31 December 2007

New Year

Wishing you all a wonderful jump into the New Year of 2008!

Polar Bear Jump Fundraiser for Cancer Research, Alaska, January 2007

29 December 2007

Rocky Mountain Brilliance

Hoar frost on top of river ice

The other day I was talking to my bother-in-law (no, that's not a typo). I was exclaiming about how bright it is outside. He looked at me as if I was daft. "It's snowing out" he said "and it's cloudy. There's no sun." And he was absolutely correct. When it's overcast and snowing out here it is sooooo much brighter then anything we've seen in a long while in the latitudes north of 60 degrees even when the sun is out in full force. I was forced to wear sunglasses on cloudy days initially because my eyes could not adjust to the beautiful brightness. When people ask me why I'm hear I tell them it's to replenish my Vitamin D and I'm not entirely joking. It's brilliant here when the sun is out and high in the sky reflecting off the powdered sugar light snow. It's such a gift, all this daylight, all this time to get out and play under wide skies when I get bogged down by job applications and need a break.

It's interesting to me, having grown up in this valley, how I seem to have lost it's topography. I once knew it's trails and secrets intimately. If someone suggested a place to hike or ski I could imagine it's slope, the trail head, the creek's that flowed past it, whether the snow stayed late or melted early. Now when people mention these names I can no longer remember how to get there or any of the other details. It saddens me. I have been so many places and explored so many places since I left that those I grew up with are no longer so definitive in my mind and yet the spirit of them remains. So many of the open places have gone, vanished beneath urban sprawl. It seems that every subdivision is named after the species of wildlife it displaced: Elk Run, Coyote Lane, Cougar Hollow, Springing Deer. There are new trails through the pasture lands and the golf courses, rails to trails, new-old places to explore.

28 December 2007

End of the Year Meme

I was tagged by Cae at VWXYNot? for this end of the year meme. It looks like I have my work cut out for me for 2008!

1. Will you be looking for a new job? Erm, yes. But hopefully not a new career.
2. Will you be looking for a new relationship? yes, not in a romantic one currently. And always on the outlook for new friendships as well as old.
3. New house? yes, it goes with moving...maybe this will be the year I get to build my own tiny house? Whether renting or owning I will be in a new place for sure.
4. What will you do differently in 08? Differently then what?
5. New Years resolution? Publish the damn thesis already and as always get out of doors whenever possible!
6. What will you not be doing in 08? Working at my former work place or living in Very Small Wet Alaskan Town (which incidentally is named one of the top 3 summer tourist destinations for 08!)
7. Any trips planned? not currently but there are sure to be some! Can't have a year without one.
8. Wedding plans? none of my own but a least one to attend
9. Major thing on your calendar? nothing big but lots of little job application closing deadlines
10. What can’t you wait for? well, I can always wait but I am excited to see where I will end up next!
11. What would you like to see happen differently? The US to sign the Kyoto agreement
12. What about yourself will you be changing?
13. What happened in 07 that you didn’t think would ever happen? The Disreputable Dog fell in love with a cat
14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about? This seems to imply I'm not at the moment and I think I am quite nice and will continue to be so.
15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 07? not likely although if I move south I may require less layers.
16. Will you start or quit drinking? neither.
17. Will you better your relationship with your family? It's pretty good as it is although there are always little things that need working at.
18. Will you do charity work? of course!
19. Will you go to bars? Probably, especially if i live in more places where the entire social structure revolves around bars.
20. Will you be nice to people you don’t know? I am & will continue to be.
21. Do you expect 08 to be a good year for you? I hope so!
22. How much did you change from this time last year till now? I started a blog!
23. Do you plan on having a child? uh, not currently. See #2.
24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now? Certainly although depending where I end up the mode of communicating with those friends will change.
25. Major lifestyle changes? Perhaps. Although the base things that are important to me will remain that way.
26. Will you be moving? laugh, YES, see #1 & #3. Don't know where I'll be going to.
27. What will you make sure doesn’t happen in 08 that happened in 07? erm, all the things that I don't want to happen are not things I could ensure not happening in the future...
28. What are your New Years Eve plans? probably hanging out with friends in hot spring...maybe skiing to them?
29. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight? Not sure, but unlikely.
30. One wish for 08? ah, well, to get a satisfying new job, fall in love...oh, wait, you said only one :)

Tag only if you want to...

As Fine As Froghair
The Trouser Press
Saxifraga at Rising to the Occasion


Arrgh! With all my backing up from various work and personal computers all of my bookmarks seem messed up. Which means I'm not finding some of you. So if you don't see me around for awhile be sure to comment so I can find my way back to your page! Thanks so much!

26 December 2007

Running at Altitude

I went running today the first time since I arrived. I find so difficult to remember that I have been living at sea level for some time now and must give myself time to adjust to the altitude before pulling on my running shoes. I think the fact that my sea shore was surrounded by mountains fooled me into thinking I'm at a higher altitude. But now I'm at least 6,000 feet above sea level and I find that even pulling my niece and nephew up the parental driveway after crazy sled rides left me short of breath (that's my nephew in the picture below).

I am delighted to find myself alone with the animals tonight after days of chaos; lovely chaos but I am fond of my solitude. We've had three birthdays to celebrate in among the holiday celebrations and the house has been full and overflowing with people of all ages and volume. Tonight everyone has plans but me. I went running and am now cuddling with the Disreputable cat to the right of my lap, the Parental cat to left and the Disreputable Dog and Parental Dog at my feet snoring slightly. The Parental Dog is a bit worried that the mainstay of her pack is gone. I am finally in my own space well enough to be ready to visit with other old friends who have flocked to the area to visit family over the holidays. Sadly, I am a bit late for some of them but try as I may I am never ready for these reunions when I first arrive, always needing a few days to acclimatize and adjust to being in this space and making it work for me. Not that I haven't been seeing people every day but they've mostly been due to the planning of others, not the ones I must self initiate. I haven't even pulled on my skis yet since every time I plan to do so I seem to get roped into some other task.

I am finding it somewhat disconcerting how everyone else seems to have plans for what I am going to do next. It usually involves moving closer to them. My sister wants me to be close enough to babysit but not close enough to drop in unexpectedly. Another friend hopes I'll be here until April. My Alaska friends are all convinced I will be back shortly and have even started sending me rental notices for Fairbanks and Anchorage and my lower 48 friends are convinced this means I'm leaving the state while my out of country friends are cajoling me to move near them. Only my out of country friends seem to understand that I could end up ANYWHERE. Really, I could. It was breaking news up and down the extended family telephone wires over the week and I know there will be much gossip about it. I am only glad that they have found something else to discuss other then what they see as my old maid-ism. I am generally the black sheep of the family, the person who lives the exciting life that everyone else enjoys talking about but are secretly relieved they don't live.

