Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Tonight is the first time I really watched a significant amount of news. I often feel skeptical of what passes for civilization in this country, but when you get such an example of what occurs when that inhibition is lifted, it certainly hits home what a thin veneer it is that keeps us humans from our cannibal nature. In times like these we show our true essence, I believe. And so we see both the predation that makes me ashamed of our species (not that there weren't reasons before now) and the heroism far beyond what others might guess was in our capacity.
Links below are where I've sent my money, if you need suggestions on where to send yours.
American Red Cross
United Animal Nations - Emergency Animal Rescue Service
Monday, August 29, 2005
Hopped in the car next for brunch with my friend Allen, out in Eagle River some 20 miles north. Perfect day for driving, so went on to Chugiak to pick up accumulated mail at the post office and get another eyeful of Denali and Foraker dominating the sky to the west.
Eventually I ran out of excuses and came back home to work. But dragged along as the afternoon passed, feeling unfocused and unimaginative for what was supposed to be light and peppy layout work. Finally bagged it about 5:30 pm and told Mom to get in the car, let's take a drive. I'd meant to take a quick spin around town, but we ended up driving south along Turnagain Arm, following the rolling high tide all the way to Portage Glacier. Drove up through Girdwood next and had a lovely dinner at the Alyeska Prince ski resort while watching tram cars make their way up the mountain to a spectacular sunset view across the water.
By the time we headed home around 9 o'clock, some clouds had rolled in to the west, filtering the sun from warm yellow to a pale bright white, the water on the inlet glowing silvery with that reflection. Made me think of all the lovely days I spent with friends on Lake Champlain about a year ago.
Mostly I found myself thinking how two years ago about this time, I was getting ready to drive by myself from Alaska to Pennsylvania. And then about a year ago, I was getting ready to make the drive back home. Something about this time of year now, I guess, because if money and circumstance allowed, I'd be ready to roll. Those long days on the road with small unexpected serendipities, and a sense of growing confidence in being capable to manage whatever arises... I miss that. The air is getting colder and it feels like it's time to go see what's around that bend.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Because we care about our victims - er, our tourists - the State of Alaska wants YOU to be prepared, and provides the following helpful websites:
Bears and You
What To Do About Aggressive Moose
No state website about llamas, so you're on your own.
Today, however, I damn near made a contribution to the cause, when on my way home, an older gent walked along the stopped cars with a sign that read
I'm with you, brother. Hand me that marker.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
It occurred to me early this morning that it may be that even when I do the things that for me would generally help balance, cope, reorient - if I'm only going through the motions and my mind is still elsewhere in its grappling with life events, I just can't find that space. There are wonderful moments of it all over the place - right now I am just feeling such joy about the presence of my little grandson in the world. But so much dread and worry and grief and loss, it feels like my body has been poisoned. And I have added to that poison by how I'm treating myself lately.
Today will be different. I am trying to treat my...no, I am not just trying. Today I am treating my body well, and I am keeping my mind in it fully. Today is different:
- An early walk with Hunter in the near-dark with a brisk wind outside - but it's like 60F out there so it felt like being on a beach somewhere at night. Even the sound of that much wind in the trees, almost sounds like surf. Transporting.
- Standing with my friend Jenny in the wet grass in my backyard, in my bare feet, moving together through deep breathing to get centered and literally grounded.
- Coming back in the house and sweating hard on the treadmill for another 30 minutes.
I can't believe how much better I feel having done these things. Spending that 90 minutes to become tuned, calibrated. Will it last the day? Nothing has changed about my worries and my hurts. But clarity and honesty rise and say that among all the other things that are reaching for me, love has a hold on me too. And I can skip the system and the program and the plan. It's just about what I am doing today.
