"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good-bye October

I really don't want to focus on the weather here in Fairbanks, but this is how my thermometer looked at 9 AM as the sun was rising. And fresh snow adorned the tall spruce trees.
I didn't install that oil heater any too soon.

I wondered how the kids here would be able to wear their trick-or-treating costumes. I remember our kids having to have large enough costumes to wear over their winter coats but since they were always homemade it wasn't really a big problem. I hear some stories up here of the plastic, store-bought little suits cracking when some of the halloweens were -20.
My little Texan grandbabies gathered lots of candy, according to the report from Popeye (Jack), and they had no worries of staying warm. Just melting chocolates.

Good-bye, October.
November will be a month of wonders for us.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plugged in to winter.

Well, after a good deal of thought
and waking up to 10 degrees on the little thermometer I have,
I decided to treat the old Chevy to an oil pan heater.
Warming up the oil during cold times makes me think of lubricating stiff old joints.
All of us mature girls benefit from some warm-ups before we get moving very fast.
And besides, I'm not fond of sitting in my cold car in the morning and after work as I wait the 10 minutes or so that is recommended to warm the engine. It's especially hard after I've been at the hospital all day and I just want to get "home" and relax with a cup of coffee.
So today I had the heater installed. The ideal thing would be a remote starter so the whole car would be warm and inviting when I got in, but I'm not about to go that far with this 8-year old car. But warming the oil is the next best thing.
To activate the heater I had to buy the cord to attach the car to the electric outlets.
These cords are called "arctic" and don't get stiff or crack to -58 degrees plus they have a little light to show that they are actually in a live power source.

It wasn't very chilly yet this afternoon but I may as well be using this new plug, so I connected it. Seems like an oxymoron to have a car with Texas license plates sport a heater plug.
I am quite proud that I have one, to be honest. Feel a bit more like I "belong".

There is something to be said for living where it gets cold. I did the math and I have lived 90% of my life in the northeast US. We had long and snowy winters and some hazardous ice storms and blizzards, particularly nor'easters. In that climate exists the challenge of staying warm despite the weather. It is the ancient conflict of man against the elements, if you will, and develops strength in both muscles (cutting and hauling wood to burn which we did for many years) and character (drawing close together for friendship and body warmth). It brings a real gratitude for home where one can take off the layers of coats and wrappings and "reveal" one's true self to the few that gather in that comforting place. And the climax of the conflict is the sheer survival of the winter months and rejoicing to see the first patch of brown grass in a spot where the snow has finally melted on a sunny April day!

Living in the south or west or southwest or southmidwest (however you want to geographically define Texas' location), we have mild winters with some cold, rainy days thrown in. Sometimes, like last February, we even have a little snow. But we no longer have a Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor snowblower (with hand warmers) nor snow shovels, nor ice scrapers, nor winter boots.
As my dear husband likes to say about the rare central Texas snow, "God put it there and God will take it away." He smiles knowing he won't have to move it in any way.

Here are some pictures from last winter's Texas snowstorm.
Our patio:

Our neighbors' frozen fountain with the palm tree behind it:

And Shoeless Joe waiting for the baseball snowman to throw the ball, already.

But, unlike Texas where a rare snowfall is here today and gone tomorrow, I am living in Alaska for a time and winter is just barely beginning since it is yet just October. But my face gets red and fingers need gloves when outdoors. When at a concert at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks the other day, I got a kick out of this statue of the first college president. Someone had taken pity and provided some comfort for his cold days and nights on campus. I'll bet you'd see a smile on his face if it wasn't covered up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Living like a Princess Sophie

This contract with Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has me living in a different place.
I had been very contented at Wedgewood Resort for the last two contracts, but this location is offering me some new, sweet options.
Sophie Station is really more of a hotel of suites than an apartment.

The quarters are smaller but perfect for one person.
This picture is of the living room with a flat screen TV on the wall.

A very well equipped kitchen with an eating bar at the opposite end.
Best part--the dishes wash themselves! Well, not exactly, but daily housekeepers stop in when I am out and not only clean, but replace paper towels, tea towels, and bath linens. One morning I rushed out rather quickly to work and left a few dishes in the sink.
When I returned at night, they were clean in the drainer. Wow.