I have been spending extended time with my niece and nephew. My niece's fondest desire was to have the Disreputable Cat sit on her lap and she finally got her wish. The cat barely fit but she was game and my niece has never sat stiller for anything in her entire life.

23 December 2007

Recovering my Equilibrium

Thank you all for your travel wishes...I feel like I've been traveling for ages. I started Thursday afternoon....first I finished packing up the rest of the house, then I cleaned it, a snow storm moving into the area with gale storm warnings all the way to Los Anchorage. I had those hard goodbyes, the kind that hurt but that you can't not do. Then a drive to Los Anchorage, snowy passes and dark oceansides. I arrive at my summer weekend neighbor's who really live in Los Anchorage. They are storing all of my stuff in exchange for my shoveling the snow off their boats and because they are sweet people. They made me a halibut dinner and hot buttered rum and then another friend picked me and the Disreputables up. First we took the Disreputable Dog and his buddy Ziegra on a long romp. Ziegra and the Disreputable Dog go back to puppyhood in Fairbanks. After that this dear friend dropped us all off at the airport. Out flight wasn't really until Friday at 1am. It seems every flight out of the state is a red eye.

We flew for hours...flying from Alaska to the lower 48 is often like flying to Europe from the conterminous US. The Disreputable Cat proved to be quite adept at attempting to escape from her kennel. It wasn't because she didn't like the kennel, she loves it, but she got bored. Eventually I had to ask the flight attendants if they had any tape and had to tape the openings shut to keep the paws and cat head from popping out of the bag. I couldn't really fault her - she'd been in the car since noon the day before and needed to stretch out. On the other hand it prevented me from getting some dearly needed sleep and by the time we had laid over for three hours and gotten on our next flight I was ready to pass out from exhaustion.

We arrived at our destination in the Western Lower 48 around noon. Amazingly all of my luggage arrived (I was quite embarrassed for traveling with more luggage then I have traveled with in my entire life). Then we had a drive over the pass with my niece in tow. My niece was delighted to be in the same car as the Disreputables. I think she has been talking about them since she visited this last summer with her grandmother. My nephew, who is more cautious about animals was happier to wait for the arrival of his great grandmother and to caravan up (in altitude) with her and his parents. Another snowy, icy drive and we only arrived at my parents' around 10pm. I was utterly exhausted.

The next day was mostly spent monitoring children (my niece & nephew) and the Disreputables with my parents' pets. My parents have a dog one year old then my dog an a 17 year old cat who is currently suffering from kidney failure. They've met the Disreputable Dog and he is no concern to either but the Disreputable Cat and the Parental Cat have had a few exciting standoffs which the toddlers find most fascinating and which they wish to get involved in.

Today is the first day that I have started to recover my equilibrium. I am still exhausted and jet lagged but the amazing brilliant sunlight helps immensely. There is a swirl of family chaos and holiday plans to be involved with and when I get overwhelmed I take the Disreputable Dog and the Parental Dog for a long walk or take the niecenephew out sledding on my parents driveway. I am still grateful to all of the people who helped me move and I miss two people from Small Town South of The Permafrost dearly. I wonder, where will I end up? Where will I go? But I don't worry too much. I have applications out and I figure I won't hear much until the holidays are over so for now I'm on vacation. And today, I finally check my email and see all of your encouraging wonderful comments and am grateful for you readers and look forward to finding time to catch up with your blogs again in the next days.

22 December 2007

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Don't believe when people tell you this is the first day of winter. It's really the hump day of winter; the begining of the end of the long dark night; the shortest day of the entire year. The day when darkness regins and the sun sleeps in.

And to my blogging friends & readers in the southern hemisphere (Hele, Gill, Parlance & Sally Forth and any others): Happy Summer Solstice!

17 December 2007

Still Moving

Eighty mile per hour winds are whipping through the streets of town and through my mind. I feel discombobulated. There are so many things to do all at once and the deadlines loom fast and permanent. I'm having trouble focusing on where to start. My thoughts jumble around the way various blown objects are jumbled against more fast objects, such as the chicken wire that came from no where and somehow wedged itself under my truck in a way that would seem impossible.

This weekend was exhausting but a lot got accomplished and I am very grateful to helping hands. I had one good friend show up and help me with the marathon packing nights. Another good friend rode with me to Los Anchorage to get the U-haul, then back to Small Town, then packing, then back to Los Anchorage, then unpacking, then back to Small Town. Two other friends showed up to help pack the U-haul in Small Town and they also took the Disreputable Dog out for a romp while I was driving it. Two other friends are letting me store stuff in Los Anchorage in their shed, another one showed up to help us unpack. Everything went to Los Anchorage this weekend.

My house is totally empty except for me, the Disreputables, their respective crates, and the couch which I am selling. We sit there in exhaustion...me on the couch, they in their crates, all of us half dozing. There is still all of the little stuff to get rid of and the cleaning to do and the wrap up of the things at work. I am back to where I started when I moved here...sleeping on a cot in my sleeping bag. I've spent more nights in that sleeping bag then any bed I've ever had to lie in. And it is a thing of comfort for reasons I cannot possibly explain. Like everyone else in town the wind makes it hard for me to sleep. It's not so much that it's cold but that it's terribly noisy and you find yourself trying to scrunch beneath the bedding (in my current case burrow into my sleeping bag) with the idea of cold. It is bloody cold out there. When I took the Disreputable Dog out for his evening walk I thought I might just possibly blow away, leaning backwards against the wind to try and create some ballast. Fifteen degrees Fahrenheit (approx. -10C) and 80 mph winds. The feel of one's nose freezing and the skin cracking.

I leave Thursday, the day before the winter solstice, for the Western Lower 48 and family and holiday celebrations. I will be stepping off into mid-air, not knowing yet where I will land but I will not worry about it for now.

12 December 2007

Packing House

I'm surrounded by boxes. Tottering piles of closed boxes lie in piles and open boxes lie in half hearted heaps where the Disreputable Cat finds them both excellent to chew on and to play in. I'm moving house this weekend (although I will be here another week) and I'm at that point where I wonder if I will get it all done in time? The Disreputable Dog has moved more times then he is years old and he sighs sadly at the sight of all these boxes and takes refuge in his kennel where no random assorted pieces will fall on him and where I won't trip on him. He knows me well, he knows that I will both trip on him and drop things on him if he doesn't get out of the way but this space is so small the only place out of the way is his kennel. Luckily he loves it. The Disreputable Cat however has never traveled and never moved. She thinks we are playing a fantastic new game involving lots of interesting new hiding places and new toys. She loves nothing best then to sit in whichever box I am currently trying to pack and she loves shredding the cardboard. I admit I am anxious and yet I am also happy. I think I am happy to be leaving this small town. There are things that happened here that will always leave scars, memories that are sharp as broken glass. Yet I also love it here and I am nostalgic about leaving, as I always am on moving, often even for things I never particularly liked.