Thus it is our own mind
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Did the test again tonight and Colorado and Utah fell off the list. Palmer was #1 (!) and there were other Alaska towns. During the Long Haul Chicks Tour last year I'd said you could set me down in Bozeman or Missoula MT and I'd be at home...and both are on this list. This time last year I was relaxing on Lake Champlain for a week, and said that Vermont was the first place I'd ever been that felt exactly as much at home to me as Alaska, and that the Adirondacks on the drive up there were just wonderful...and here are Vermont and upstate New York on the list, including Plattsburgh right on the edge of that beautiful big lake. Bremerton, Sequim and Walla Walla are all places where my family members have lived. Not sure what got Morgantown, WV picked (hi, Denise) on the quiz, but it happens to be the town where my father was born.
I am not at all surprised by my very clear sense of place. I know when I belong somewhere. So where are your top spots, and will I be running into you soon? [Disclaimer that I should have thought to add when I first posted this - the site will ask you to identify yourself. Though they don't save this and they don't share it, and I've used the site a bunch of times and never heard one thing from them as a result, I should have mentioned it so that you don't spend the time completing the quiz up front and then balk at the end!...it's still fun though.]
My whole list: Palmer, AK - Wenatchee, WA - Seward, AK - Salem, OR - Lewiston, ME - Johnson, VT - Grants Pass, OR - Ketchikan, AK - Bremerton, WA - Homer-Kenai Peninsula, AK - Missoula, MT - Mount Vernon, WA - Plattsburgh, NY - Bozeman, MT - Jamestown, NY - Johnstown, PA (okay, so part of me wants to go back home!) - Walla Walla, WA - Dillon, MT - Helena, MT - Spearfish, SD - Sheridan, WY - Morgantown, WV - Sequim, WA - Saranac Lake, NY
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
My friends Pogo the husky and DC the black cat will cross the Bridge together on Sunday morning. They are two of my boss's five animals, and are the two old ones that I've been helping to care for all these months. Their former vet from years ago will come to their home to help them make that journey. After the decision was made this afternoon, I went out to make their pawprints and to say my goodbyes while no one else was around.
I never thought I'd fall so hard in love with an old boy cat. It took some time to get to know him, and of course it didn't help that my only purpose for showing up at his house every day was to stick a needle in him. But the night that he had a medical issue come up while my boss was away, he cuddled up to me at the emergency vet and hooked a paw around my arm and held tight - right then I was all he had when he was scared. We had a much closer relationship after that. For some weeks now he has not cared much about holding onto life. They'd recently gone to twice-daily fluids and that was a hard line to cross. He moaned as I picked him up today, but at least I could cradle him, kiss him and tell him that I would never ever ever do that to him again.
Pogo still wants very much to be part of life but her body has betrayed her, and she's declined mentally a lot in the last month. I didn't spend too much time saying goodbye, because it so happened that today she didn't know who I was. I'll remember other days when she was full of herself and silly, or reading the riot act to her young pal Kozmo. She generally tolerates her shots well, but it was still nice to tell her too that we wouldn't be doing that today. Po is not a very large husky but she has giant feet and that's what made me think of making the prints. She hates having her feet handled but she settled for me and I got maybe the best print I've ever done - you can even see the texture of the leather in it.
We threw Pogo her first-ever real birthday party this past winter at age 15, invited the dogs from the neighborhood for roast beef sandwiches and cake and ice cream. It was so cute to see each one coming up the walk, brought by their moms and dads. It was also the only time I've seen a whole group of dogs keep party hats on all evening. DC would have been eighteen pretty soon. Neither will have to see another winter arrive, and I'm relieved for both of them that the struggle is ending (and honestly, I'm relieved for me too) - I have never believed that you have to let a beloved friend hit the absolute rock bottom. But I am sad to be losing two such very sweet, sweet old friends.
Last night I was awake late into the night, sitting quietly on the bed, the room fully darkened except for the glow of the laptop screen, the sound of Hunter breathing evenly in his sleep. Sending a few email thoughts to loved ones. Though it's been two months since solstice, mid-August still surprises me in the sudden sense of moving from summer's endless days to the long dark hours that will overtake us soon. These nights are like dipping one's foot into the cold water to prepare for the eventual immersion.
