feels like in my very marrow.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

That Sweet Ringing Chord

I just recently had my "audition" for the a'capella group I was interested in joining. I found the meeting place inside the Wayland Baptist University here in Anchorage and there was quite a happy little crowd of women getting ready to sing--setting purses and jackets on chairs, milling on the risers, collecting around a podium, flipping music pages, ahahah-ing up and down scales, etc. I met the woman I had been corresponding through e-mail with and she introduced me to the director who I didn't know was the director who took me into the shower and made me sing!
Does anyone but me think the Happy Birthday song is hard to sing? I had to do it twice, for Pete's sake. Started off in the wrong key the first time. Even the damned shower didn't help. Good thing we didn't stop there.
I ended up in the "lead" section. (This is a Sweet Adelines chorus with tenor, lead, baritone and base sections, in case you didn't know and were wondering.) I'm happy about that because I think melody is the easiest to sing. Unless the song happens to be the Happy Birthday song.

Fortunately, most of the songs we're working on are some that I have at least a little familiarity with which fact encouraged me a bit.  I have always liked singing in choirs and since moving here to Anchorage, I have missed being able to go to shape-note singings. The director didn't know what the FA SO LA singing was that I put on my application, but recognized "shape note/Sacred Harp" when we talked and she said there was a woman in the chorus who wanted to do a Sacred Harp workshop. She was going to introduce us, but we got really busy. Next time, I guess.
Now,  the next hurdle is understanding that I don't have to love sequins on red blazers or to even feel comfortable wearing sparkly clothes in order to get up and sing and dance (?) in them. Well, psuedo-dance. Move my arms, kick a toe here and there, flash jazz hands, raise my eyebrows and make expressive faces. Barber Shop dancing. All that stuff I've always considered to be embarrassing for anyone to do, and smack dab in the middle of "never-no-never" for me!
Laugh if you must, but this group just won the regional Sweet Adelines competion this year securing them a place in the national competition in Hawaii next November. I have already come up against some scheduling difficulties with my work travel and I got a late start with rehearsals, but I love singing, so practicing will be an easy thing for me to do. I've never been to Hawaii.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Toodle-oo And Pip-Pip

But I just can't bring myself to say goodbye.  

Even though, as you can see from this small sampling of pictures, I'm leaving him in good hands.  

Cousins Braunson, Aubree and Cosette

Cousin Aubree

Grauntie Trish

"Grebbie"  Great Uncle/Aunt Eddie and Debbie


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This Thing Called Bliss

      Jon went back to work this week, after having one week off.  Perfect timing...he was off the weekend Katy was in labor, she had the baby early Monday morning and he had last week and then another weekend off.  And now, when he goes to work, I go over there and hold the baby so Katy can sleep or take a shower.  He sleeps SO WELL, does little Desmond Bentley Armstrong, and peacefully until he gets hungry and then he just sort of squeaks and squirms a little.  He does cry once in a while at diaper changes.  He also wakes up by just stretching a bit and opening his eyes.  

      Since I've been back in town, I've had a chance to do some things on my friends for lunch, shop a little, hold the baby, make some phone calls, help with the little family's laundry, hold the baby, watch movies and football games with grand nieces and nephews, go get some homeopathics at the clinic, and then hold the baby some more.  All this on paid vacation time.  A couple of evenings, they've come over to my sister's house for dinner and tonight they were planning on stopping for diapers on the way home.  I suggested they just run out to the store while Desmond was sleeping so perfectly in the crook of my arm and to my surprise, they did just that.

      Katy and I both said to each other, almost in unison, "Are you sure?"  
Sure, I'm sure.  Then she handed me the diaper bag.  I asked, "What do I need that for?"

I didn't even think about the eventuality of needing to change a diaper, such was the idyllic scenario in which I was encapsulated.  Time was standing still and when the dog began barking a few minutes later, I thought she was barking at another animal outside, but it was Katy and Jon coming back from the store.  Desmond and I had not even stirred.
Katy's eyes were sort of welling up.  I said, "It felt like you just left a part of your body back here, didn't it?"

    Tomorrow, they are taking him to a specialist to see about his turned-in tootsies.  I offered to drive them there in my new rental car and they said I didn't need to do that.  It was going to be so early.  I offered a couple of times and finally I asked Katy,"Do you want me to go with you?"
     She answered, "No, it's ok.  We'll just go ahead and go."
    "Do you want me NOT to go?"
    "Yeah, we'll just go take care of this."
     I'm not offended.  Even if I thought they didn't want me horning in and being bossy, which I DO NOT DO, dear younger siblings who might claim otherwise, I wouldn't be offended because I totally understand.  I think it's probably that they just want to be the grown-up parents making decisions for their own child.

     Trouble is...I'm sure I know more than the doctors and everybody is going to miss out on that exchange.

     Oh well.  Plenty of time to make a nuisance of myself before I leave to go back home.    

