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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Revisit Quirky, Shall We?

Living in a beach town is really cool, even if short-lived.
Besides the sheer joy of walking to the sand and waves,
there are other quirky features one doesn't find anywhere else.

How many towns let people drive down the middle of the street in golf carts?
No restrictions, no requirements of helmets or turn signals--
just putt putt along with all the cars.

And since so many of the people are on vacation,
the golf carts are packed with people of all ages and sizes,
often including beach pails, inner tubes, boogey boards.

Usually there is laughter heard from the carts, as well.
Ah, the pleasure of a beach vacation!

Most of the stores sell the same t-shirts, bathing suits,
shells, sunglasses and surf boards.
To stand out, several decorate their doors with creativity--
like the gaping, toothy mouth of a great shark
emerging from waves...

or a second story vanagan...
(Are they still called that name from the 60's?)

or a sign listing some of the things inside 
(that are identical to things for sale in the store across the street and around the corner).
But a little misspelling draws my editor's eye.
If the "suite" is in a hotel near a pool, 
that's a great price!  
Is it $9.99 or $9,999999999?
(The comma can be a bit confusing.)

And just where else must you take a ferry as part of the state road system just to go in and out of the town?
Yes, I love Port Aransas!
More quirky things to come in the next blog.
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


My sister nailed the word as I tried to explain my feelings.
It's the same word used for astronauts when identifying the critical time 
of returning to earth's atmosphere after time in outer space.
My transition was from a life and identity in Alaska to
another completely different one in Texas.
The mountain of mail,
phone calls,
were overwhelming me, suffocating me, burying me.

I wanted to run away from it all.
So I did.
 The generosity and kindness of my son and daughter-in-law
opened their beach house at Port Aransas to me.
I sense a change as soon as I board the ferry and
follow the dolphins and pelicans to Mustang Island.

Each day I spend hours at the Gulf or the channel.
Walking, biking, or just sitting in the breeze.
There isn't a therapy more effective for relaxation than listening
to the rhythm of the waves or the soft clatter of palm fronds blowing.

This is a time of deep breathing,
suspended between my other two lives.
Reflection. Resting. Reevaluating.
Sand between my toes. Salt on my skin.
A brief but necessary pause.
Passing the hours on "Island Time".
Making sure my reentry is a safe one.

Sign posted in the local coffee shop down the street:

Learning to relax.
Letting troubles roll like the waves in front of me.
Over and away.  Over and away. Over and away.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Island Style.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time to Move On

The baby is growing well, Mama getting some sleep,
Snow in the forecast...
Time to head south.

Hard to leave this dear little family, but this life is theirs, not mine.
So, a bit heavy-hearted, I pack up all my stuff
(well, not ALL the stuff.  I leave the warm clothes and fleece pj's
here in Fairbanks, just in case...).
Midnight flight means spending several hours in the Anchorage airport.
It's a quiet place and I find a bench to lie on.
It's near the whale exhibit so I rest to the eerie echoes of underwater
whales swirling around me.

The 5 am flight arrives in Seattle in the daylight
I wander around the terminal, stretching my stiff muscles,
and notice the fun way they are painting planes these days.
The one in the background is the standard Eskimo man.
The foreground plane has a musher on its tail but he has a moose
instead of a sled dog and it reads, "We're all pulling together." 

This one is bound for you-know-where!

And flying to Hawaii from Alaska is not all that far of a trip.
It's the number one vacation spot for most Alaskans.
These planes dress up the old Eskimo with a bright flowered lei.
He looks happy as he plans for the warm beaches and sunshine.
Sorry for the poor quality of these pictures, the big terminal windows
are not very clean and clear. 
But you can get the idea.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Key Word is Quirky

"Quirk"-origin unknown, date 1565,
Meaning:  an abrupt twist or curve;
a peculiar trait: idiosyncrasy.

The older I get, 
the more I like quirky people, things and places.
And, besides that (or because of that),
I've always liked cemeteries.
How exciting to find both right in Fairbanks,
on a green hill overlooking the city: a quirky cemetery.

(That I don't want one, mainly.)
We drove around the path and came upon this corner
 with totally handmade markers.  
Wooden boards with hand carved lettering.
I'd never seen anything like it!
(And I've been in lots of cemeteries, I tell you.)

All fairly recent burials, there were many tokens of love
spread around the plots.  It was easy to see the personalities of the interred.  
A nice touch, really.
Sports, nature, flying.

