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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pigtails and Picnics

The hospital I work at hosts a terrific picnic every summer.
It's held at a place called "Pioneer Park" in town.
There are numerous original little houses and cabins that 
have been moved here and are now
converted to gift shops and ice cream parlors.
There are playgrounds, a grounded steamship,
 concert hall, gazebo and museums.
A few low-keyed amusement park rides, as well.

This picnic includes a food tent mounded with burgers,
chicken, hot dogs, salads...the yummy, typical stuff.

I've gone each year but this year was the most fun.
Because I got to experience it through the wondering eyes
of a blonde little pixie I happen to love.

 Young enthusiasm makes everything fun!
Her sparkle and amazement are contagious.  
I found myself overjoyed at each little detail!

The bandstand had performers singing and playing all day long.
These little dancing feet started tapping in rhythm.
(A 4th generation tapper/clogger, I wonder?)

Soon Grandma joined her in a rousing
spin on the grassy dance floor.

My favorite performers in all of Fairbanks is a steel drum band.
Called "Cold Steel", they bounce and play and bop to jazzy calypso beats.
 I always long to be a part of them.
It made me so happy to hear Cold Steel when we arrived at the park.
Afterwards, lucky Abigail got a brief lesson.

The sun was hot and her first taste of an ice cream sandwich
was both delicious and cooling.

Who can resist the pull of calliope music from the carousel?
At first timid on the moving horse, 
her brave spirit soon returned and she rode one-handed.
The moving gears above her head especially fascinated her.

But the highlight of the whole day was the train!
The track circles the park on a mostly elevated track.
No matter what we were doing, whenever she heard the airy
whistle blow (over and over-dozens of times),
she'd cock her head and point in its direction.
"Choo choo!"
So we finally stood on line for our turn.
She was in awe of the clacking of the track and the view from above.
So much to see!  Such excitement!

She waved and waved to everyone she saw.
And on a sunny Saturday in a park, 
people gladly wave back!

Though her mother thought it unwise,
before the day was over 
Grandma handed her a bag of blue cotton candy.
Her delight was obvious as the spun sugar melted on her tongue!
What WAS this stuff???

But all things come to an end
and big balloons escape to the skies.
Little pigtailed girls grow weary from so many 
new, fun adventures.
When she could no longer hold her tired head up,
we packed up and headed home.

I'll bet her dreams were filled with train rides
and cotton candy.
I know mine were!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let's Talk about the Birds and the Bees

Kathleen and Josh have an amazing greenhouse this summer.
No matter the weather outdoors
(and much of it has been cold and rainy),
the atmosphere inside the greenhouse is warm, humid
and so earthy smelling.  Ahhhhhh!
I just want to get a chair and camp out in there!

One thing NOT in said greenhouse is a bumble bee.
Those useful creatures that buzz from flower to flower,
collecting pollen and, in turn, pollinating the plants.
I had never thought of it before, though I have been a gardener for...
 well, let's say many, many years!
But my gardens had always been outdoors 
with the wind, rain, birds and bees.

Inside, though, things were progressing differently.
We watched the plants grow tall
and green
and full of blossoms.
But, no little tomatoes were growing.
We were stumped!

We started asking successful Alaskan greenhouse gardeners and learned
that tomatoes are self pollinators.  But, to initiate this amazing skill,
the plants need to be shaken up, or blown, or rattled.
Josh put a fan inside and Kathleen and I began to give a vigorous shake
to each stem as we walked up and down the row.
And, what do your know?
It worked!!!

The cucumbers were another thing, however.
They are NOT self pollinators but need a dating service
to get results.

You see, it turns out there are "boy" flowers:

and cute little "girl" flowers with a tiny cucumber attached.
Sadly, that wee cuke will just die off with the flower unless
she is introduced to a nice looking boy blossom.

That's where I put come in!
I put on a yellow suit, strap on a pair or wings and begin buzzing around,
q-tip in hand.
"Buzzzzz-have I found a nice girl for you!"
"Buzzzzzzz-this boy is the neatest shade of yellow, my dear!"
"You'll be a perfect match! Buzz-buzz."