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

O Fair, Favored Fall

"Delicious autumn.  My very soul is wedded to it.  If I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns."  George Eliot

Last Saturday, after a week of heavy winds that huffed and puffed and blew our town down, and relentless raining swelled our creeks, flooded our streets, and turned roads into rivers where fish swam upstreet, the sun came out.  Did a little dance with the bruised and burdened clouds and posed with the trees for me to take these pictures. 
It was about here when I got a call from my daughter informing me of the timing, duration and intensity of her contractions, which she surmised was pre-labor.  By Monday morning at 4:30 she had delivered their son, my first grandchild. 
So far away and I'm still not there with them.  In a few days, I will be joining them.  In the meantime, I thank the fall, season of all seasons, for biding this weighted wait with me.

Friday, September 14, 2012


     Last week we had a storm here in Anchorage that blew trees over all over town.  Residents ended up powerless--that is, without electric power in their homes, some of them for several days while crews worked "night and day" to restore power.  It was big news.  It's early in the season for this kind of storm, which is hurricane-force, but not technically a hurricane because of where the energy is gathered.  (From the jet stream rather than from warm ocean currents.) 

Someone else's Facebook photo

Had to lean over the fence to take this picture

     This sweet little town is due for another wind and rain storm tomorrow. 

Facebook photo from Visit Anchorage page 
     I didn't prepare or worry about the last storm and was largely unaffected by it.  However, today I turned on the ice-maker in the freezer and put all my blue ice packs in to freeze, as well.  I didn't like hearing the stories of people's food spoiling in the refrigerator.  I have a small camping cooler under the table in my bedroom. 
     We've also been warned there might be areas of flooding.  Should that occur, I'm pretty sure the storage room in our garage will be on that list. 
      BUT...forecasters are saying they can't be sure there will even be a storm.  Or that the storm they are watching out over the sea will actually make it to our fair coast. 
      I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal and I'm expecting the only trouble I'll have will be getting to the library on Sunday to return my movies. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Oh The Thinks You Can Think Up If Only You Try"

  (That's a Dr. Suess Quote.)
      This is where I want to live.  I sometimes get homesick for downtown Anchorage, and this place is in Bootlegger's Cove, right along the inlet and the coastal trail.  I would want to live here if it were anywhere else, too, because my heart goes pitty-pat when I see this building, but isn't it perfect for downtown living?   Do you think this is "Post Modern" architecture?  That would be my guess.

     I wouldn't even mind having neighbors glued right next door, either.  It kind of reminds me of the houses in San Francisco that were built with shared walls to help shore them against earthquake damage.  I guess this is probably about my favorite building in Anchorage.
      I posted this bunch of pictures a couple of days ago, thinking I would just do another "various and sundry" post because I have a handful of miscellaneous pictures I would like to show and maybe say something about, and when I looked over them again today, I realized I do indeed have a theme going on and it's not just various and sundry and miscellaneous if you live anywhere near my head.  I take a lot of pictures of the natural world--and who wouldn't living here in Alaska, or really, living anywhere on the earth?  But I also take a lot of other kinds of pictures, showing the evidence of man on the earth.  I like those stories, too. 
     So, that's the theme of this post: pictures I've taken that show the hand of man on the earth, I guess.  And I'll bet not one person who reads this blog knows where this next picture came from.  I'll bet a lot of money, actually, even if the very small number of readers didn't assure it to be a safe bet.  Well, I would make that bet if I didn't want to go ahead and reveal the secret right now.  There's a clue in the upper right corner.  Yes, that's what it says, "smart DVD."  I was watching a movie the other day and paused this scene because it struck me as being very artistic.  The movie was an old (from 1991--that's pretty old, isn't it?) P D James--Adam Dalgleish movie starring Roy Marsden.   I think it looks a bit like a clever painting.

     And speaking of clever, I think KITSCH is just about the cleverest use of clever around.  I found this in a seafood restaurant in Homer, AK.  The place fairly vibrated with clever kitsch and it seemed incongruous with the menu, until I actually partook of the fancily-named food.  It sounded snooty and "costed" a pretty little penny, but it wasn't all that great.  REPEATS HERE--A FEW PICTURES FROM A PREVIOUS POST.  I GUESS I JUST LIKE THEM, OR I CAN'T REMEMBER WHETHER I'VE ALREADY INCLUDED THEM IN MY BLOG OR JUST ON FACEBOOKSORRY IF I NEED TO BE!

     It tasted like you'd expect food to taste in a restaurant where they put up a cardboard effigy of Captain Jack Sparrow--like you were eating in a tourist-trap town.  I'm not disparaging.  I was delighted with this experience!

     In that same tourist-trap town, I visited a woman who owned a B&B up on the hill and out in her yard was this metal igloo.  She was using it for storage of a few small items, but invited me to go stand in the center of it, turn around slowly while singing Happy Birthday and hear my voice echo and resonate around my own head.  I did just that--BY MYSELF!  I don't know that I would have done it were she watching me.  The interesting thing about this experience was that this was the day I was proxy-celebrating my daughter's birthday in Homer and this woman didn't know that.  She could have suggested I sing any number of other simple little ditties, but at her suggestion, I went into an aluminum igloo, and there under the circular sun-roof, tilted my head upwards, turned around and around slowly and sang Happy Birthday to Katy 2975.61 miles away.