Abigail was thrilled at the little ceramic angels and cherubs.
She called them "babies" and carried them around.
Out of respect, we tried very hard to replace them in the correct plots.
Stuffed animals tempted her, as well, but we urged her to leave them alone.
The same with colorful pinwheels and flags.

This marker looks like a propeller and reads 
"She flew away."
Notice Abigail's little collection of pinwheels here.
Her poor mother backtracked and replaced each one.

I thought that same flying sentiment was also appropriate for this rusty birdcage.
No name, but the door is propped open, symbolic of the freedom of that soul.

Wandering around a cemetery, I lose myself in recreating lives for those buried there,
 based on names, ages, dates.
Fairbanks, much like Texas, has a young history.
There is a section for "Pioneers", the original settlers, in the late 1800's.

Nathaniel Ralph Hudson, born in Vermont,
made it to Fairbanks at some time in his life. 
I pondered the road conditions, or lack thereof.
The Al-Can Highway didn't come into existence until WW II.
Did he even have a car?  
Could a horse and wagon have made it?
He may have ridden west across Canada since he lived near the northern border.
Perhaps on a train.
I know for a fact that roads in Northwest British Columbia and Yukon Territories were treacherous in 2010.  
What did Nathaniel find in, say, 1890?
Did he come searching for gold? Adventure? Love?
He found love somewhere here because he is called "Beloved".
A lovely word to be remembered by.

 And then there is old Sigvar.
Sometime between 1892 and 1944 he left Norway for Fairbanks.
Was he homesick or fulfilled?
Did he speak English?
Did he come alone or with parents? A wife?
Did he build a log cabin like many early settlers did?
Did he ice fish like he had done in Norway?

Reflective places, these cemeteries.
And homemade headstones, soccer balls, toys and old shoes make this one quirky.
Rather like me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

4-Wheeled Camels

Turn on the faucet and think no more about it.  Right?
Not so in many places.
Fairbanks has a number of "dry cabins" with no plumbing.
Basically, it is because they have been built on permafrost areas and 
one cannot bury lines and tanks into that kind of foundation.
For one, the warmth of the tank contents would melt the ground 
and the house would collapse and sink.
That would not be a good thing.

Then there are very lovely homes that have chosen not to drill a well.
Living in the hills often means a water source is very, very deep 
and drilling a well could be cost prohibitive.
And arsenic can contaminate the water source from the gold in those same hills.
And the water line from well to house could freeze solid in the bitter winters.
Lots of reasonable points for not having a well.
There are companies that go around and deliver water to homes.

Or, to provide a family with water,
a good number of Fairbanksans choose to haul their own water.
They carry large tanks in the trucks like this:

You see them everywhere.
Sometimes the water is sloshing out onto the road as they drive.
Once home, they empty the tank into a storage tank at the house.
All the plumbing works just fine from this basement tank.

These tanks are permanently placed in the trucks.
Reminded me of camels on wheels.

This pleasant fellow was in the parking lot of the post office.
I asked if I could take a picture of his water tank.
He tried to explain to me just WHY he carried this tank with him,
that it wasn't all that creative or novel, he'd chosen not to drill a well...
I listened politely and returned his smile.
But, honestly, to a woman who has always lived with a
dependable water source, this hauling stills fascinates me.
(And, I'll admit, tires me.)
No matter where we choose to put down roots,
some things are great and some...not so.
Just one more interesting thing we learn as we travel around
this globe.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Making a Statement

Public statements people post or wear amuse me.
I remember when bumper stickers began. Stopping at red lights
became fun by reading what the car ahead had plastered on its back. 
Then car owners unhappily learned that removing said stickers was not simple 
and it also took off the paint underneath.

Fairbanks seemed to have more than its share of "vanity plates"
and I kept the camera at the ready most days.
I missed some clever plates, of course, but caught a few.
I'll put them here for you to smile at:

This owner has a hard time with the bitter winter temperatures,
wouldn't you agree?

A "by your leave" as the driver peels out fast away, leaving me in the dust.

Wonder what is so amazing...
I can think of so many things!

Especially cute on this tiny Honda Fit car at the library.

Another one paying homage to the long winters.

I'll bet this car belongs to a chef or cook or food aficionado.

Caught this one while stopped at a light.
I suspect this pretty car was a token of someone's adoration.

