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