It is hard to remember the holiday season amongst my moving although my sister calls me daily, more excited about this holiday then I can ever remember her being before. I am glad for this. I am glad to hear her call me and ask a brief question, something about a special food or baking cookies or making a special birthday punch for my grandmother and can I bring more animal pictures for scrap booking with my niece and nephew like I did the last time because they had so much fun doing that with me? She also tells me regularly that she hopes I move closer which is another new thing. I am both surprised and pleased to hear her express it. But amid the family's excitement that I will come and be with them is the personal underlying anxieties of not knowing where I will be next, when a job will come through, etc.

oday I packed much of my office. I wonder, those of you fellow scientists and other professionals, at what point do you not move all those papers you referenced for a project now past? It takes up so much space, so much weight, and yet, I feel a sense of obligation to take them with me. I've always been told how important it is to build up my own reference library of citations but is it really valid in a world where you can increasingly find what you need online? I have a strong temptation to build a bonfire with them but I still haven't published that last paper. So instead I'll store them in Los Anchorage and then go work on my paper in the lower 48. Does this make sense? I have no problem jettisoning things from other parts of my life but somehow the notebooks and the papers have different rules. What would you do?

Of course, I must admit that despite packing I took a little time out to indulge in making my favorite present to give one and all at this time of year. Look at those fantastic little boxes! One year someone asked me what my idea of a perfect present was and I said, two chocolate truffles in a fancy box and right there and then I resolved to make such a gift for others and it has become a holiday tradition for me. They don't ship very well though so they only go to people who I get to see in person. Now....enough procrastinating! I must get back to my packing!

10 December 2007

Dark as Night

I was thinking about that phrase "as black as night" the other night when it was so dark I couldn't tell the difference between my eyes open and them closed, the kind of discombobulating darkness, where you lose the edges of space and time. It's actually quite unusual for it to be that dark at night. Usually there is some firmament of stars reflecting light, or a high cloud cover that absorbs and reflects light or even a bright moon that may make a winter's northern night seem brighter then day, bright enough to cast shadows on the snow. Often, being under the canopy of trees will make it darker but if there is even a glimmer of snow on the ground you can see your path without the aid of light and when out by the ocean the very movement of the water usually reflects light. Last night was the oily kind of darkness though that forces you to walk by feel and by sound.

I know my route fairly well. At this time of year I tend to walk the abandoned path along the shoreline precisely because it is more light and also because we are less likely to surprise a grumpy moose there and because I love walking the shoreline even in the wind with roaring waves and pounding sleet and having it mostly to ourselves. I always have a headlamp in the pockets of my winter coats because at this time of year you never know when you'll need one but I like to walk without a light. Artificial light can be so exclusive of the night and the sounds and by it's very brightness it can reduce the details of the world around. Even on this darkest of nights I left my light off.

I navigated by the feel and sound of ground under my foot. The slick, smooth accompanied by light cracking noises of the ice along the path edges, the slowly crumpling feel & muted sound of frozen grass, the firmer but yet slightly pebbled feeling and grit grinding noises of the paved path, the rough uneven surface of the rocky shore, the sound of rocks tumbling against each other. I kept the sound of the ocean, it's surface not visible, to my left as I headed out and to my right as I returned. I could not see the Disreputable Dog but I could hear the jangling of his collar in the wind and from time to time I would call him to me just to be sure. And I wondered, what does it mean when someone says "as black" or "as dark as night"? For surely this kind of night comes seldom even here when night last longer then most places.

06 December 2007

Conservation Idea

It seems like one of the biggest challenges in the current energy issues, whether it's oil independence or global warming, is how to get people to use less energy. I think that there is a simple way to get North Americans, at least, to cut down on their energy uses if only I could convince all the planning and zoning committees to agree (we could always tie it to a bill, and say we'll withhold road funding or something if they don't do it...that's how come the legal drinking age is the same across the US).

Water & Electricity cost money. North Americans are notorious for always wanting to "save more" money. However, most North Americans have no clue how much water or electricity they use in a given day. So let's place water & electrical meters by the front door at about nose level where people can see the numbers changing daily. Better yet, make those meters look like your gas pump where next to the consumption level you have the amount of money that consumption costs. If people saw this daily I suspect they would immediately start to reduce their usage. Imagine if every faucet and outlet/light switch had a little meter by it that ran with amounts used and money charged by it? People would start turning off their lights when they left the room, they would stop leaving the water running while they brushed their teeth. Family members would start nagging each other to do these things.

What do you think? Would it work?

04 December 2007

7 Random Facts Meme

I was tagged by EcoGeoFemme over at The Happy Scientist for 7 Random facts meme. Not long after I started this blog I posted 10 Random Facts about me as sort of an introduction and I will try not to duplicate the results here. (Click on that link if you want to see what I posted then.)

A Beach in Newfoundland (2005)

1. My high school diploma is on rawhide. Yep. And no, I don't have a paper copy. It was a requirement at my school to climb the highest local mountain in order to graduate. And our school mascot? Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Rock with Coral in Newfoundland (2005)

2. I am notorious for blistered feet. I always joke that if I haven't worn a pair of slippers in two days I would blister in them but the sad thing is, it's probably true. As a result I go nowhere without my niffty little blister kit and have been wrangelled into treating other peoples blisters on more hiking trips then I can remember. When I was doing field work in Utah we used to entertain ourselves by guessing how many new blisters WS got at the end of the day. Believe me, I have tried absolutely everything when it comes to preventing blisters and can say that I have happily figured the magic formula for making particularly painful blisters still walkable. And yes, duct tape travels as part of my blister kit (when in Scotland recently my friend S said "no! you didn't! you brought that duct tape just for C!" and C said "you can take the girl out of Alaska but you can't take Alaska out of the girl" in a delighted tone).

Humpack Whale, Russian Far East (2006)

3. I had surgey on my right hip in 2000. This year is the first time post surgery that I have been able to run on it! Wheeee! Unfortunately, I still have residual problems with a pinched sciatica on the left side as a result of the problem in the hip and so I really have to restrain myself. And? Standing for long periods of time is extremely painful so I have tendency to lean against things when standing around chatting at any gathering or finding myself the only person in the room sitting down.