The summer night is like a perfection of thought. - Wallace Stevens
Spending last summer back East, I enjoyed the nights especially (where one can watch the stars without freezing) but always had my eye on that north star. I'm close enough to the inlet's edge to see quite a few stars not overtaken by the city's ambience. It's not the same as sitting on the steps of my mountain cabin in subzero temperatures, watching the dazzling display and filling my soul with that peace and nearly touchable clarity. But near enough to know that they are still there and not fully beyond my grasp.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
And though I wanted them and all their memory objects back with me, I didn't want to chance losing them in all of the moving chaos when I returned. Now that I recognize the chaos will never end, and we're looking at moving again anyway, I decided today to bring them home. It's them and a bunch of their stuff in a very large plastic tub. I didn't want to sit down and go through it just yet, though the dogs themselves are out and nearby. I'll get used to it being here and then sometime I'll go through all their things again. I'm looking forward to that visit.
2. Get dose of emergency medication.
3. Go to old friend's house for long relaxing walk with dog and long relaxing talk with old friend.
4. Have encounter with Death-Ray Llamas from Hell.
5. Spend time in garden with old friend picking yummy beans, peas, lettuce, mesclun, cabbage, carrots, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, parsley and raspberries.
6. Allow adrenalin (from encounter with DRLfH) to evaporate or whatever it does.
7. Have old friend (who is also nurse) take blood pressure and find it is a mere shadow of its former self at 112/70.
8. Take home yummy beans, peas, lettuce, mesclun, cabbage, carrots, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, parsley and raspberries, and have dinner!
To paraphrase Trixie (who is dog) Koontz: "Do not ha-ha-ha at llama who has COME TO KILL US ALL. Hide in truck, hope for survival."
I went out to the Valley today, and while there I had a long walk with Becky as we used to do with the dogs several times a week, and I did with my own dogs daily. She had kennel dogs to walk but decided not to bring them as they were new and she didn't know if they'd have an issue
with Hunter. That turned out to be a very important choice.
We adjusted our route a little to avoid the salmon stream, which is a grizzly snack bar right now. We'd gone a few miles and had turned back for home when one of Becky's fellow nurses from work, who lives nearby, pulled up and asked if we knew who kept llamas about, because there were two loose ones about 3/4 mile down the road on which we were returning. She'd already called Animal Control. She went down there and as we continued to walk, we saw them hanging out in the road by her car, saw two dogs come into the road and then beat feet out of there in a hurry, and mainly saw them milling, or its equivalent when there are only two.
No idea how Hunter would manage that interaction, and no intention of finding out, but we don't have a lot of optional routes. We plotted options and took another street in what is technically a subdivision but is really just a big spruce woods where each street is a good quarter mile from the next, and the few streets outnumber the houses on them. Road graders are about, getting ready to finally pave this subdiv which has been dirt roads for 20 years.
Our intention was to come out on the main road again just beyond the llamas. As we walked up the only road that would get us there, stepping around the road graders, Animal Control drives up - I said are you looking for the llamas? and he said yes and we said they're up on the main road and he said no they aren't someone says they're right down here.
Oh damn. And then I saw them behind a house on the far side of the road, pretty well set back. We thought maybe we'd be okay because they had to be 400 yards off.
And then they saw us. Specifically they saw Hunter. And made like two huge, pissed-off bullets right past the ACO and up onto the road. Becky had stayed up on the road while I had dashed with Hunter into the high brush and spruce deadfall off the road. We waited behind some trees, watched quietly, worked our way as far up trail as we could without being seen. Becky walked along the road making sure they could see she was unaccompanied by dog.
The ACO continued to try to capture them and we came out way ahead of them further up the road when we had no more brush to hide behind. See, we were thinking of these guys like mad moose. You give berth, you take a wide-around, you get out of their space and they're no longer
threatened so they're not a threat. We know moose, we know bears. And both of us have been around llamas but only just a little. We were soooo wrong about these llamas when we thought they would quit caring once we were out of their range. We never got out of their range and they meant to pursue us to make that point.
