Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bear Photos From AdventureMan

When I saw the photo of the bears that looks like they are waltzing, I laughed. They are wrestling, but oh, he caught them at the perfect moment. The second has such serenity, is such a testament to the glorious creative power of God, that I love it, too.

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July 1, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Beauty, Environment, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | 1 Comment

Rainy Day on the Sterling Highway to Homer

AdventureMan gets it. If it is not pouring rain, it is a good day. Part of this day was a good day, but we also got a lot of rain.

The drive from Seward to Homer, AK, both on the Kenai Peninsula, is not a hard drive, only maybe 2.5 to 3 hours. Almost as soon as you join the Sterling Highway, you are on the Kenai river, and on the Kenai river, things are hopping. Specifically, salmon are hopping.

At a couple sites, there are a lot of people, and when you look down in the river, there are people in hip boots all lined up for hundreds of yards, casting lines. I rather like fishing, but oh, no! Not like that! I’m a salmon fisher who likes to be on a boat, casting my line over the side, and waiting for a fish to bite. Stand in cold, rushing water with mosquitoes biting? (Shudder!) The thought of some amateur’s hook taking out an eye or a piece of cheek? Horrors!

Along the route, we saw many many signs like this:

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Firefighters from all over had flown in to fight the Funny River Fire. Alaska doesn’t usually have such a dry spring; a fire this strong and this early is improbable. The fire was also remote, and hard to fight. The fire-fighters are given hero status in this area.

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Just before we get to Soldatna, AdventureMan spots a moose and her calf alongside the road. There are a lot of moose signs, and some of them tell how many moose have been hit by cars along this stretch of the road. Sadly, it is in the 200’s. Hitting a moose is like hitting a camel. It totals out a car and it is horrible for the moose.

About halfway to Homer, just outside Soldatna, we took a stretch break at Tom’s Horn and Antler, where we saw lots and lots of moose, deer and elk horns, and lot of stones, many from no-where around Alaska. We found some geode stones from the Atlas mountains in Morocco. At The Two Rusty Ravens, however, I found the one souvenir I bought, a very large copper salmon mold that just fits over the door between my kitchen and dining room. While it is not a Copper River Salmon, it IS a copper salmon, and it makes me smile. AdventureMan gave me a bad time; it is large, but it just fit in my suitcase. 🙂

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We had stopped at the Safeway in Seward, where they have a nice Deli with sandwiches and cookies, and we had our lunch with us. You just never know where you will be and if a restaurant is still open, or not yet open for the season. Here is where we had our lunch stop – an oversight with a view of volcanos – when you can see more than 50 feet in front of you.

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And here was a sign at the pull off. Most of the signs we saw in Alaska had shotgun holes in them, LOL.

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The drive is an easy drive, whether you are coming from Anchorage or from Seward. It barely takes half a day. There are not a lot of passing areas, and there are a lot of big slow RVs, so just take a deep breath and enjoy the experience.

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Environment, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: Heather Lende

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“You have to read this!” said my book friend, “You’re from Alaska! It’s about a woman who lives in some small town and writes obituaries!”

I grinned politely and put the book in my bag. Some books sound more interesting than other books – I’ve always loved adventures and mysteries and murders – add a little drama to the day-to-day-ness of everyday life. A woman who writes obituaries? Hmmm, not so much.

But spending my afternoons tending to my sweet little 3-month-old granddaughter means I often sit, anchored by the soundly sleeping baby who I don’t want to disturb, even by twitching. I have one hand free – and you can only play so much iPhone Sudoku.

An Alaskan friend had also recommended this book, so early this week I picked it up and started reading.

Oh. my. goodness. Yes, Haines is a small town, but oh the drama of writing obituaries. Oh, the things you learn about your neighbors and the surprises you get learning about their earlier lives. I love the way Heather Lende weaves the writing of the town obituaries with the current ongoing dramas in her own life and in the lives of her friends and makes it work.

It’s not unlike where I grew up, although my hometown had a hospital. We also had moose and bear and elk in our back yards, and learned to treat wildlife with respect, and that the best option was to back away slowly. There are the same senseless deaths from auto accidents, fishing boat accidents and unexpected changes in weather. There is the same feeling of wonder, almost every day of your life, knowing how very lucky you are to live in the midst of such awe-inspiring beauty. It’s hard for me to imagine being an unbeliever living in Alaska.

It’s also a great book to read before going to bed. Some of the books I read are too exciting or too disturbing to read before bed; books that infiltrate your dreams with images and situations that give you a restless night. While Lende deals with death and sadness and drama, there is an underlying message of hope in the neighborliness of your neighbors, the security of living in a town where everybody knows everybody else, in the civility even of people who strongly disagree with one another. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name gives you peaceful sleep. She ties it all together with an ending that rips your heart out; you will never forget this book once you read it. After reading, you will feel like you have lived in Haines, Alaska.

The paperback version is available from Amazon.com for $9.73. No, I no longer own stock in Amazon.com.

