Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I don't know why OPJ is so much better. Although I bought Rosehip Rhubarb Jam from the Montessori students and Salmonberry Jam from the Audubon Society, what I was really craving was the jam that my longtime neighbors make. Not only are all of their preserves heavenly, but they are generous with the fruits of their labor too. Every Christmas I look forward to my Christmas jam.
And when Christmas Eve finally arrived and I held the precious jar in my hands, I was happy. This year, it's a luscious mixture of healthy blueberry, hard-to-pick nagoonberry, and delicate thimbleberry. I won't open it right away. There's a lot of love in each jar: hours of picking, sorting, cleaning, cooking, and canning. That must be the little extra "something." Thank you, dear neighbors!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
|Kotzebue in October: The Chukchi Sea is on the left|
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Almost everyone has at least one story of a hike or fishing expedition or camping trip that, due to lack of preparedness, almost ends in disaster. I think it does make us more respectful of the elements. Hubris leads to risk taking, and in a place where the weather can change in an instant, risk taking can have tragic consequences. I have a hard time leaving the house without a jacket even when it is sunny. I wear ice grippers in the winter. I listen to the flight attendant describe emergency exits as if I have never heard it before. I don't take much for granted. Does it mean Alaskans don't make stupid mistakes? No. What it does mean is that we pause long enough to remember the time we came to grief because of not being prepared - and then we take precautions. Today, I paused, remembered, and still didn't wear my rubber boots. Should have, I guess...
Friday, October 1, 2010
|The Octopus, Paul Allen's yacht, in downtown Juneau recently.|
Sunday, September 26, 2010
|Point Bridget Trail: Photo by Matt Klostermann|
Although I wouldn't put berry picking into the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV), there is an addictive quality about it. Last weekend, I went hiking with a friend on the Point Bridget Trail, one that is stunningly beautiful most times of the year.
I had stuffed a small Ziplock in my backpack just in case there were a few late blueberries still on the trail. That's like a gambler bringing 10 bucks to the casino just in case there is a blackjack table going. At first we strolled along, oblivious to berry possibilities, warming our faces in the sun, until we saw a woman with a gallon sized Ziplock, slipping from bush to bush like a wraith. Her bag was chock full of high bush cranberries. Once she identified them for us, we saw them everywhere.
|High Bush Cranberries on Point Bridget Trail|
It was harmless at first: a few berries here, another few there. They were so seductive. Each patch yielded more than we expected at first. It was like hitting the jackpot. The more we picked, the more we saw. Soon we were plunging into the thickets of cranberries and the Devil's Club with their prickly stalks that seemed to grow near them. My arms got scratched up, but I hardly felt it. The little Ziplock was filling up... and still there were more berries. Time slipped by as we stopped again and again on our way to the beach at the end of the trail. We felt a little desperate. There were so many berries and around each corner, another luscious patch, smelling so spicy and earthy.
|Point Bridget Trail|
At home, when we poured them out to clean, we couldn't believe how many we actually had. Now those berries are in the freezer. We are considering what to make with them: Cranberry Catsup, Cranberry Jelly, or Cranberry Chutney. We don't have enough to make all three. I know another place that is pretty close by that has high bush cranberries. I find that my thoughts keep turning to that place. I'll bet there are plenty there. It wouldn't take long to pick them...
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Although there is some Texas there, the Kenai is its own place, another kind of Alaska where enough people need the kind of service that this sign advertises. I'll bet you wouldn't see this in Texas.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
In Alaska, at least, First Class for a governor looks too hoity toity. Political winds depend on symbols. And First Class is a powerful symbol. As is Coach. Maybe it has something to do with "so the last will be first, and the first last."
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Nature has its own early warning systems. One of the best ones in Southeast Alaska (as well as other parts of Alaska) is bear scat. It warns you when bears are in the area and when it would be a good idea not to take the trail you had been planning to take. I have no idea why it is called scat. At this time of year, late summer, it is certainly scattered all over. But I doubt that that is why it is called bear scat.