We'd walked pretty quickly and made it another 1/4 mile up the road, me going faster than Becky who was trying to push them back toward the ACO. From somewhere behind me she said Peg, run! and run we did.
Well, sort of. Anyone who has seen me will not mistake me for a runner in any circumstance. I'm strong legged from lots of walking, I've got a low center of gravity and can hike all day. But I'm not a wind sprinter. I look over my shoulder long enough to see Becky throwing rocks and holding them back a moment.
And I start to run. I've been walking fast for over an hour so have put on most of four miles already and am a little tired. I am wearing a Walkvest that is fully loaded, with 32 half-pound weights. And I am dragging a 60-lb dog that wants only to go in reverse. He never made a sound and we were never ever close enough to be an actual harassment, but he sure wants to go back and bitch-slap these llamas now. Whatever I was doing, I'm sure you couldn't classify it as a run. I hear Becky yell at me as they pass her and come rocketing up the road.
About 150 yards ahead of me there is a road grader and a man with his back to me working by it. It's running, so he can't hear me yelling. I hear what's coming up behind me and I drag Hunter harder. I run into the ditch where his truck is pulled over, yelling all the while but he still doesn't
hear. I grab the door handle and think please god let this not be locked, and it isn't. I look up. There's still time - they're about 40 yards from us and maybe? slowing just a bit.
Except Hunter doesn't want to get in this truck. It's a Man Truck, it's a Strange Truck, it's a Very Tall Truck, and plus mom remember those llamas, yes I remember them and now I can identify them by eye color.
But luckily I used to bench press a lame Rottweiler and I now have the equivalent of jet fuel in my veins, so I pick Hunter up by the collar, scream some really not nice words at him, and throw him in the truck. The man turns around and yells HEYYYYYYY!!! to see an apparent truckjacking in progress as I dive into his pickup. When I slam the door behind me and look up, Hunter is nose to nose with a llama through the driver's window.
I talk through the window with the road grader guy as the llamas mill around, up to the main road where we're basically parked now, back down near us. The ACO gets there. Becky gets there. Others get there. Nobody is being threatened. (Nobody is catching them either.) It's just about the dog. I keep Hunter's head down. Whoa, the guy says. I thought these are like calm farm animals but they really want to kill your dog. As we talk, Hunter's head pops up and from the main road the bigger llama whips around immediately and charges back toward us.
This goes on a while and Road Grader Guy needs to get to work. He says we can stay in the truck as long as needed. Becky says we'll lock the truck when we leave. We wait awhile until the proceeding pushes the llamas at least a half mile or more down the road, then slip out of the truck and along the edge of the woods for home. Becky says did you lock the truck? Hell no I'm not locking the truck - it's the only safe place between us and those damn beasts.
We get home. I work in the garden with her a few hours. Time to drive back to Anchorage and I write a thank-you note to Road Grader Guy, figuring I'll leave it on his truck seat. I head up the main road, no vehicles in sight. I figure it's all over. I come to the corner and there's a llama next to the truck. No one else around. Don't know if they caught one and had to come back for the other or what, but the abandoned llama is running agitatedly up and down the road. I wait until it's a bit distant then jump out, leave my note, lock the truck and leave.
This has taken a lot to say, but the way my body hurts right now is something for which I can't begin to find any words at all. My friends here are glad that we are okay but want the video.
Monday, August 15, 2005
"I wish so to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, everyday phenomena, so what my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me."
Saturday, August 13, 2005
But John Hurt delivers a pretty amazing performance in a non-speaking role, in which he struggles to tell Kate Hudson that even though she's got him naked in a bathtub, he still wants the hell out of this movie.
The story is simple, the narration by Morgan Freeman is spare and subtle. On the big screen, the images are unforgettable in their texture and their intimacy beyond what you could possibly achieve on television. It's a story about survival and love and it is just compelling.