And, ta-da!
The pair got along famously, wouldn't you agree?

What was that?  This isn't exactly what you'd been expecting
to read on today's blog?
What on earth could you have been thinking?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

One Lump or Two?

Some things in our lives are just delicious.
Precious.           Memorable.
Not earth shattering or breathtaking.
Just deep-inside wonderful.

Such is a tea party with a wee girl.

Abigail got her first tea set the other day. 
An odd assortment of dishes and play food.
She was thrilled with all the parts and pieces.

Once I demonstrated what a tea party was all about,
she took to it like any little princess would!
She serves all of us with grace and style.
She even slurps from her cup loudly.
And baby Anna never complains that the tea is too hot or cold.
Would you like to  join us...
Sugar?  One lump or two?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's Go Play Outside

I just finished reading an article about the cognitive benefits of nature.
Specifically getting American children out in it.
According to research, our kids currently spend more than 4 hours a day interacting with technology.  Then more time viewing concrete and blacktop.
"Natural settings and untamed landscapes have a restorative effect, calming our frazzled nerves and refreshing the tired cortex.  After even a brief exposure to the outdoors, people are more creative, happier and better able to focus", states the research.  
"Brain reacts to natural settings by, essentially, sighing in relief."

I have always known that--experienced those sighs, even.
Trees.  Dirt.  Bugs. Critters.  Lack of climate control.

Living in Alaska for the summer allows me a lot of sighing time.
We are surrounded by untamed landscapes and, as anyone who has read
any of my previous blogposts knows, I thrive here.
And so will little Abigail.

But the data proves that even a small patch of nature can
 "confer cognitive benefits".  
In simpler terms, give your brain room to expand! 

Though we live on a tiny lot in a large development in central Texas,
we specifically chose a spot with a backyard that opens to a "greenbelt".
This stretch of Texas wildness invites coyotes, deer, owls, turkeys, 
foxes and assorted trees, grasses and wildflowers.

And this patch of "untamed landscape" becomes
a wondrous place when combined with two darling grandchildren

and masses of magical, colorful butterflies.

Countless silent lessons abound in nature.
One such lesson is that bugs don't live long on the palms of young girls,
even when surrounded by love.

The cycle of life is a tough lesson as this grave marker shows.
Gigi cried and told me, "Grandma, we need a rip sign."
(A "rip" sign???)
Aha!  We had been to an old cemetery just awhile ago.
 This paper headstone translates:
Baby Roly Poly  
And Gigi drew herself shedding copious tears.

The researchers say it's when you "have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works."

How lovely, it sounds like what it is: softly fascinating environment.

Want to concentrate better and cope with life's stresses?
Park the car.  Turn off the cell phone.
 Open your mind and soul to God's world around you today!
In other words, Go outside and play!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Heard It on the Radio

Something uniquely Alaskan is on the radio.
"Trading Post Trapline Chatter" is aired nightly.
I have laughed at this since the first summer I stayed up here.

The short program consists of messages from people out of communication range.
The term "off the grid" is popular these days, meaning people without electricity.
The folks using the radio to pass messages are off the grid and then some!

What amuses me most is not just the homey, loving messages 
but the person who reads them on the air does so with a halting, choppy style.
Rather reminds me of a first grader learning to read by sounding out words laboriously.
There is NO inflection either, each message is read in monotone.

Since the list of messages are read and then repeated verbatim,
I wrote some typical messages down to share with you:
(For the full effect, try to read each one aloud with a pause between each word
and with a dull, flat voice...)
"To. Martha.
I. Arrived. OK.  
A. Bear. Had. Been. In. The. Cabin. But. I. Got. It. Cleaned. Up."

"From fish camp on the Yukon.
Trail is slimy.  Had to put the chains on.
Smoking salmon all day."

"I send my love and will send a letter on the next boat
coming down the river.  I hope Grandma is feeling better."