The spacious bedroom has an extra bed just waiting for a friend to visit.
I am sleeping like a log here, unlike the summers with weeks of insomnia. I guess it was the midnight sun that kept me awake till all hours. Even though I had room darkening drapes, my brain just knew it was bright and sunny outdoors and no time to sleep.
I actually slept late one dark morning this week and didn't make my bed (horrors!) and, you guessed it, the bed was all made up when I got home.
I feel like a princess with all of this cleaning and picking up--Princess Sophie.
I could really get spoiled with this regal kind of caretaking, but I do try to have things neat and tidy before leaving for work each morning.

Looking directly out the sliding door I can see an attractive log building that houses a business. It is called "Northern Threads" and is a sewing and knitting store. I have seen people going in and out with their sewing machines-- I assume to classes. I'd love to join them. Indoor hobbies are a must to get through the dark, cold days yet to come and most people I have met create lovely and practical things. Kathleen is a super knitter and Josh wears hats and socks she has knit to keep him warm.

Facing west from the same window. Nice, tall birch and spruce.

And looking toward the east as the sun is coming up. I really love spending time admiring the trees with snow tucked in their branches, especially when I am inside all warm and cozy with a cup of coffee in my hand. Oh yeah, the lobby downstairs has a table set up with a assortment of coffees, tea, and spiced cider at all times. And one of the best restaurants in Fairbanks, Zachs, is down the hall on my floor. Yummy aromas filter to my room most evenings!

And look at what else I found standing outside my window! A beautiful and glowing
mother-to-be on her way to visit me. Kathleen's office is walking distance to Sophie's Station.
God is so good and I am abundantly blessed!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scenes seen along the way...

I was driving to Kathleen and Josh's house yesterday and thought I'd share
a few of the scenes seen along the way.

My husband is a happy guy right now because he is in New Mexico
running in a marathon. This sign made me smile as I thought of him.

These are some pretty ugly cabins near a little local post office.
They intentionally have the sod growing on the roof for insulation.
Outhouses are around back. I think they are leased by college kids.
(Poor suckers.)

They are of the style built by hermits and trappers.
This even has the cache (on your right) to store meat and food where the bear can't reach.
Moose antlers hang on the peak.
The low ceiling and few windows make these cabins quite unappealing to me!
(Nevermind the lack of plumbing...)
Moving on.............;-)

Not much is prettier than the clear, blue sky on a cold winter's day.
What a distinctive shade of blue that almost cries out its brilliance!
The house that Josh and Kathleen are building looks wonderful surrounded
by the leafless, tall birch trees. I'd not viewed it like this before.
I have been privileged to experience the "growing" of this remarkable house during my times working and living in Fairbanks. I've witnessed some of the measuring, cutting, painting, hammering, etc. first-hand and have great respect for the tremendous effort which has gone into creating the beauty and solidity you see here.

The snow in their yard was simply shimmering from the sunlight.
I tried to take a few pictures to capture the sparkle of the individual flakes, but it
didn't come out as dazzling as it really appeared. But you can see a hint of sparkling.
I have always absolutely loved the diamond-like glitters in the snow!

This is the birch fence Josh built last summer to protect his newly seeded patch of grass.
The snow reveals lots of paw prints because the neighbor's old Black Lab crosses it daily.
She often uses exactly this little area to roll around and scratch her back,
much to Josh's chagrin.

I drove home the following morning and was surprised to discover that this small creek had already iced over. After all, it's only mid-October.

I paused to step out of my car and reflect on this spectacular sunrise. That one bright beam shot directly upward until the orange sun soon made its appearance on the horizon.
This sunrise was 8:51 AM. Days are growing shorter...
As of today, the length of day is officially 9 hours, 26 minutes.
Daylight lost from yesterday=6 minutes, 44 seconds.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Warm feet=happy toes!

Keeping feet warm and dry is a challenge in Alaska but most essential.
These particular boots have been well worn by Josh. He spends much of his work
days outdoors testing wells. He needs warm, dry feet!

Kathleen has these special boots called Sorrells. They are guaranteed
to keep toes cozy to -100 degrees. No risk of frostbite in these!