November 22, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Spiritual, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

A Trip “Out the Road” to Eagle River

 

One of the things AdventureMan and I did in Juneau was to drive every road. It’s not hard. You drive all the way south, and all the way north on Douglas Island, then you drive out to Thane, then on the Juneau roads, up behind in the basin, and then “out the road.” Everyone in Juneau knows where “out the road” is.

 

When I was a kid, the road got bad just past the airport, on the way to Skater’s Cabin, which I thought was on Auke Lake, but discovered is really on Mendenhall Lake.

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You had to go out the road to get to the airport. You still do, but it is only like six minutes, the road is so good, unless you hit a deer (which we saw happen) and have to stop and call Fish and Wildlife Rescue. You can’t leave an injured animal on the highway.

So we have a morning, and it is not raining! The sun is even peeking out now and then! It’s a beautiful day, we dress warmly and head out the road, out driving all the roads. Look closely, and you will even see blue sky in the photos 🙂  We drive the Lena Point road, looking at all the cabins where we used to go picnicing, then to Amalga Bay, with it’s beautiful still lake and reflections.

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You’re just going to have to bear with me as I show you photos with a lot of green in them. It’s not that Pensacola doesn’t have green, but it doesn’t have Alaska greens. I remember in Germany, a long time ago, years ago, having a discussion with AdventureMan about how many different shades of green there are, and ever since then, he has reminded me of that conversation. This year, on this trip, he said “Now I know why you are so sensitive to greens!” Alaska is full of greens, and mostly they are blue greens, and oh, I love the spectrum of blue-greens. 🙂00AmaglaBay2

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As we approached the end of the road, there was heavy road construction going on. Winter is coming, to quote Game of Thrones, and in Alaska that means a short window for all the road reparations that can happen as a result of brutal, icy, rainy, snowy winters. The construction traffic controllers told us it would be about twenty minutes before the pilot car would be back to lead the next line of cars over the broken, rocky, off-road paths, and we decided, in our little 2 wheel drive rental, that we would forego that pleasure. We headed back for Eagle River Picnic Grounds, which were beautiful and serene:

 

This is one of the covered picnic cabins, heavy duty timber

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You can see one of the ferries departing nearby Auke Bay from the ferry terminal00FerryDepartingEagleRiver

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We head on a little further to the Eagle River Camp Grounds. We are in love! This place is beautiful, with hidden campsites with cabins and campsites for RV’s, but all hidden from sight. No indoor plumbing, but the public restrooms are clean and well kept. You can hike around, there are many trails.

 

Salmon spawning in the stream – the ranger tells us a mother bear and her two cubs were by earlier, but we missed them. You can smell all the rotting salmon on the banks and know that the bear are eating well.00MoreSalmonSpawning

An old dock, long gone, from Eagle River – and look at all those beautiful greens in the background 🙂00EagleRiverCampSites

Seagulls feasting on salmon the bears left behind. Bears are not very efficient eaters; they strip parts of the salmon and leave a whole lot:00SeagullsFeastingonSalmon

A Stellar’s Jay, the kind I grew up with. The Jays in Pensacola are more white with blue markings and much bigger. But look at the blues on his feathers, so intense, so radiant!

 

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We love Eagle River campsites so much you will see more on our way back out through Juneau 🙂

September 2, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Birds, color, Exercise, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Day I Might Have Died

“I have a photo you might want.” my Mom said, rummaging under the bed in the office, where I am sleeping while I have a working holiday here in Seattle, running errands and helping her with things she can no longer do easily for herself. I have two sisters living here who take good care of Mom, and I want to do some small part, too.

She pulled out an envelope and looked through it.

“No, not this one, but you might want this one,” and she handed me this photo.

I know to you it looks like a very strange photo; it looks like a very strange photo to me, too. Old photo, probably taken with some kind of brownie box camera, you cannot tell anything, it looks misty and indistinct.

It was taken at an airport ‘lake,’ like a water retention pond, in Juneau, Alaska, when I was around three. In Juneau, the lakes and ponds might stay very cold the entire summer, but these man-made lakes were fairly shallow, and might warm up a little when the temperatures reached the 70’s (F), like in July or August.

What I remember is dropping off, but not being afraid. I was under water, but my eyes were open, and the colors were beautiful and I was just watching the play of color and light, and I just kind of bobbed along.

My aunt tells me that she saw me drop out of sight and not return. She ran out into the water, found me, and pulled me to the shore. She saved my life. Later, when I was grown, she told me the old Chinese adage that if you save a person’s life you are responsible for them as long as you – or they – live. I always felt a special connection to that sweet aunt.

I wonder now if my memory is as I have always remembered it? I can still see the green and gold flickering, just as clearly as when it was happening. I can remember the shock of being grabbed, and hustled to shore, and fussed over, as everyone wanted to make sure I was OK. I remember having to stay on the blanket for what seemed like a lifetime, and then only being allowed to play in the very shallow water. And I wonder if I remember it all, or if I have heard the story so many times that I just think I remember it?

I love this photo. I love the indistinct nature, and mistiness. It is a metaphor for my memory of that day, and I am delighted that a photo exists.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Biography, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Relationships | , | 3 Comments