Tag Archives: writing

Mailbag Q&A

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Over the weekend, I was asked if I had been affected much by actions for the Coronavirus. 

Up until now, I’ve been affected only mildly.  I imagine that will change shortly.

I’ve had a project going lately, which has taken me out to a few remote Alaska villages.  I’ve basically been doing the two week on, two week off schedule, and the virus really hit the fan when I was out in the Naknek region.  I finished my assignment, came back to Fairbanks, and will not be going out again.  The project has been put on hiatus, although I suspect it has really been cancelled, at least for the foreseeable future.

I had a construction project already lined up for my return.  Materials were on site, the building empty, so I worked on that all week, and will finish probably today or tomorrow.  Like most people I know who work construction up here, I have no work projects currently on the horizon.

Normally, this is the time of year when I escape and go Outside, thus avoiding the Interior Alaska Breakup Season.  A group of us attend the Frozen Four hockey championships that take place every April, but this year they have been canceled.  When in the Lower 48, I would check in on my Dad, as well as other family & friends about now, but traveling anywhere is beyond a bad idea, so I’m staying in Alaska.  From up here, airplanes & airports seem like giant petri dishes, but to be honest, my greatest unease with travel right now is the thought that if I leave Alaska, I won’t be able to come back!  That’s enough to give any cabin-dweller the shivers.

The shelves at the local grocery stores & Costco are looking pretty sparse, but I’m well-stocked anyway.  It’s kind of an Alaskan thing, I suppose.  When you live at the end of the road, having enough food to get you through a patch of bad weather, or a closing of the Alaska Highway, or a barge losing its load coming up from Seattle, is just something we do.  Especially in the winter months.  I have a freezer stocked with salmon, rock fish, halibut and other Alaska morsels, so I’m good to go there.  I am a bit low on blueberries, but that’s par for the course this time of year.

A friend wanted me to stop by the other day on my way home from work.  I declined the invite, saying I should probably partake in some social distancing.  I was informed that this was hardly new for me, and the virus was just a convenient excuse.  I had to chuckle, because if left to my own devices, I can be a notorious hermit.  I have no problem retreating into my little world at the end of the road, and turning off the phone and computer.  In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, someone threatened to call out the dog sled teams to hunt for me, when I went off grid for barely a week.

I have books to read, letters to write, and LP’s to spin – inside; trails to walk, lakes to circle on snowshoes, and moose to try to capture on film – outside.

We can’t control the virus; all we can do is try our best not to catch it.  I hope, and fully expect, to see all of you on the other side of this.

I was reminded of an Inuit saying when revisiting the documentary “Noatak: Return to the Arctic”.

“I think over again
My small adventures
My fears
Those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach
And yet there is only one great thing
To live and see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.”

Best wishes from Alaska.


Frost goes Public

Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” entered the public domain on New Year’s Day. Frost wrote the words in 1922, taking only 20 minutes to pen the well known verse.

As we remain in the realm of the subzero in the Far North, I figured the work would be worth visiting, or revisiting, as the case may be.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

“Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

— Robert Frost


Robert Frost


She stood in the doorway with lust in her eyes

For Parker

A Flashback Friday Edition:

   I was almost finished with the morning chores.  All of the animals had been watered and fed.  I went back to the chicken coop to retrieve the morning eggs.  I was at the far end of the coop, with several eggs in hand, when there was a loud “BANG” and the door swung open.
    There in the doorway stood my four month old Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  Her eyes gleamed with lust; she had just won the Canine Lottery.  I yelled for her to stay, which she did for a brief moment in time.  In the end, the clucking of the oddly colored, and slow moving grouse-like creatures was too much for her.
    Everyone remained completely still for that split nanosecond, then hell broke loose in the form of a brown, curly-haired blur of fur.  Birds were everywhere.  I dropped the eggs and tried to make my way past the wall of feathers.  It seemed that the birds realized that I was suddenly the lesser of the two evils in the room, and they rushed towards me.  I felt like I was in a twisted Hitchcock film.  My dog raced about in utter joy, flushing birds to the left, and to the right … just like I had taught her.  It was feathery pandemonium, and it was ugly.
    A hen made it to the door and to freedom.  It was the prize layer of the flock; the Mother of many breakfasts.  The dog followed her out, and was on her tail
feathers immediately.
    I rushed out and saw my dog do me a huge favor, which at this point, I thought she certainly owed me.  She chased the runaway chicken into her fenced area, and the bird promptly ran into the doghouse.  Then my dog sat down and looked up at me with a look that asked, “Did I do good, Dad?”.  I have never been so angry, and so proud of something all at the same time, as I was of her.  I made a mental note, that having chickens on The Ridge may not be a good idea.
    I reached into the doghouse and brought out the traumatized hen and returned her to the coop.  After locking up the dog, I returned to get the eggs.  The female turkey came over and laid down.  I stroked her back and apologized for the rude intrusion.  She seemed to understand, maybe I will get an egg from her tomorrow.  The chickens, on the other hand, gave me looks of pure evil.  They wanted me to pay; you could see it in their eyes.  Those hate filled eyes.
    Collecting eggs will never be the same.  For any of us.


Tracks

Twenty-five degrees one day. Thirty degrees yesterday. Thirty-five
degrees today. It is hot. I am dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and still I
am warm, as I travel in and out of the cabin working on projects. I let the
fire go out sometime in the night. Craziness.

The heat has me restless. It isn’t a good day for chores. I throw some
things into the pack, sling it over my shoulder, and race for the trail.

I have been walking thirty minutes when I hear a snowmachine off in
the distance. It is coming in my direction. A moose has crossed the trail in
the past few days, so I leave the trail and follow the moose tracks into the
trees. A few moments later the machine passes where I had been
standing. I am too deep in the forest to see it, but the stench of the
exhaust sneaks up on me; it floats across the land like a fog. I travel
deeper.

I follow the tracks in the soft snow until they lead me to a major moose
trail. A moose highway. There is no scent of exhaust. The route is heavily
traveled. Hooves have pounded their way through the moss down into the
soil, leaving a long, thin trough in the earth. The moss on either side of me
is above my calves. My boots start to follow hooves. This moose trail is
almost perfectly straight; it cuts diagonally across the valley wall to the
floor below. I have a route like this below my cabin, but this one is new to
me.

A raven flies up from behind me; I turn, but can hear the wingbeats
long before I can see the bird. I can feel the wingbeats as the bird flies
closer. The pulse flows through me with every downward thrust of the
wings. When the raven flies overhead, the sound is like I can hear the air as it
passes by each individual feather. Above me, the raven croaks its
acknowledgment. They are polite, if mischievous birds.

I continue to follow the hooves.

Down at the valley floor, the moose highway spreads out into a delta of
tracks. Thousands of prints now head helter-skelter towards the willows. I
spot a set of huge moose tracks, and follow them into the thickets.

In the willows I hear the sound of running water. The creek is flowing.
I move towards the sound, and soon find myself in slush. Overflow. I am
surrounded by overflow. I retrace my steps over what proves to be a
peninsula of dry land. Much of the valley is flooded, so I loop around and
venture downstream to investigate.

With the overflow behind me, I travel back into the willows. I am
drawn to a set of tracks that parallel my own route. Something about
them seems out of place. Upon reaching the tracks, I hover over them in
surprise and awe. They are bear tracks. They are grizzly tracks. I kneel
down to get a close-up view, and run my fingertips over the rough form in
the snow.

An awake grizzly.

I count back, and figure that this bear has been out and about
sometime in the past five days, which was the last time we had a snowfall.
“Why are you awake?” I ask the tracks. There is a particularly good print
that catches my eye. The pad imprints are crystal clear, and my heart
pounds at the gap in the snow between them and the marks of the claws.
The gap is rather large.