And just the opposite sentiment is reflected here.
Saw this in the employee parking lot at the hospital when I was
leaving work one evening.  I was puzzling out the meaning and
didn't realize the car belonged to a coworker.
She laughed with me when I figured it out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Living the Simple Life

We spent the hours of a recent day in
a perfectly perfect way.
No trips in the car, no schedules to keep.
A day filled with simple things:

Wandering around the yard,
soaking up sunshine and fringes of fading warmth.

Watching the shadows as colorful diapers
danced on the clothesline.

Living in the moment.
A toddler is life's best teacher of this.

Discovering how autumn leaves crunch.
No rushing.

Breathing slowly and deeply.
Counting the petals on a daisy.

Then gathering those same daisies and their 
sunshine inside.

In much the same way I will gather the pieces
of this lovely, simple day and store them in my treasure chest of memories.
Then, when the chilling winds of winter or the many
miles of separation come, we may close our eyes
and inhale the fragrance of autumn and white petals
and be filled with simple joy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

4 AM Musings

I was awakened at 4 AM.

Kathleen had been awake, feeding and rocking baby Ethan in the quiet house.
Before tucking him back in for more sleep for both,
she had gazed outside.
What she saw compelled her to invite me to join them.

It was the stars!
A myriad of them, meaning one simply could NOT begin to count!
In the blackest of skies, the mass of white specks cried out
in their sharpness!
Some seemed close enough to reach if I could extend my arms just a bit more.

During her growing up years, it was Kathleen who shared my love of stars.
We shared many nighttime hours outside, at times shivering in the cold,
trying to recognize constellations.
I talked about my desire to someday take an astronomy course.

It was she who studied the stars and skies in college,
learning the skill of running the school planetarium
and teaching local school children about the stars.

Back to 4 AM...
she could not linger this sparkling night, but kindly wrapped me
in a large, soft blanket as I stood on the deck.
We spoke in hushed tones of the wonder of the skies
then she returned to her bed by the cradle.

I gazed upward for a long while, noting the different locations
of the familiar stars since we were at a much farther north
latitude than Texas.  I thought of how much more splendid the
star show was without any trace of light pollution.

Just then a fairly large noise came up from the ground below.
A heavy walking step, rustling the dried leaves.
A man? Animal?  
My pulse sped up.
The sound moved closer to the house.
The dark, moonless night was so black that,
strain as I would, I was unable to discern even an outline of an object.
I followed its direction with my ears.
As the keenness of my hearing sharpened, I identified two large
beings stomping quite loudly amongst the forest floor.

Moose!  Of course!
The narrow, worn path that meandered around the house and up the hill 
was an age-old moose trail.
I had known that easily in the light of day.
Here moved 2 large moose, perhaps the mother and yearling
or two brothers that we often saw in mornings.
How could they see where they were going?
It was so very, very dark.
 I leaned forward in an effort to make out
something in the woods.  But, I could see not a thing.
It was as if I were totally blind.
I listened as their steps paused and continued until the crunching and swishing
faded into the night.

Then I turned my face upward and my blinded eyes grew sighted!
Above, the stars still glowed, sparkled, and flickered. 

I pulled the quilt tighter around me and mused at time.
Those same stars began that glow thousands and millions of years ago
and I was just now glorying in that same exact light.
It had been traveling, no hurtling, through space all this time.
That precise star may very well have exploded millenia ago
and no longer even existed yet I was marveling at its glimmer.

And so with the moose.
Long before houses and roads blocked the path, the ancient
ancestors of those invisible (to me, at least!) moose tramped through
the woods in the same way.  Oh, the trail has been modified a bit by
settlers like Josh and Kathleen who envisioned a house in that place.
But the moose still wear down the narrow path, winding around the
man-made structures and yet following the same general trail
that their parents and grandparents and, well, you know.

Almost older than time, these moose and stars.
And upstairs, warm and swaddled, contentedly sleeping with a full belly,
the  youngest of all slept by his parents.
And I stood there, chilled despite the quilt, musing.
Not nearly the age of the stars, but far older than my wee
 grandson, I felt somehow in the center of the continuum of time.
I will not be leaving a worn path through the woods
not a beam of faint light to pierce the darkness,
but I will leave some sort of legacy behind.
A heavy thought.
What will I leave behind when I am done spending time on this earth?

Hopefully my love will reach beyond me (albeit imperfect):

love for my God, my family, friends and the beautiful things that
God Himself created to wonder at, like nighttime stars and silent animals.

What will you leave?