Some people can "read" scat: how old it is, how large the animal is, and what the bear has been eating. The last part is easy. As you can see from this photo, taken a few days ago near Haines, this bear had been eating seeds and weeds. How do enormous brown bears weighing more, sometimes much more, than 400 lbs. survive on plants? Although the salmon have started to spawn, this bear hasn't gotten lucky yet. I usually feel sorry for them when I see that they aren't eating salmon. That also serves as a warning. A bear who isn't eating salmon is probably hungry and then they resort to unconventional food. This sometimes happens toward the end of the season when they are heading into hibernation. One summer, a bear ate my foam bicycle seat, and I couldn't ride it anymore. That same bear got into a neighbor's car and ate a huge amount of foam from the back cushion of the backseat. That kind of hunger left people feeling a little nervous and more cautious than usual.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It didn't really surprise me that the JetBlue flight attendant finally cracked after an altercation with a female passenger who cursed him, leading to his deplaning by the emergency exit slide. I think flight attendants are the canaries in the coal mine of air travel. Standing alone at the front of the airplane, they are perfect targets for the anger and fear of their passengers and have to bear the brunt of it since no one can get at the pilot and copilot who are locked in the cockpit. Since 9-11, so many things have made travel uncomfortable and, in some cases, so unpleasant that it is a wonder that no one has cracked before now. Add to that the general decline in civility and respect for other people and you have a pretty nasty brew of fear, anger, and incivility in an enclosed space with draconian rules on movement in the cabin. (I remember when it was not mandatory to wear seat belts on air planes.)
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I think of Skagway as Alaska's Disneyland because of its carefully designed turn-of-the-century look and feel. However, unlike Disneyland, there is a real history there that can be accessed just by noticing the old buildings like this one that belonged to "Soapy" Smith, the main villain of Skagway. The history that is preserved there by the residents and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park Service is the story of the few short years when Skagway was the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada. Then, greed and lust and violence were the norm for thousands as they landed in Skagway. Dance hall girls, confidence men, gamblers, and criminals of all kinds competed to separate the would be miners from their money before they headed for the gold fields on narrow trails carrying a ton of supplies. But not long after that short burst of what can happen when people are blinded, Skagway became a town of gardens and schools and churches and snug houses. And it still is. The light overcame the darkness in a few years. And that really gives me hope for the world.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
A visit from a bear is both wondrous and annoying. One came by early this morning and got into our "bear-proof" garbage shed, pulled out two containers full of garbage in white kitchen bags, picked one out and dragged it away. Bears like to eat in what they consider a quiet little bistro, a place with lots of brush and shrubs where they can't be seen. Today is the day that garbage is picked up and the bears know it.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The light fools everybody in the summer. At 10:30 last night, I could have read a book by the window. In places south of Alaska, light and darkness are more predictable, and don’t change as much and in summer, light has to be artificially adjusted with Daylight Savings Time. Not here. The speed of light increasing (and then decreasing) is breathtaking. I think it also messes with our heads and our bodies in all kinds of ways. Even people who have lived in Alaska for a long time have trouble sleeping when the light seeps in at 3 or 4 in the morning. That is usually when I put on my eye mask even though we have good shades AND a dark curtain around our bed alcove. Amazingly, the light in the very early morning doesn’t bother some people, but for most of us, it definitely has a wakey wakey affect.
We have no idea how these rapid shifts in light really affect us. Our bodies have to make adjustments every day as the light decreases or increases. It is NEVER THE SAME. I met somebody today who said he was pissed off all of the time as it got lighter and lighter and then had one of those forehead slapping moments – that what he was experiencing was sleep deprivation – because when you don’t get enough sleep, you do get pissed off. And if you don’t shield yourself from light, you won’t get enough sleep in the summer in Alaska. It doesn’t help that the light gives you energy and you think you don’t need as much sleep as usual. You do. You just think you don’t. And you think you don’t because your judgment is compromised by the, dare I say it, overabundance of light.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Whenever I walk into my house or anyone else's, I kick off my shoes. It's a habit, a conditioned response. It happens in many parts of Alaska. No one wants to track in mud or snow or sand. Some people keep extra slippers for their guests and some, like me, bring their own slippers to wear. We are all so accustomed to taking off our shoes that it just doesn't seem right to wear shoes in anyone's home. This is what it looks like when we have a party.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Today is Monday, June 21, the summer solstice and a very good time to start a blog. In Juneau, we will get about 18 hours and 18 minutes of light today. We will all feel tremendously alive because, really, that is what light does to us and all living things. In fact, we have been feeling pretty vital for a least a month and maybe even since March 21, the day of the equinox, when light began to overcome the dark. In terms of time, that is.
These plants and so many others crowd the trails and sidewalks and each other in their frenzy to reproduce. I was surprised to find out that flowers are simply the reproductive part of the plant that produces seeds. So I guess you could say that plant sex surrounds us at the the zenith of summer. But plant sex is only a part of the life force. When we are bathed in light for so much of the day, I can feel the life force humming through me, I can hear it in bird song, and I can see it in the pollen and the seeds that fly through the air. It is a force so big and so strong that it makes me want to live a bigger and stronger life. Maybe that's why I know so many people in Alaska who are living such interesting lives. It explains a lot.