I just bought these shoes that are filled with puffy linings-can you tell?
They remind me of bedroom slippers and should keep my wimpy Texan feet
sighing with happiness no matter what the thermometer reads.

And I just had to include these cute, little feet.
These beautiful moccasins are handmade by an Alaskan Native who also is the one wearing them. They are made of soft leather, beads, and lined with rabbit fur. She lives in the Denali nursing home, part of the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital complex, and was at the Pain Treatment Center where I was working.
She graciously permitted me to take this picture of her little feet.
My flip-flops and sandals will grow dusty until I return...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Alaska Day

Today is Alaska Day.
On October 18, 1867, the American flag was first
hoisted over Alaska soil.

I am grateful this beautiful and amazing state is part of the USA.

And I am grateful to be living here, even for a little while.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To plug or not to plug... THAT is the question.

I realize that this wasn't exactly Hamlet's rhetorical question,
but it definitely is the subject I have been pondering for several weeks now.

When I first spied these posts positioned all over the UAF campus in 2003,
I thought they were some kind of parking meter.

I have since grown much wiser and know that they are outlets provided so drivers
can plug in their cars in the cold weather. They are conveniently placed in parking lots at the hospital where I work, the apt. complex where I live, and at Josh and Kathleen's house.

Almost every car here has a plug like this one hanging out of its front end. This plug is connected to 3 other ones inside the engine that, when connected to a power source, heat the engine block, battery and oil pan. This way, no matter how bitter the subzero temps get, the car won't freeze up while not in use.
The other alternative is to keep a car running and lots of folks do exactly this while shopping or at appointments. There are two big drawbacks to this method: 1. The fumes freeze into ice smog that is an air pollutant and 2. You go through a tank of gas a lot often (and it costs $3.56/gallon here).
My dilemma is whether to spend $500 to get my old Impala a new plug or take my chances on her starting when I need her to. Kathleen and Josh say the coldest weather arrives in January and I'll be gone south by then. I am not about to let my car run the 11 hours I am at work each day. So, for now I guess I'll race out to the parking lot 15 minutes before leaving to warm up the old engine. The old girl got me all the way up here last June and I think I can count on her to keep me going these next 2 months... the key word here is think.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


After weeks in warm and summery Texas, I am back in Fairbanks.
Sunday morning we awoke to snow falling softly. It was so pretty!!

The calendar may read 10/10/10 but there is sure no sign of autumn left here.

Monday morning I left early for work and stepped into this winter wonderland.

Guess I had to stop on the way home and make a purchase.
We used to own so many of these and they could be found in the car trunks
and corners of the garage.
But all were given away when we headed to Texas in 2004.
I definitely needed a new one now!

Here is where I am staying for the next few weeks.
It's called Sophie Station.

With scenes like this and the crunch of ice and snow under my feet, I find myself humming Christmas carols and wanting to hang a wreath on the door.
But I guess I need to celebrate autumn holidays and Thanksgiving first.
I know this isn't exactly the definition of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it sure can be confusing to jump from autumn to summer to winter in a matter of days, to be honest.
Oh, and by the way, there is no longer any blossom on top of the Fireweed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where have all the flowers gone...? (Hum a few bars.)

When I left Fairbanks a few short weeks ago,
autumn was in full bloom and so was Kathleen!
We took a little farewell ride up to the top of Ester Dome
where the view of Fairbanks (see the distance), the valley and hills
can be seen unobstructed.

We watched the sunset in all its glory.

Autumn colors were evident in changing colors of the tundra.
Do you see the graceful tundra swan gliding by?

The high bush cranberries had turned into dark reds that spread like carpeting.

And the birch and aspen became glowing golden.

The fireweed begins to bloom at the bottom of its stalk in early summer.
As the days flow into weeks, the flowers bloom higher up the stalk.
Alaskans say that when the blooms have finally reached the top and stop flowering, summer is over. Kathleen would sigh sadly whenever we saw the progress of the Fireweed.
This particular one was noted in Seward during our August trip.
As I pack my bags, I am pondering what the colors will be like when I
arrive back in Fairbanks. Will I find any Fireweed at all?