Friday, August 12, 2005
This voice is one I didn't realize was even there, of a friend recently lost. I didn't remember he'd ever called that number. It's just a hello call, and in the easy way of close friends it assumes that we'll be catching up to each other later in the day. There's a lilt in the voice that tells me all is well and there are smiles to look forward to in our later conversation.
In real life there won't be any more conversations and that pain is fresh, so the tears slip down my cheeks quietly. But in truth I hear the smile of that moment more than I hear the loss to come, and I save that smile to hear again sometime. That moment can't be fully undone by what came after.
My voice mailbox has been my companion since 1997 when my longtime relationship busted up, I was without a place to live and needed a phone number when I didn't own a phone. For a time, those few circuits were what I used to create my sense of place in the world...or at least the illusion of it.
There are a number of my life's voices that exist only in that mailbox now. Lots of messages from another man who loved me for a time, and I can hear it without my old pain and cynicism. There are my niece and nephew in voices years-younger, singing me a Happy Birthday. I love who they have become and who they are becoming, but I still love hearing who they were.
This morning a second message was also up for renewal. I think to myself, I've been saving this message every 45 days for four years now, you'd think this system would have learned that. But since it comes today on the heels of the dear voice I've lost, I listen to this one again all the way through because it is such a comfort. It's my friend Michele's gentle voice raised in prayer for me on the day years ago when I told her that the second try with my life's love had failed for good. She recites one of her favorites "Mother's Evening Prayer," and she changes the words of one line to say "Keep thou my Peg on upward wing tonight."
As I ripped off the pages on my daily calendar at work today, there was a Mary Engelbreit illustration called "Don't Look Back." It shows a crossroads, one path marked "Your Life" and the other path marked "No Longer An Option." Sure enough there's wisdom in it as a reminder not to live only in losses or in regrets for what can't be changed, but there are so many things worth looking back on. Every time I remember that someone prayed to keep me on upward wing, I feel the slight lift of air beneath me if I'm willing to make use of it. And I'll feel that again 45 days from now.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Hunter and I are experiencing habitat displacement too. The wetlands area where we walk every day has become such a gauntlet of big game encounters that I've given up on it until the leaves fall and I can see better what problems we're walking into. The boring industrial access to the airport seemed like a safe spot until I woke up to the morning paper photo of two big bull moose occupying those environs. So we have been taking our morning walks on asphalt these last couple of weeks. Ugh. And there's no reason to think we won't have a wildlife encounter there either, as Anchorage is having its worst urban bear influx in years - they're hungry and we leave out garbage. Bears, as it turns out, are very good at adding 2 + 2.
But at least in the subdivisions and smaller parks there are some open areas where I can see better than in the dense cover, and more structures to get behind and detours one can take. We do have nicely paved bike trails and many small parks. But you can't get yourself grounded on concrete, and I can't wait to get back to our own trails soon.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
(There went Diane Lane's chance at a good movie!!!)
John Cusack is always one I keep in my hip pocket but my eyes were on Christopher Plummer, who is of the age that gets my attention. Rowwwwr.
I adore Diane Lane too, but while I'm irritated, what's up with all these roles of hers in movies where the plot is entirely dependent on the unbelievable. I don't mean the kind of disbelief you suspend for purposes of alien invasions or giant asteroids or islands with prehistoric zoos. I mean where you have to suspend disbelief just for these people to make it through the day. On what planet will a man sign his divorce papers, be taken to the cleaners, have no visible means of support from his sensitive art of building boats he never sells, proclaim he is romantically benched forever and then in the next breath tell his best friend all of the qualities of the woman he's looking for because he's in it for a lifetime? Geez, not even divorced women behave like that.