Shell with Lichen on Prince Edward Island Beach (2005)
4. I've been shot at while working more often then a friend of mine who is a cop. Seriously. In Washington, Montana, Utah, and Alaska. The last time I was shot at I was defending sonar equipment on a sandbar somewhere north of the arctic circle from some lovely local blokes who had taken their firefighting pay to the only non-dry town in the area (via boat mind, as we were way beyond the reach of roads) and gotten sodden with drink & smoke. They came back full of piss and vinegar in the middle of the night determineed to either a) steal the Disreputable Dog or b) wreck vengenace on the US government for all of the wrongs ever commited against Native Americans (this was a US Fish & Wildlife Project). Luckily they were too pissed to have any decent aim and luckily the Direseputable Dog was having absolutely nothing to do with getting in their boat despite the newly dead moose lying in the bottom of the boat (shot, before drinking I believe). I was understandably cranky about getting out of my sleeping bag at 2am and was none to understanding with being shot at but nonetheless managed to talk them into dropping their weapons (and staying out of camp because once there they would be there for a LONG time and we had work to do) and collapsing in tears on the riverbank. Needless to say I also refused the offer of an awesome pair of firefighting pants in return for marriage to one of the blokes. But you know, it was tempting.

Beach grass, Prince Edward Island (2005)

5. Once upon a time I actually danced for a professional ballet company. I know, I can hardly believe it either! I wasn't particulary good (read, I was never prima donna/ solo, material) but there you are. On a daily basis people wrote up everybody's thigh circumferences on the wall for comparison and near performances we would get locked in the theatre between rehersals so no one would sneak out and eat anything. My least favorite director came from Russia and would put her cigarettes out on our legs when she was displeased with something. I still cannot bear to watch the Nutcracker Suite and everytime I hear the music (which is daily this time of year) I have a little reel of characters running through my head practicing for the big show.

Kelp, Newfoundland (2005)

6. One of the questions that comes up with my funding ending is whether or not to leave AK. I am really torn about whether or not to leave Alaska more permanently after the holidays. I was talking to a friend here about this over a glass of wine and she feels the same way. It's not that we are ambivalent, in fact, we feel passionately about both staying and leaving. What is it about Alaska that does this? Then looking around the blogosphere I found this post from an aquaintence (Ben Huff) agonizing over the question of 'When are we Alaskan?" . And it seems part of the problem is that Alaska does take root in your heart; it feels as if the identity of being an Alaskan is something that you sweated blood and tears for; it's as if it is it's own country. And there's a feeling that if you leave for the realtively cush life in the lower 48 that you're just not tough enough, that you failed somehow. I have lived in many different US States & Canadian Provinces over the years and yet Alaska is the only one that I ever claimed as a home when people ask where I'm from. How does one go back to not being an Alaskan? And yet, there are such wonderful things about living in a place where there is more regular daylight, where life isn't so tough, where dating isn't a game of Russian roulette. But do I want to live in a place where people find so much to be busy about nothing? Where they forget that so much of what we do are to fufill our basic requirements of food, water, and shelter? Where people are always talking and yet always lonely? So you see... my mind goes round and round.

Autumn grass (2007)

7. My master's thesis advisor was very upset when the University banned guns from the campus. He could be heard complaining to the secretary in loud cursing tones and I quote "How am I supposed to defend myself if one of my graduate students decides to come in and shoot me?". He never seemed to realize that perhaps the fact that he thought this was a likely possibility was disturbing in itself. Unfortunately, he wasn't the type to inspire people to go after him but rather to attempt to take their own lives.

Whale vertebrae & driftwood, Bering Island, Russia (2006)

7 people who's blogs I enjoy and who may consider themselves tagged if they wish. If you're listed & you've done it please just ignore.

(again, going with the theme of people I haven't yet mentioned in my blog)

Liv of Madness, Maddnes, I say
QT of Can we Kick the Bar Here
Trousers of The Trouser Press
Crazymumma of Crazymumma
Mad Hatter of A Mad Tea Party
Mad of Under the Mad Hat

Rules: Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

03 December 2007

King Island Christmas

"We'll tell you a story, a Christmas story.
It's our Christmas present to you.
We've wrapped it in music, instead of paper and we're here to sing it through.
It's called King Island Christmas and every word is true.
It's a story of people who stick together and what those people can do."

I've just pulled out my x-mas music. I wonder about all of you living in more urban climes if you aren't already tired of the seasonal jingles which get piped into every human occupied place? I know I would be, but the only music I hear is what I play. And one of my absolute favorites has never been piped into any room and is actually the perfect music to listen to when stressed and uncertain about the future (can you imagine that I might be that?). In particular, the song about "the gift of trouble" puts me to tears.

When I first moved to Alaska I was living in Fairbanks and around Christmas I was looking for some sort of holiday theater. There was no Nutcracker, no A Christmas Carol. Instead there was King Island Christmas, a musical inspired by a true story about an Inupiat Eskimo village in the Bering Sea of Alaska. The North Star freighter, carrying the village priest & the villager's winter food supplies, is anchored in the Bering Sea on Christmas eve, on it’s last arctic voyage before the winter ice closes in around King Island (also known as Ukivok - red dot on Alaska map below for approximate location). The waves are too high for the villagers to go out and fetch the priest in their walrus skin boats; without him, there will be no Christmas celebration and they will not have their winter supplies. In a communal effort, the villagers triumphantly carry their oomiak (walrus skinned boat - the original kayaks) over a mountain to the calmer waters of the lee, and bring the priest & supplies ashore. King Island Christmas is a heartwarming story about the power of community and the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

I was captivated. It is an amazing story and the songs it sings! The music and this story to me embody so much of what I feel the holidays are originally about, about good food and company, about community and pulling together to get through the long days, of passing knowledge and traditions between the generations, of sharing your love for one another, of looking for the beauty in your environment, and being thankful for what you have, of overcoming things together. The things that sometimes seem shoved aside as we rush around buying things we don't need.

King Island Christmas has become one of my cherished holiday traditions. I love the songs. I love the spirit of community. One year I found CD's of the musical and bought copies for many of my friends and family members. The next year I wanted to get it for a few people I had left out and was sad to find it had been discontinued. Ever since then it has been my mission to share King Island Christmas with someone each holiday season. To my delight both the book, with lovely illustrations by Alaskan artists, and the CD are now more widely available. If I could I would give each and every one of you a copy. So if you are looking for new music check it out!

29 November 2007

Frozen Puddles

Sunrise this morning (taken by Nate Chambers). I
haven't downloaded my own yet.

I am usually a morning person but this chest cold in combination with the sun not bothering to rise over the mountain peaks until nigh 10:30 or 11 am is doing me in and it's only November. This morning my alarm went off first, I hit the snooze until it no longer rang, feeling the warmth of my bed. Then the paper star lamp went on bathing my room in mellow light and still I resisted opening my eyes, slipping from my dream world. The radio came on and by now the Disreputable Dog was getting anxious, stretching at maximum tag ringing capacity, pushing his wet nose under the comforter, sighing loudly. The Disreputable Cat didn't really care whether I got up or not but since she was awake it was a good time to attack my feet or to see if I would provide her with her own live heating pad. And slowly, like from the depths of a deep well, I pulled myself awake, coughing up deep meaty, almost edible coughs and reluctantly surrendered my bed. Where upon, his job done, the Disreputable Dog immediately went into his kennel and went back to sleep until summoned for his morning walk.