I venture off and stop following any tracks; I am content now to simply
leave my own in the unmarked snow.


-7 Walks

I spent the day chasing material ghosts, as I attempted to work up a bid for a job I want. No matter how I approached the job, the materials simply were not in town. Two weeks was the mantra I heard from every supplier. It’ll be two weeks.

I gave up around 3pm, laced up my mukluks, and went outside to bring in firewood. The thermometer read -7F.

After the wood bin was full, I went on my afternoon walk. Already, I can see the gain in daylight since the solstice.

A moose had been by since the day before, it’s tracks under the willows plain to see. A musher came up from behind almost in silence. Two of her three dogs gave my gloved hand a light nip as they ran by. The musher apologized as she sped by me. I took the nibbles to mean the dogs were enjoying being out today as much as I was, but she was already out of range by the time my chilled lips spit out the words: “No worries”.

Dusk was settling in as I returned to the cabin, and the thermometer now read -13F. My eyelashes had iced up a bit, but other than that, life was good. Perfection lies somewhere between zero and minus twenty when you live in a winter wonderland such as this.


#Artober24

I received a special request recently to make a positive post, using art in some form, under the hashtag artober24. Art isn’t exactly what I do on this site, and I’m traveling at the moment, so I don’t have access to much, but I agreed to make an attempt. I’m not much for social media, so C to C will have to do.

The aurora flowed like a great river;
An inverted Yukon meandering across the sky.
Time lapsed. Banks eroded. The brilliant green
river changed its course.
Then drought hit, and the powerful flow was reduced
to a faint puddle, a dim shimmer.
The sky was quiet.

With an explosion, the aurora returned as a wall of
thunderheads.
Imposing. Inspiring. Pulsing.
The lower layer of the wall of light was magenta.
The aurora’s lightning.
Thin lines of green light dropped down from
the glowing storm.
Like sheets of rain falling on the distant hills.


Zen and Life


Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968

Robert Pirsig, the author of the mid-1970’s cultural phenom “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, has passed away at his home in Maine.

Part road trip novel, the book is based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took with his son, Christopher in 1968. The two Pirsigs rode from their home in Minnesota to the Pacific Coast over the course of 17 days.

Pirsig often said that 121 publishing houses passed on “Zen” until William Morrow agreed to publish it. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” would sell over 50,000 copies in the first month of publication, and over 1 million the first year.

Robert Pirsig was 88.


Going solo

One's Company - cover

“… the ideal companion is rare, and in default of him it is better to make a long journey alone. One’s company in a strange world.”
— Peter Fleming, “One’s Company”

“Even if I should, by some awful chance, find a hair upon my bread and honey – at any rate it is my own hair.”
— Katherine Mansfield, from her “Journal”.


Ernest Gann

Ernest Gann

A happy birthday to the famed aviator and author, Ernest Gann. Gann was born in Lincoln, NE on this date in 1910. He learned to fly in the early 1930’s and by the end of that decade was flying DC-2’s for American Airlines. In 1942, like many American pilots, Gann was absorbed into the Air Transport Command to assist in the war effort.

DC-2
The Douglas DC-2

Gann would turn his adventures of flying into a second career as an author. He wrote over 26 novels, of which 21 would become best sellers. He also wrote the screenplays, adapting 11 of his novels for both film and television. When I first moved to Alaska, I came across my favorite of Gann’s books: Fate is the Hunter, and I gobbled up any of his books that I could find. Some of his other literary works include: Island in the Sky, The High and the Mighty, Soldier of Fortune,and The Antagonists.

The High and the Mighty cover

Flying magazine lists Gann #34 on their list of 51 Heroes of Aviation. Ernest Gann died in 1991.


Collected Stories-John Cheever

“He knew better than anyone the darkness that hides behind the costume of a carefully manicured lawn.”
—John Cheeve