Same deal with Diane in Under the Tuscan Sun...gosh, how horrible to be alone, broke, desperate and without prospects, so that your only remaining choice is to....buy an Italian villa and eat grapes for the rest of your life. Or how about in The Perfect Storm - you know our girl Diane would really be all over George Clooney instead of Mark Wahlberg. Or how about in Unfaithful where she abandons Richard Gere for hot times in the sack with Olivier Martinez.
Well, okay, that one I get.
But really. Hollywood is already beginning to push Diane into the old-heifers club so she really needs to get a good movie soon or start taking hand-me-downs from Meryl Streep. But there are lots of laughs in this, the dogs are adorable, the little children are adorable, Diane Lane is adorable, John Cusack is adorable, Stockard Channing is adorable and Christopher Plummer is just a stone fox stud quoting Yeats and Browning. And it'll make you want to see Dr. Zhivago again.....and come to think of it, Diane Lane would have been a perfect Lara in her day.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Fear not that I will regale you overmuch with baby stories - I have no need, as this child is supported by a full geek squad and has a blog of his own that's far more interesting than mine. He has a photo stream and video conferencing. He has computerized diaper telemetry. He's a tiny Truman Show, but way cuter.
May we realize how urgent it is that we inhabit a world where no child is unwanted and no child is harmed and no child is hungry. That these are not global abstractions to the child who is friendless and the child who is broken and the child who has no food.
May we be fortunate enough to be loved. May we be wise enough to recognize it. And may all our hearts together make us a family.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Here's the day we made it official, three years ago. (Our friends Mary and Pete Osterberg were visiting in AK and Pete took this great shot.) It feels like it's been longer, but then this journey has taken us literally there and back again, from one end of the continent to the other, slingshot around the moon and home. And then the long journey of slowly, slowly discovering what may unfold in my sweet, puzzling boy.
I still don't think I know him very well. I know about him. He comes alive on our daily walks in the woods, tail high, eyes bright with delight and discovery. We look at each other and it's unspoken - "yeah, let's take that one and see where it goes." He loves meeting his friends on the trail. He loves naps and animal crackers. He can fit himself into the space under the steering column in my tiny 2-door coupe, where he tucks safely out of sight during errand stops.
He never gets a bath because he never needs it beyond rinsing the mud off his paws. He has a marvelous, unique combination coat that's wiry and fluffy and wonderful and completely clean to the touch, and when we walk in the rain he carries a scent like freshly washed cotton.
He has a developed a BARK that speaks of ferocity and of fear.
He likes to look out windows.
He loves puppies and young dogs. He loves cats too but not in a way that makes his mama proud.
He's not a mental giant. He's the first of my dogs that hasn't been 'trained' and it suits me just fine. I ask a little, he gives a little. I don't ask more because I understand better these days how it feels when life asks more of you than you have. Sometimes he collapses from the pressure; sometimes he's defiant. The space his spirit inhabits is partly here, and partly something that lies just a little beyond.
Though he gets goofy and silly and playful sometimes, a shadow still follows him. When I touch him his first response is always to tense, to resist. It thrills me just to see him in a full-body relax, and it sends me over the moon when the tail thumps too. After three years he's begun to trust men a little more. (And Mom trusts them a little less, so we achieve balance.) But our life together has been especially blessed with some particularly remarkable men, and from George, Keith, Chuck, Dirk, Kelly, and Shane, Hunter has learned the most precious lesson that not all men have hurting hands.
I think there's more to come. Only in the last few months has he begun to meet my gaze more fully with his own. Only in the last few months has he begun to voluntarily give small kisses. My heart dares to think I may yet be shown the soul beyond those incredible eyes.
I love you, my sweet, exasperating, haunted, beautiful boy. Let's take that one and see where it goes.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Anchorage Daily News: "State has lost a giant in Hammond," 8/3/2005
I keep thinking of adding a dog to the family because I've always been a multi-dog mom and I've missed that dynamic since the days of the Gang of Four. The timing just doesn't seem right for that commitment, but I got a call on Sunday about another wolfhound mix who's looking for a home...
Monday, August 01, 2005
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Dawna Markova, Fully Alive