A November frozen shore in Quebec (2005)

For the first time in two weeks it was neither snowing nor raining and the whole world had turned crisp and twinkling with the star footprints of Jack Frost. The puddles had all frozen into panes of white that are absolutely delightful to smash. Frozen puddle jumping is one of those delightful activities that is so much fun you almost feel guilty about it. I mean, smashing puddles? That sounds almost ominous, like a predilection for violence. The Disreputable Dog, no fool, goes for the deeper puddles where there might still be some water under the freeze and digs himself a fresh drink while I happily clink and clatter through the puddles around him. We gambol our way through the frozen neighborhoods, the water saturated soil crunching delightfully beneath our feet, the streets dark and empty but for ourselves and the occasional rabbit. Sunrise was not until much later - one of the advantages of living at such high latitudes is that at this time of year, although the sun never makes it very high in the sky, there are very prolonged sunrise-sets (see top pic)...sometimes one fades into the other.

A crisp November morning in Newfoundland (2005)

Interestingly the change of seasonal light seems to have a strong effect on the animals as well as the humans. The Disreputable Cat is no longer batting the window shade over my bed two hours before I wake and seems mildly disgruntled that I do get out of bed. The Disreputable Dog likewise will sleep all morning long if my various waking devices don't go off. He only bothers to get up because he figures someone has to get my sorry bum out of bed because that's why I have all those devices going off, right? And then he promptly returns to bed, snoring slightly because he has propped his chin up on the edge of his kennel.

28 November 2007


The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop chatting with the barista. Next to me sat the husband of one of my co-workers who proposed to me that I ought to find a solution to my job problem by "marrying a PhD and then tagging onto whatever grants he gets". WHAT? Excuse me? There are so many things that bother me about this idea that I'm not even going to start.

PS - Jen, I hope you don't mind that I've stolen your label for this, it seemed most appropriate.

27 November 2007

Freezer Project

Sometimes it's a disadvantage not being a girly girl. Take for instance the distinct lack of pantyhose in my house yesterday evening when I desperately needed some to strain the seeds and stems off my gallon of frozen wild chokecherries. A woolen sock just wouldn't do. Instead I had to fashion something using a sterile gaze bandage pad from my first aid kit and a bit of twine. Well, it's not as neat as the pantyhose would have been but it will do as I'm certainly not about to go out and buy pantyhose. I plop the bundle into hot roiling water and muse whether or not I should add more cranberries to my hot cider. I should be sleeping, trying to overcome this nasty cold I've come down with, but instead I'm trying to bake the contents of my freezer.

Since there are no jobs to be had in this Small Town South of the Permafrost in the winter at all, as the whole thing has more or less shut down, and won't be any jobs in my field any time soon here in particular, I've decided to move. I've brought up the subject rather tactfully among friends here who all immediately respond that staying in Small Town South of the Permafrost without a job would be, well, suicide. I hadn't wanted to point that out but it seems that everybody comes to the same conclusion. Darkness, wetness, and isolation have a negative impact on the mind without a compelling distraction and I can't exactly afford the rent and the heat in this place without an income. So I'm off to, er, somewhere. The current plan is to schlep all my stuff to storage in Los Anchorage and then fly to my parents' in the Western Lower 48 (USA) with both of the Disreputables for x-mas as planned long ago. After that I'm not really sure. One thing is for sure, both Los Anchorage & Parents' Town in the Western Lower 48 both have more winter job opportunities to tide me over until I get a REAL job (i.e. in my field) then my current location.

Which leads me to my freezer. I've decided I'm going to try and use up and eat as much as I can of it's contents. Which may prove to be a challenge. In between hacking, chest-searing coughs I rummage through the contents: huckleberries, low-bush cranberries, high-bush cranberries, blueberries, nangoon berries, raspberries, bear berries, chokecherries, puffball mushrooms, lentil soup, mushroom soup, rhubarb, bean soup, jalapenos, stacks and stacks of halibut & salmon, clams, Bing cherries, red cabbage, a lone package of moose burger. The only thing in there I didn't harvest myself are the jalapenos & the Bing cherries. I'm not worried about the fish, anything I don't manage to eat I'll just take with me which will delight my father & sister. But the berries! I think there is going to be a lot of baking around here in the next few weeks along with packages showing up on the doorsteps and desks of friends and aquaintences.

26 November 2007

Monday Reflections

Fulmar flying over the Bering Sea

23 November 2007

Lists of 8 Tag

I was tagged by the lovely DJ Kirkby for the following meme which involves answering the following questions in blocks of 8. And she has been patiently waiting for me to get around to responding. Although I have numbered the below responses it isn't an indication of rank, merely a keeping track of whether or not I've hit 8 yet.

8 passions in my life [and incomplete list]
1.the world around me (but that about sums it all up doesn't it?), in all it's variations and expressions
2.exploring that world through walking, hiking, biking, skiing, boating, and general recreating in the out of doors and travel
3.the creatures in this world, wildlife, ecology, biology, and the human relationships to it
4. Science
5. Writing & Reading

6. small myths and little rituals
7. cultures, languages, and travel - people, how we explore and interpret the universe and deal with problems we face
8. my loved ones: family & friends & pets

8 things to do before I die
1. build my own home! My own tiny, energy efficient home (no more then 500 sq. feet). Everyone around me my age is having babies, but me? I have cabin building fever. I think it's something that's hard to avoid if you live in Alaska for a long enough time.
2. fall in love & be loved in return in a romantic relationship that has both length & durability 3. be a parent
4. travel & do research in Antarctica!
5. tell the people that I love that I love them (I do this but I never forget that this might be my last chance to do so)
6. learn how to play the harmonica & guitar (isn't the harmonica just the perfect backpacking instrument?)
7. take my niece & nephew backpacking (they're a little young for it now)
8. find a place to put down roots

A snowladen boat in the harbor

8 things I often say [er, I think I might have to get some help on this one...what do I say frequently? Honestly, I'm not sure I am much of a repeater of phrases, but maybe that's just because I live alone and there is no one to point them out to me. I keep trying but I'm coming up blank and it's holding up this post.]

November Birch trees in Fairbanks (2003)

8 Books I read recently [whew! something I can answer easily! I must admit that I read a lot and that my book pile is ever changing. I had to resist the temptation to just post my 8 favorite recent reads. Here is a list of the exact 8 last books I've read.]

