Sunday, January 25, 2009

Great Grey Owl--a simple gift

A Great Grey Owl hunted in our yard last week. It spun its head around and around looking for voles. At one point, it peered intently into the camera, then focused beyond it, listening and looking for dinner. The owl's unperturbedness at being watched and filmed was a simple gift to us on this winter day. Kayt and The Plumber first spotted our owl visitor.
video

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chinook

A Chinook is sweeping over Interior Alaska tonight. Last week this time, it was -45 and tonight at our home on the edge of the Alaska wilderness it is 35. The wind smells like seashells and turquoise water. The dogs and their people are crazed with the sudden warmth. Kayt spent the day under the house with The Plumber, Saint Plumber, come to fix our pipes. He ended up breaking the connection so now we went from having little water to having none. But we are entranced with The Plumber, and we are used to coping with no water, so life is still Good. A little wearing, perhaps, but good nonetheless.

Kayt continues to work on her article for the Hawaii conference, and that alone spurs us to dream of warmth, of turquoise waters, of Chinooks... The snow underfoot tonight collapses into ice beneath our heels. All of us potty outside, given that we have no water inside. The warm wind shivers the spruce, tickles the wind chimes. Kayt noticed the ice shine on the birches earlier in the evening, but even the ice is gone now with the Chinook. An entity, like the cold, this mysterious Chinook who has come to bless us with Her warm breath.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Celebrating

So how do we celebrate when the temp swells to a balmy -2 degrees after three weeks of -40s? Why, chocolate cookies with macadamian nuts, of course. The dogs get peanut-butter flavored low-fat small dog treats, but the People get real treats. I took a walk with the dogs to Wilson's Corner this AM, just before the snowfall, when the temp was rising a degree an hour. It was -20 when we left home this morning, and it was deliciously near zero when we got home. Toklas spent the day at the vet's because of a yeast infection in one ear. Poor boy, that's why he's been crying at night. That and high blood sugar. A moose in our yard has been providing the dogs good snuffleuffugus opportunities. Little else to report, except that it raised an entire degree while I was typing this! I'm looking for my cut-off jeans now so I'll be ready tomorrow AM.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wicked cold continues

Still locked in a world of cold. For the last three weeks, we have celebrated anytime the temperature raises into the minus 30s. Our pump froze yesterday--or something down there broke or froze or cracked. Kayt, the brave one in our family, put a heater down there. This requires pulling up a trap door and climbing down into a crawlspace that is literally that: a crawlspace. She returned with her face ashen and with stories of ice bergs and glaciers on the pipes and walls and ground. I can't bring myself to go down there for several reasons. First, I don't know what I would be looking at. Second, I'm afraid of spiders. Third, it's cold there. Fourth, dark. Fifth, it's now very icy, and where it's not icy, it's wet. Sixth, I don't know nothing about no plumbing. Except that it's broke. We are trying to find a plumber courageous enough to take on our plumbing project. The previous owner plumbed the place himself. Bad idea. The parts are gas fittings, not water fittings, and is plumbed conventionally, and not for Alaska. Except that the plumbing is really not conventional because the guy didn't do it right. Our plumbing has been nothing but bad news since the day we moved in. That was six years ago, and of course, nothing has improved. We had a serious conversation this evening about how much will it take before we decide to move to town. I'm dreaming about a nice 2BR condo, but Kayt thinks we can make do here. Meanwhile, the plumbing fiasco is so upsetting because neither of us know what to do about it. Except wait for Monday and then start pleading with a plumbing company to please come fix it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fox visited our feeder today!

A beautiful bushy tailed fox was out feeding under our bird feeder this morning. It seems to love the bird seeds that the birds pull out and drop below the feeders. We think the birds are trying to find just the right morsel. The chickadees are especially inclined to pull lots of seeds out before they find just what they want. Sine and I are the only ones who saw the fox and enjoyed its visit. The dogs slept through it. A group of Red Polls were out feeding at the feeders today too, as well as the woodpecker who is a constant visitor, and the ever present chickadees. We went to work soon after the fox left, so don't know who else might have visited today.

This evening the moon was 95% full, and was beautiful and bright for my walk with the dogs this evening. The sky was so dark and the moon was so bright. It was quite a wonderous walk! Time for a night night potty for Borealys, so I'd better end this post :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Unpacking

On our porch are the stacks of boxes I hauled from North Carolina this summer in a U-Haul. What does one do with such things? I have old reel-to-reel family films from the 1950s. Boxes of old photos of my mother and my father when they were young and beautiful and so in love. Pictures of my mother in her 20s when she dyed her hair red and wore high heels and flirted with the young male photographer who was her husband at the time. Photos of my sister, cute, the darling of my family. Pictures of me, big feet, big teeth, big hands. Big black plastic bags enclosing my father's paintings, memories of his Wisconsin and Danish childhoods. Twenty five years of my own drawings, sketches, finished pen and inks, oil paintings. Boxes of mismatched cutlery, a gas stove, my mother's tool box. My chainsaw from home, the one that nearly cut off Lisa's leg and which still has dried blood clinging to the bar. Old Christmas decorations from my mother's house, her unfinished crismons. Scarred furniture from my Bold Moon home, some cheap and scavenged from the local Goodwill store, some handmade and handsome. A box of letters my sister and I wrote to our parents in the 1960s when we were sent away to boarding school. My mother's sewing machine, the world map with pins placed on all of the places that she visited in her life. A tall box with pots and pans, no lids, as my sister somehow ended up with a box of lids, but no pots. A wooden trunk, which I don't remember owning, but which somehow ended up at Bold Moon in the 1990s. Daddy's desk, bought secondhand from one of the old textile mills in North Carolina, which served as his first desk at his own business, then was a secretary's desk, then mine since 1976. Daddy's drawing table, the chair where he sat for hours and hours and hours as he painted and drew and wrote as a way to escape my mother, his wife, his life with her. The table is dismembered, parts here and there, the chair too high for my taste. Three books of my typed poetry from high school; chronicles of my first loves and first heartbreaks. Boxes of my dishes from Bold Moon, one-of-a-kind flowered plates collected since 1975, three of them from Hong Kong. Somewhere among the boxes, a handwritten draft of my father's last life project: a history of Western Europe as told from his own 89-year old eyes.