"The sheep is doing fine.
Happy birthday to Joe.
Oh, and I found my phone."
(Not that he can even USE the phone where he is!!!
If he did, he wouldn't be using Trapline Chatter.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Missing My Soft, Warm Alarm Clock

Being far away from home all summer is exciting and I love all it holds for me.
But sometimes I get blue missing special people still in Texas.
One of these is the four-footed kind.  
My great dog Shoeless Joe.
I'm pretty sure he misses me, too, but then he IS a spaniel
and those sad, droopy eyes are part of his happy look, as well.

Tonight I'm thinking of a certain habit of his.
One that only occurs when I am home.
His "dad" never lets him on the bed and he never even tries.
He spends his night sleeping on his own bed next to ours.
Just like this:

 But every morning, between 5:30 and 6:00 AM,
he very silently gets up from his bed,
puts his nose near mine,
then slowly and quietly crawls up on the bed.
He settles in down at the very foot, lies on top of my feet, 
and rests his head on the comforter.
If I should wake, which often I don't, I hear a long, happy sigh.

The morning light changes from season to season and month to month,
but the time in the morning is always the same.
I don't know how he knows.
And he never disturbs me until I am ready to wake up.
Then he crawls up alongside of me and waits for his morning rubdown.
We both love that!

Since I am gone for so many months, he will remain all night
on his mat on the floor.
But the very first night I am back in Texas, he will slip
right back into this habit as if I'd never been gone.
My feet sometimes get cold in bed in Alaska.
I miss him.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fasten Your Seatbelt!

 WARNING:  This is not for the faint of heart!

Every time I leave the house to head to the big city
(Fairbanks, that is!),
I drive a stretch on a dirt road.
It happens to be downhill a fairly good grade
and I never have to have my foot on the gas.

As a matter of fact, I have to brake much of the way because
of the challenging course near the end of said road.
(note: When wet, dirt roads become slippery mud roads.)
Within 2 tenths of a mile there are warning signs
that rightly need obeyed.  Starts with this one:

Then this one comes up quickly.
Just ahead on the right is a steep drop-off into an abandoned
gravel pit.  The guard rail shows lots of bumps and bruises.

This sharp corner is at the bottom of the hill.
That gravel pit is just beyond the sign.
No problem hitting a guard rail here, at least.

This sign marks the very bottom of the hill.
Miss this one and you'll find yourself nose down in a deep pit.
Josh and Kathleen say that many cars end up here when the road
is a frozen sheet of ice--say, November till March...
They don't salt roads here as it is too cold
and you can't sand a dirt road too effectively.

Once you turn that sharp left, the road begins to straighten and flatten out.

 And just before the last curve, a right hand one this time,
this warning of a stop sign ahead stands pretty hidden in the bushes.
Can you find it?  Neither can I.

Warning signs are NOT suggestions.
Just a few days after I took these pictures to share on the blog,
I came home to discover the initial sign (going in the opposite direction)
warning drivers to SLOW DOWN had met with a conflicting opinion.

        And by the looks of it, I wonder how the other guy had fared!

Monday, July 2, 2012

If I Were a Rich Man--er, Woman!

The other day Abigail and I took a little history trip.
Not far from where she lives is the spot where gold was first
discovered here in Fairbanks.
Felix Pedrono, (mis)known as Felix Pedro around these parts,
was the lucky Italian who struck paydirt in 1902.

 When we read that the windfall came from the creek right
across the road, we just had to go see...
and there it was, just a humble little creek gurgling along.

But there was this sign posted that invited anyone to try their luck.
"Good panning and good luck!"

And looking downstream, we realized that's exactly what
some people were doing.

This fellow was dressed much the way Felix would have been,
except for the canvas chair, of course.  
He had his shovel, a pan and sifter.

So I asked Abigail what she thought.
Should we get ourselves a shovel and pie pan?
We could be rich!

Being the caring mother that she is 
(except for the fact that she likes her baby to go in the nude all the time),
she consulted Anna about the prospects of finding gold.
Both decided that a snack at home was more appealing so we left.

Driving the pretty trip back, we noticed piles of rock along the banks of that
little creek and knew that not just a handful of folks have tried to follow in
Felix's tracks.  

I wonder how many have walked away with a fortune?
As for me, I just may head back there a time or two this summer.
And I'll pack snacks for Abigail and Anna first.