1. currently reading The Road to McCarthy by Pete McCarthy (which interestingly is a book I have only seen on a bookstore in New Zealand and it mentions a small town in a National Park in Alaska that I did my thesis work in so when I saw it on a friend's shelf - he had been in Ireland - I begged it off him), a humorous book of travel.
2. The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro (one of my all time favorite Canadian authors with amazing punch-you-in-gut stories)
3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translation by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky (oh my gosh, this new translation is AWESOME. What a fabulous, amazing love story.)
4. A Far County by Daniel Mason (lovely, lovely writing...and amazingly set in a country that you know but can't identify )
5. When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin (about a white African in Zimbabwe when Mugabe came to power)
6. My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain (I fell in love with her when I heard her book Almost There on tape, a book I have listened to again and again. A truthful story about the places that we find ourselves in that aren't like the fairy tales.)
7. Sabriel by Garth Nix (This was a re-read. A book aimed at teenagers that I picked up in an airport bookstore that turned out to be a great read as did the other two in the series...however, I tried to pick up one of the author's other series and I didn't like it so much)
8. The Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkien (wasn't sure what this would be like but it actually hung together very well and made a lovely story)

Birch bark up close (2003)

8 songs that mean something to me
1. Superman (It's not Easy) by Five for Fighting (interestingly enough I don't like most of the rest of the band's music but this song? It's the top of my list.)
2. The Edge of Night by Billy Boyd (this song, it's from a soundtrack I know, but it saved my sanity when I was stuck on an sandbank for 5 months with 4 teenage boys with the occasional visit from drunk firefighters who wanted to steal my dog or shoot our equipment)
3. Serenity by Clarence Clemons (listen to those saxophones, it will make your sould soar)
4. Let it snow by Sammy Cahn (you just knew this one would be on the list, didn't you? I love snow and I love frightful weather)
5. Nobody Knows Me At All by the Weepies (a good song when you are in a new place and feeling boxed in your own head)
6. A Road is Just A Road by Mary Chapin Carpenter (the new top hit on the radio when I lived in the middle of NoWhere, Montana where the two radio stations were either country or the God Station. I seem to live places like that a lot. Anywho, it came at a time when it seemed I was always on the road.)
7. Kribbeln im Bauch by Pe Werner (it's German so don't stare at it too hard if it doesn't makes sense to you. This song is about those butterfly stomachs and of course always brings me back to being in Germany on exchange)
8. I'm Alright by Jo De Messina (another hit song on the radio...this time NoWhere, Utah which expresses how I feel a lot. I'm far from home and from family and many of my friends and everyone thinks I'm crazy but I'm doing alright, all things considered.)

November boat harbor reflections

8 Qualities I look for in a friend
1. openness/ tolerance 2. honesty 3. kindness 4. an interest in common 5. independence 6. thoughtfulness 7. passion for something (anything) 8. sense of humor

The Direputable Cat in her favorite sleeping spot

8 people who's blogs I enjoy and who may consider themselves tagged if they wish. [I thought about not doing this part as some people don't like being tagged but I decided that I am going to list 8 blogs here, a random assortment that have not been previously mentioned on this blog before, whose work I like and if they decide to participate, great! If not, I'm okay with that. And either way it may give the rest of my readers someone new to read. If you go visit them tell them I sent you - because some of them I haven't delurked to!]

1. Tundra Medicine Dreams a blog about life and practicing medicine in the remoter communities of Alaska.
2. The Arctic Tern a sailboat blog of Devi & Hunter who inspire me by their willingness to retire early, sell everything they own, and take to the seas for as long as it is still enjoyable.
The Travels of Stacey and her Runaway Rubber Duckie who remind me of places I've traveled to and loved as well as inspiring me with new places yet visited.
Hypoglycemia Girl a fellow scientist and traveler.
Painted Maypole and the adventures of a thespian mom.
6. The Ed-ventures the chronicles of an outdoor Fairbanks guy who doesn't know me but who knows lots of people I know very well (and whose page I am totally guilty of lurking on). He has a recent post up on skiing to the bus where Chris McCandless (Into the Wild) lived & died.
7. The Happy Scientist another fellow scientist who is relatively new to blogging.
8. Pilgrim/Heretic a professor who will blog for cake and who has a marvelous post up on banishing your demons (which becomes more marvelous if you read the comments).

21 November 2007

And the Rains Came

When I woke up yesterday it was pouring rain out, pouring. And with all our snow that made things a bit tricky. The streets are flooded with water over a nice two inch base layer of ice because the storm drains are plugged with snow turned slush. Funnily enough, I found it absolutely impossible to be cranky when the weather was being so foul. The Disreputable Dog and I half skated through our walk. Obviously I'm a bit rusty on winter habits - note to self: remember to put your Yak-trax (grippy things that stretch over your shoes) on before ANY walk. I'm beginning to remember the semi-crab like walk of winter in icy places, with your weight low in the hips, the feet kept wide, scuffing ever so slightly against the pavement, er, ice, no sudden high stepping steps which will surely bring one crashing down.

The Direputable Dog playing sleigh with my niece

The ignominy of falling here is not just that moment when you know suddenly that there is nothing you can do, that your feet (or bike) are going to go out from under you, nor from the painful landing on a hard surface, trying to catch yourself with something other then your knees or elbows, but from the landing in a puddle and not only being sore and bruised but also being soaked to the skin. Last year the Disreputable Dog & I were walking in the dark in a downpour just like the one we had yesterday and that continues today when we met a man coming the other direction who in response to my greeting said "Good thing it isn't raining out, isn't it?". He made my day he did. I couldn't stop laughing. And you know, it's been one of my favorite sayings ever since.

"Smoke" on the water

And my current situation is a bit like that isn't it? I want to thank all of you kind readers for all of your empathy, kindness, and ideas. I am excited about the possibilities for change. I know good things can come of it. I also know that this is a good time to evaluate my anxieties and my passions and try to focus more clearly on where I see myself down the road. I am trying to focus on all of that but every know and then, as on Monday, I just get overwhelmed, or maybe it's underwhelmed and then I focus on the timing (January is a lousy month to be looking for jobs either in this state or in this field of work and it's a lousy time to move and for some reason seems to be the time of year that I often experience major life changes), and on the fact that I haven't heard back from most of my application yet (well, they do take awhile), and all the what-ifs. However, I do know at heart that I am extremely lucky. I have a good education, I have a lot of skills, I have passion, I have the support of loving family and friends, and I live in an age where I can look for jobs anywhere as long as I have access to the internet.