           Up the peninsula from Homer, and down a dirt road, at the Tustamena Smokehouse business office/warehouse was this shed, and...

 this little bus stop shelter built by the Lions for the 2 1/2 children (really, because I didn't see where very many people could have been living on this road) who have to wait for the school bus in the winter.
     Well, of course we had to include yet another picture of a boat in this post, and isn't there at least one more later on, too?  If I know me, and I do, there is.

   Too big to be a mailbox and too small to be a treehouse.  I have no idea, but someone built it and I like it.

     Someone's business down on the Homer Spit.

   I really don't like calling a spit a spit, because I don't really like thinking about why it's called a spit.  I like this area of Homer because it's real and raw and fake and manipulative all at the same time.  (I guess, since I'm mentioning something being fake, I should probably disclose that I didn't take this picture of the spit. I think it belongs to Land's End Hotel Restaurant Lounge Gift Shop, of which place I do have my own photograph.)


     And if we're talking about raw, how about this innovative method of transporting refuse!   How did that bulging mess not leave a trail on the street?  But it didn't -- well, for as long as I dared drive behind it, anyway. 

     Downtown Anchorage.  I don't even know what to say about this.  Besides the obvious, aren't those windows gorgeous?!  Or, maybe that's obvious, as well.

     The man in, the man with a beard...wait.  I mean the guy without the hat on his head is a coworker of mine.  He's an artist.  He makes things out of wood, mostly, but this mandolin isn't his.  The OTHER man in red who has a beard is the stranger we ran into who makes these wooden instruments down in... Sitka, I think I remember his telling us.

     I've come across and posted pictures of some stunningly breathtaking scenes of Hatcher Pass.  I even shared some photos of the lodge, there, but surely none as clever and "hand-of-man" creative as this, right?  I mean, look how the duct tape matches the potpourri in that cute little basket.  Say!  How about a little linguistics lesson here?  Potpourri.  Know what its etymology is?  (I wikipeed it, so I'm sure I'm qualified to teach you.)  French, of course, from the Spanish stew, olla podrida. Pot (and variations) meaning pot in English, Spanish, and French.  Pourri means rotten in French but not in Danish, because something rotten in Denmark is a fib, right?  Fermenting the herbs to make potpourri (in a pot) which was named in French after a soup in Burgos, Spain when Napoleon occupied that territory.  You're welcome.

     While we're being so very international, here's an image from the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Anchorage.  Took this while at the Greek Festival.  At least here they still call it simply the Greek Festival, where in Ogden and other places it's officially called the Greek Food Festival.  Let's cut to the chase and call a dolmade a dolmade, shall we? 

     The only ride I still enjoy at fairs or carnivals or amusement parks is the lofty ferris wheel.  Used to scare me more than it does now, although I still get a rumbly-tipsy tummy sensation when it stops at the top.  I usually hook my elbow under the bar or around the arm-rest and try to find someplace to hook my ankles.  I just so do not ever want to rock and tip out of that little gondola way up there. 

   I took that picture at the Alaska State Fair last weekend.  I walked for-ever that day, and walked a lot in the rain towards the end of the trip, too.  I was happy to get into my car and while in my car I was happy to arrive back in Anchorage--this is the moment I felt that--stopped at the red light.

     A man on the bus with his shaman stick.

     See?  I told you.  Another picture of a boat.

     Port of Anchorage, where I took an interesting tour the other day.  Water stuff and business.  I really like it.

     Caribou hide blanket for the blanket toss demonstration at the fair.  I stood with that group surrounding that blanket and put a pair of those black gloves on and pulled with the rest of the group that night.  Just pulling is good exercise.

    I call this piece "Red Box By A Yellow Mushroom."

     Monthly Bluegrass Jam at Arctic Roadrunner hamburger joint.  Little kid with a red guitar.  The man in the foreground was playing a clarinet.  I guess any instrument could be suited for bluegrass.  Don't tell anyone, but I'm seriously thinking about learning to play the fiddle.  (Especially don't tell my housemate.  Could you imagine being the one who has to live with me while I'm scratching out "Big Sweet Taters in Sandy Land?"  Let's let it be a surprise.) Yes at my age.  Old time fiddle.  I might just have to go jam with these people pretty soon, too!

       I never would have thought to dye duck feathers while they were still on the duck's head, but someone else sure did.  Right?  I know it's not photo-shopped because I'm the one who took this picture.  It looked like real feathers, really attached, but, well you never know, do you?  Also, at the fair.

     I saw this bike being ridden around town one day and then later there it was at the library!  Someone made that wooden trailer for it and someone else crocheted the afghan that has become a door.  People just do clever and pretty and amazing things on this earth, don't they?