Tag Archives: death

Some levity

Tundra Life:

Comic credit: Chad Carpenter’s Tundra

Ali quote

Death in the Backyard

Moose 1
A moose as seen from the deck this past November

I received an email from a concerned party today that carried the title: “7 Things in Your Backyard that could Kill You”. I was touched by the concern, so I opened the email out of curiosity to find out just what was lurking in my backyard.

1) Pesticide-Infused Grass: Not really a concern.
I don’t have any grass. No lawn. No lawn mower. It’s pretty much just wild tundra out there, and it does what it does.

2)Dog poo: There is poo scattered all about. I currently do not have a dog, but the neighbor does, and the dogs are often over at my place, because I’m so damn friendly. The pack has been thinned out over the past winter, however, and the neighbor’s dogs now number two. When it was at the high end of five, I even found dog poop on my roof. True story.

3)Ticks & Lyme disease: Not a problem.
I don’t believe I have ever had a tick on me in Alaska, and I’m outdoors all the time. When I did have a dog, even he did not have to worry about lyme disease.

4)Bees: I can already tell this will be a Bee Year. The yellow jackets have been out in force.

5)Backyard Burning: Nice catch!
With as dry as it has been, backyard burning is a huge risk. I refused to let my neighbor burn two weeks ago, luckily the Borough backed me up with an emergency burn ban. Some idiot will no doubt start a wild fire, with the upcoming Memorial Weekend being a good time frame. As of two weeks ago, there had been 124 fires in Alaska this year, with 122 of them started by man.

6)The swimming pool, especially the hot tub:
This one actually gave me a case of the giggles. I do have a pond in the back yard though, complete with resident leeches. If anything, this is more of a danger in the winter, when we are out on the ice lighting the methane pockets with a propane torch.

7)Tanning: I’m not sure we really have to worry about this one a whole helluva lot either. With all the bug dope on, can the sun’s rays reach flesh?

I was disappointed that the list was so obviously incomplete. Where is the grizzly bear on this list? What about moose? I’ve had moose hanging around the cabin since breakup; one seems to walk right past my shop every morning. Once mamma moose drops her calf or calves, you can count on her being ornery more often than not. I’m not even getting into the fact that there is moose poop everywhere. The horror!

Is there actually a world out there where the greatest health threat is dog poo? Although, I admit, it really torques me when I find it on my roof. I am thankful that I’ve never found moose poop up there, however.

Fairbanks griz
Grizzly seen on Murphy Dome Road


“A drowsy, half-wakeful menace waits for us in the quietness of this world.  I have felt it near me while kneeling in the snow, minding a trap on a ridge many miles from home.  There, in the cold that gripped my face, in the low, blue light failing around me, and the short day ending, in those familiar and friendly shadows, I was suddenly aware of something that did not care if I lived.  Or, as it may be, running the river ice in midwinter: under the sled runners a sudden cracking and buckling that scared the dogs and sent my heart racing.  How swiftly the solid bottom of one’s life can go.”

–John Haines “Lost”

There have been times, out in the back country, when I have felt the presence of that ‘drowsy, half-wakeful menace’.  An apathy towards my survival.  I’ve always made it back out to what we call civilization.  Maybe it was luck,  maybe it was planning, possibly a combination of both.  There is an addiction to living that close to the edge.  To hiking in grizzly country, to stumbling onto a moose shadow in the moonless night, to trekking out to the hot springs in sharp, minus forty air.  I loved the life off the grid, at the end of the trail, with no neighbors, no street lights, and no net.

I have a friend who has, in his words, “played it safe”.  He didn’t travel far, did the 8-5/M-F, married, had kids, he probably even went to church every Sunday.  He is now losing a battle with cancer, and will be lucky to see Thanksgiving.  We talked the other night, when he confessed that he never understood me until he got sick.  Now, at the end, he said, “I get you for the first time.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, even though I have eerily heard those words before.  I couldn’t even pretend surprise by his admission, because I’ve known I’ve been a conundrum for him for years.  It never bothered me, because, quite honestly, I didn’t care that he was bothered by my little world at the end of the glacier.

We all have our paths to tread.

I’ve been re-reading Haines’ “The Stars, The Snow, The Fire” and I can’t stop thinking about my friend, and how he never thought the bottom could ever fall out.