Aurora borealis from Fairbanks

I'd like to tell you all, too, the day before the US Thanksgiving, that I am thankful to all of you for being here in this space where I can sort of talk aloud about the what-ifs. I think part of why I am questioning my path so much is because some of my experiences over the last two years have included such vast professional betrayals (and I'm not talking about funding) that it makes me question my fundamental premises for being in this career. I can't, at the moment, go into the specifics of what happened, but I am thankful you give me a positive space to explore my options. While it is always a better feeling to leave a job at the time of one's choosing sometimes it's good to be pushed. Now I am presented with the chance to more clearly define my dreams and passions and to explore them and that's also very scary. Wonderful and scary all at the same time. So thanks for being there with me, for reading, and commenting. I appreciate every little bit of it. You are all fantastic.

19 November 2007

Cranky Monday

I have to admit, I'm cranky today. So I think it's time I 'fess up so I can get all of your sympathy (oh, listen to that shameless plug!). I learned recently that my funding is going to run out at the end of December - surprise! happy holidays! This means moving and it means finding new jobs and it means up-in-the-airness.

Now to be fair, I think it could be a good thing to leave this job. I've had a lot of heartache here: not the romantic kind but the kind where people get badly hurt on the job and the emotional scars are almost as large as the physical ones. And as far as I can tell, things are going to get worse here before they get better. It's long past time for me to move on. But where to? What to? Here comes the existential what-do-I-really-want-to-be-doing-with-my-life angst.

Yep. I love science. I love research. I love field work. I even love data analysis! But I also am tired of being impermanent. I am tired of moving every couple of years, of being the girl who is willing to go out to the most remotest places ever without any contact with anyone she cares about for 5 months, tired of constantly trying to build connections in new communities, tired of feeling like I'm always just fighting to get beyond the bureaucracy to the science. I have a strong CV, I'm single, I'm flexible, something will come up somewhere within time. There is a small part of me that has a strong urge though to throw my hands up and go build straw bale houses in New Mexico. Or something like that. Yeah, that's right, maybe it's time to leave the arctic (but I love the arctic!!!!). Maybe it's time to leave research (but I love research!!!!). Sigh.

So now you know why I'm cranky. Excuse me while I go bash my head against my keyboard. Actually, I'll probably go ski instead (see picture below), it's healthier and a better stress reliever and you have to breathe while doing it. Oh - and for those of you who are curious the Footprint Friday post has been updated with an answer. Thanks for playing along!

A co-worker, the Disreputable Dog, and Yeta (a tough little dog) on the first ski of the year.

17 November 2007

Blustry Day

As I drift towards a waking state I am first alerted to the noise of the wind howling outside my house, pebble sized pieces of snow and debris hitting the windows, the sound of a trash can doing cartwheels down the down the street, an odd chiming noise that comes from a loosened piece of metal roofing somewhere in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, as my rental house is not terribly well insulated (I know! I live in Alaska! What were they thinking?) I can also hear the sound of my electric box rattling as the wind moves through the walls and if it was light enough I would see my curtained doorway blowing gently. I'm just glad that the wind didn't blow the window open in the middle of the night as it has done in the past, cold air rushing into my cozy bedroom peace and me having to stumble into my layers and go outside and shove it closed while balanced on a ladder.

Believe it or not, this photo is in color - notice the wave smoke?

The husband of a friend told me once that if Alaska was a whale this town would be it's blow hole. I must say, the image works. The Disreputable Dog and I brave the weather (the Disreputable Cat is cheering us on from the window more then happy to not join) and seek refuge in the forest from the sandblasting caused by the airborne sand that was put on the roads to prevent us from slipping on the ice. The wind, at least 75mph this morning, is quickly polishing up the roads into a fine glare ice and solidifying the snow plowed medians that already stand taller then my head. It is not unusual to see cars driving on the wrong side of the street this time of the year because drivers cannot possibly get across the barriers of snow that are taller then their cars.

Layering is absolutely key to this kind of weather. I'm still trying to get back into judging exactly how cold it will be with the windchill after the summer. In Fairbanks I could look out at the thermostat and dress exactly for that temperature. Granted, it got very cold there, the occasional minus 60 was nothing to sneeze at, but this wind is harder for me to judge. The thermometer says we're just below freezing but with 75mph winds? Ever since they changed the way they measure wind chill a few years back I'm all confused. All I know is that it's cold and that the wind cuts through many otherwise warm layers and so everything must be topped with a wind proofing, even my hat. It is also very critical to make sure that the ears, ankles, and belly have no secret exposures at any layer and that the fingers and toes are appropriately covered. The ears, fingers, and toes are all susceptible to frostbite and with the ears you never know it until you come in and warm up.

16 November 2007

The Spilling of Oil

Okay, I can't stand it anymore (DJ, I am getting to your tag - I promise!) but I have to write about these two ecological disasters occurring right now.

1. The oil spill in San Francisco Bay, USA. This spill was caused when the container ship the Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 causing 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil to dump into the bay. Some 2,000 birds have come into custody (either dead or alive) of the International Bird Research Rescue Center and their counter parts.

2. The oil spill in the Black Sea, Russia. First the oil tanker Volgoneft-139 was split in half by high seas outside the Kerch Strait spilling some 1.3 million tons of oil into the Azov and Black Seas. Second, the sinking of a dry cargo ship near the Port of Kavkaz that was carrying 2000 tons of sulfur. Because ships were being run on the ocean that are outfitted for rivers, ships broke apart in storms and who knows what kind of shape those ships were in. I've been on Russian ships, I can imagine it. Supposedly there were storm warnings but the company CEOs couldn't be bothered to change their plans. You know, who cares if a bunch of seamen die and oil spills during the height of the bird migration. Imagine it...300,000 birds reported dead by the end of the day. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is helping assist Russia assess the impacts.

Photo from the UK Telegraph

Both spills are killing and affecting wildlife. Birds are usually the first hit. Their feathers get oiled and they cease being waterproof. Then the birds get cold and wet and hungry. Sometimes animals eat the oil which then coats their intestines keeping them from getting energy from food or sometimes from swallowing. Next are the fish who get the oil as it sinks. They die because they can't breathe the stuff and it coats their gills. The algae is coated, the mollusks get clogged. In Russia now dolphins are washing up dead on the beach. The effects of these spills will affect these places for a long time to come.

There was a slow response in San Francisco but California has mobilized, they have set up Oiled Wildlife Care Networks, there are organizations trained in the cleanup effort, in Russia soldiers have been mobilized but while they attempt to clean up seamen, who are trying to cleanup the wrecks, are simply pumping fuel into the ocean. I dunno about you but this makes me angry. On Wall Street there are complaints about the rising costs of fuel but they're talking dollars. I'm concerned about the rising ecological costs of fuel. And in case any of you are wondering, the Exxon Valdez has still not paid off all the money it owes Alaskans for the damages to their livelihoods in 1989. In fact they're taking the state to court to try and avoid paying money that is about the equivalent of 5% of their quarter earnings. Yeah, that's right, they're willing to spend more money to fight us in court rather then do the responsible thing.