What does one do with these things from our past? The boxes nestle under blue tarps, and I notice that at least one has squirrel prints on it. Do we leave them out on the porch until things rot, moulder, become dusty, squirrel-eaten, their stuffings and edges scavenged by mice? Do we unpack them, integrate them into our contemporary lives, ignore the moth-bitteness, the flyspots, the musky scent of the past clinging to them? What do our current lovers think of these boxes that document past passions, spent exuberance, that smell of despair and bitterness? And what about the things that somehow got left behind? There are two family genealogies, a file about the origins of Bold Moon, a hundred LPs of the very first women's music, the Second Wave. The arrowhead and stone chip and stone ax I found at Bold Moon, the ones that the land called out to me to find. The photo of my great grandmother, my namesake. I once did ritual with this photo, on a lonely winter solstice in 1992, when I looked long and deep at the photo and thought I saw my own image in this long dead ancestor. But she is not among the boxes on the porch.

Good friends, good lovers, good companion animals have left our planet and continued on their journey. Should I send these things, these old things on their journey, too? I am tempted to build a winter bonfire, to heap the desk, the photos, the drawing table, the paintings, the things hauled up the Alaska Highway onto the blaze. To sit back and to relish my current life and to watch my past, my parents' past, my Bold Moon past, go up in smoke.

Cold snap

It's been a mournful cold here. A gruesome cold. The cold is an entity, and it hunts you down, snags you at the knees. Touching metal, like doorknobs or the car handle is like touching fire. In town, the ice fog is as thick as pea soup, turning everything reddish gray. Lights are distorted, cars seem further away then they are in reality. I saw -62 at Fred's on Saturday, and it was -58 on our west thermometer. The house collapses in on itself, walls withdrawing into their centers, their ends shrinking from each other. The result: drafts. Cruel, unseen shards of coldness sneaking across the floors to meet each other and create rivers of chill across our ankles. At one point, the warmest part of our house--the heater--was only 51. Of course, that's 51 ABOVE zero, so life is good. Well, life is tolerable. I went to the store to buy down quilts and comforters for our household, and ran into friends who crowed about their warm house. Kayt and I swore a solemn oath to each other that this spring we will complete the weatherization on our house. This time we mean it. Seriously. Really, we do. No kidding. Meanwhile, we are making do with blankets covering the windows, duct tape and foam on the leaky door, and quilts. Lots and lots of quilts.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meteor Sighting Tonight!

An exciting meteor sighting tonight! We'd gone out to take the dogs out to go potty and I was focusing on the sky to see if the moon was where our night sky site says it should be when I saw an impressive meteor streak across the sky near the moon. Sine said that she'd seen that the Quadrantids meteor shower was going to be happening tonight. I got to see at least one meteor shower down. Check out this site for information about the Quadrantids meteor shower and for a great picture of the Quadrantids last year way up North here with the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). No Northern Lights tonight. The meteor I saw sure was huge though. Not just a little streak but a big ball with lots of sparks trailing!

Check out the sky above our place

This time of year it is dark most of the time (but the light is on its way back)! Check out the image below to see what the sky looks like over our place right now. If the sky color is light blue we have daylight. If the sky color is dark, it is dark overhead at our place and the stars and planets are in the locations where we are currently seeing them over our heads. Click on the image to open up the site that feeds these images. If it is dark here in AK you will even be able to see stick figures of the constellations on the larger image on the technetium astronomy site.

Fairbanks

Friday, January 2, 2009

Borys back injury


Early afternoon, Borealys starting complaining. We could not tell what her issue was, but we suspected a back injury, impacted anal glands, or sprained tail. Best MamaKayt took her to the emergency vet clinic where Our Baby was diagnosed with a back injury. I'm feeling pretty bad because I suspect I am at fault. Earlier today, I made her and Ursa put on their coats to brave the cold weather. Bory's coat is a nice red fleece, but both front feet have to be put into the coat, and then the back is velcro. I'm sure that I caused the injury, and I feel so badly. But enough guilt. Kayt brought home rimadyl, and instructions to put ice on Borys's back. Have you ever tried to apply ice to a dog's back?? Needless to say, it didn't go well. But Borealys is sleeping now, resting better, not whining. We're hoping she will heal quickly.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year moose


New Year's eve, January 1, 2009
I took Borealys out to potty, which is so often a great time for wildlife experiences. Just as she squatted, a moose started bawling in the woods just west of the house! Kayt and I had heard three gun shots earlier today, and so we started worrying that the bawling was an abandoned calf whose mother was killed. May or may not be the story. I looked up moose in one of our field guides, and it said that although bulls call during rutting season, cows may "grunt" anytime to call their calf. This sound was not a "grunt", though. It was a bawl, just like the way that cow cows (the dairy/beef kind of cow) sound down south. We decided to believe that the moose was not bereaved, that it was just saying, "it's cold out here!!!" It is -48 on the thermometer on the west house post, way cold enough for this New Year's Eve. We have 3 minutes and 22 seconds more daylight today than yesterday. Last night, an unexpected aurora borealis. Life is good.