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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weather Permitting

Several years ago, I found a bit of doggerel, attributed to Anonymous, entitled "Weather Permitting" and kept it because, although crude, it expresses a state of mind that is always with us in Alaska. Here is part of the first verse:
"Way up in Alaska wherever you are
If you're headed out close or you're headed out far
When you go to the airport, you may need your knitting
For you'll only be flying, weather permitting"

This past week when I was weathered in in Tyonek, I remembered this verse. I had left Anchorage's Merrill Field with Spernak Airways on a gray day with plenty of visibility. Spernak has a reputation for safety and has served Tyonek well for many years. (Note in the corner of their business sign in capital letters, it says: BEAR SPRAY IS NOT ALLOWED IN ANY PASSENGER AIRCRAFT. I had to wonder what led to that notice.)

So we left populous Anchorage behind and had an uneventful flight (the best kind) as we crossed Cook Inlet, where I could see ice forming. Eventually, we landed on the airstrip where someone from the school picked me up. 

I had a great time with the kids and their parents, but when it came time for me to return to Anchorage in order to fly back to Juneau, it was snowing in Tyonek and the ceiling was far too low for planes to fly. In winter, the light starts going by mid-afternoon, which meant I would be staying another night. So I helped the Student Council do a fundraiser and discovered that it is easy to go through a 25 lb. sack of flour when making the dough for 34 pizzas.

Here are our orders:

The next morning, it was beautiful in Tyonek, but the fog had settled over Merrill Field in Anchorage so that no planes flew from Merrill all day. As the poem says:
"There's no use in fuming or fussing or snitting
You always face this, it's weather permitting
So don't get disheartened in the far golden North
Just learn to relax without fretting or quitting"

Surprisingly enough, at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, just across town, the visibility steadily improved so that in late afternoon, I heard that Reeve Air had sent a charter. There was room for another passenger so I hopped on and flew back. 

I did make it back to Anchorage in time to catch the late plane to Juneau. 

And so here is the last verse:
"And when the grim reaper comes I can see it all clear
I'm alone in my shroud, Happy Heaven is near
I'm coming, St. Peter, this old world I'm quitting
And I'll be along soon,
Weather permitting."

Despite the funereal sentiments of this final verse, I like the message. I will get where I want to go eventually, but only with "weather permitting."

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