(Note: I am not quoting my sources because they would be too many but clearly this is not first hand information but from various news sources combined with some background info from my own participation in cleaning up 3 oil spills.)

Footprint Friday: Gray Wolf

Location: on a lake in northern Ontario, Canada. The forest around is decidious birch forest.
Approximate size of actual footprint (not the foot drag): 4x6inches (10x6 centimeters)
The snow is about human calf deep.
Can you guess who made these tracks?

Edited to add answer on the following Monday:
Yep, this is the gray wolf or Canis lupis. Doesn't it look just like a daisy chain? Up a bit, and not in the photograph is where it caught a snowshoe hare. Wild canines, unlike their doemstic counterparts, usually travel in pretty straight lines. He, I'm thinking he because their hips are narrower then females whose back feet are usually just slightly wider then their front, was probably dragging his toes along the top of the snow causing the drag. This is common in snow but not in mud.

PS - I changed my header/ banner. What do you think?

14 November 2007

Shoveling the Boat

Snow shushes beneath my feet as it falls through the grate of the dock ramp to the water below. Thick fat snowflakes quickly coat my eyelashes, wet and white. The Disreputable Dog has gotten used to this route now although, like me, he is probably still wondering how we got ourselves roped into shoveling this boat. I mean, we don't even shovel at the house with the exception of the two steps. The rest will get packed down by feet and if I must drive I've got 4-wheel drive and can usually get out eventually. Even when it snows 5 ft in one snowfall (which it hasn't yet this winter) I don't shovel. The calm snow globe world has disappeared and I can hear the crash of the waves whipped into a frenzy even here in the calm protection of the bay. It's not a good day to be on a boat, I think. The sky is flashing lightning, which I don't think I've ever seen here, but it's muted by the clouds and there is no thunder. The wind is pulling at my scarf and my hat and I am glad that there are no exposed places for it to suck the heat away from me.
Soon I am warm enough from shoveling the heavy snow off the boat. Ever notice that shovels seem to have in-built heaters? My dog lies happily in the snow with his head resting on the side of the dock keeping an eye out for sea lions and seals but none appear. He is shedding his summer coat for the winter one right now. He loses about a dog a day. This time of year no chickadees hop over to pull it out for their nests (which, amazingly, he tolerates) and when I take the boat brush to him he luxuriates in it. Finally we are done and we walk back along the abandoned tourist shops. I like the dock sides a lot more in the winter when I have them to myself. No busloads of tourists unloading, no hundreds of pounds of fish being photographed and filleted. These shops are cute but they don't sell anything a local would need and so they are all shut and shuttered for the winter. The mountains loom over the sail masts as the soft snow quickly fills our lone footprints across the boardwalk and we head home to hot apple cider.

13 November 2007

Living in a Snow Globe

Bald Eagle on old pier posts

I love this weather. It's like living in a real snow globe. Fat, luscious snow flakes whirling around and falling so fast they coat your eyelashes and clothing in seconds, the sea a quiet slate of dark gray. Every grumpy or cranky thought I've had this week flies out of my head in this kind of weather. I'm going to have to shovel the neighbor's boat in the harbor tonight. It will be fun. The Disreputable Dog and I will take our evening walk there tonight. I love walking in this kind of weather too - every noise is muted like it's under a blanket. Every surface is softened. The smells seem muted to my nose too but I know they're not really because the Disreputable Dog is really enjoying all the smells dug up by the snow plows and I am enjoying seeing the animal tracks that he finds by smell and that I normally can't see. I love winter! And this last Sunday we got out for our first ski of the season! Yay!

The Disreputable Dog loves it too. Look at that smile!

12 November 2007

In Holland

Preface: I traveled through Morocco with a dear friend I met ten years ago in Ghana, West Africa. When we lived there people constantly asked us, "Are you twins?" which at the time seemed laughable because she is a least a foot taller then I am and has bright red hair while mine is brown not to mention the fact that she is from the Netherlands and I from North America. However, I often wonder if the Ghanians didn't see something beyond the surface, something other then "all white people look alike", because although it's been seven years since we saw each other last and much has happened to both of us in that time, both good and bad, it was as if we had only seen each other moments before. After Morocco I had the luxury of being able to travel to her home in Holland and finally meet her husband and two children (who thought it was about time the met me). It's one of the most amazing connections that seems to persist no matter how outwardly different our lives might appear and I am grateful for it.

So here are some images from a wonderful visit with a dear friend which included such delights as bicycling everywhere, playing with her kids, going horse riding, eating luscious Dutch cheese, joking with her husband, having dinner with her mother, bird watching at a local park, walking through autumn leaves, going grocery shopping. We were both recovering from salmonella that we caught in Morocco (did I mention that?) so we were lazier then we otherwise might have been. At the end we both felt so strange saying goodbye because in so many ways it felt like I had always been there, sleeping in their attic.

Notable Smells: farmlands and manure, rain and water, fresh cheese, autumn leaves, rich chocolate and hot tea, line dried laundry

Notable Noises: small children playing in the streets, the sound of bicycle bells, migrating geese, crunching of leaves underfoot, the sound of children in the house, laughter

Look at all those bicycles!!! There was about a kilometer of them, this picture doesn't show the half of them. This is the bus/ train station. I don't think there are this many bikes in the entire US. I love watching the bicylicists during rush hour in Holland: men with their ties flying out behind them, women in fashionable skirts and boots, and teenagers in packs often with linked arms down the pathways.

A village street. Notice the bicycles (you wouldn't imagine that I'm in favor of bicycle commuting from reading this post would you?). Here we went into a delightful store that specialized in freshly roasted nuts. Yum!

Fall colors at a lakeside park.

At a bike trail crossroads...and the bike I borrowed from my "twin's" neighbor. I tell ya', they don't make bikes like this in the USA. This was the limousine of bicycles. I have recently been trying to get a pedal power operated light for my bike because it is cold enough here that batteries freeze up and then I end up with no light. The main response I seem to be getting is that it isn't available because after all they would slow you down! Well, this lovely bike comes with one built into the frame and it even has an automatic setting that turns it on when it gets dusky out. And it may be that it slows me down but you'd hardly notice unless you were in a race and that's not something I'm planning on doing any time soon. Ooo - and this has a cool built in lock that just goes around the back tire, no need for a bike rack. I want one!

My "twin" and her two children (faces obscured) using a common mode of transportation. When we went to pick up her oldest child (rear seat) at school I noticed that only two of the parents had driven to pick up their kids, the rest had either ridden bikes with similar child seating arrangements or walked. Notice too, the lack of helmets, the Dutch think Americans are absolutely hysterical over helmet safety.

Just boating through the neighborhood. Something that one can do most anywhere in Holland due to all of the canals.

Traditional thatch roofing on a farm house.

A picture of the village that my "twin" lives in.