Sunday, October 30, 2005

First snow

Woke up to our first snow of the season this morning - nothing much by accumulation, not quite two inches I'm guessing - but it stayed cold enough all day (20's) that that small amount of snow turned into a quite satisfactory sheet of black ice across the city. I had hoped to get my tires switched last week but ran out of time - it was so gorgeous all week with the high pressure system we'd had, I knew the tire places wouldn't be busy. Now it'll be a mad rush so I guess I'll just bide my time awhile until we're deeper in it and the lines have diminished. But was rather wishing I had my ice grip tires on as I sailed neatly through two stop signs tonight despite all precautions. Dozens of minor and not-so-minor fender benders today here in town.

Ecclesiastical humor, part 2

On a bumper sticker today:

Jesus loves you
but I'm his favorite

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hunter's Howl-o-ween

They had a big party at the day care today, with a remote broadcast from one of the local radio stations, and a costume contest. I knew the strange sights and the chaos would be too much for Hunter, but we went over after everyone left. Even with no one else there, Hunter was still pretty afraid of the big inflatables - there was a great 'grim reaper' archway and then some huge pumpkins - and of course everything was covered in cobwebs and spiders. They really had turned the place into a total Halloween Central. Earlier in the day, Auntie Michele had decorated Hunter with an adorable halloween bandanna, so he went in his little 'costume' and trick-or-treated just to Auntie Kari - here's a photo of them. He got a little jack-o-lantern pumpkin pail with cookies, a greenie, and a bag of garlic Cheerios. By the time we left he had almost untucked his tail.

Photos from their party include a great closeup of a miniature pinscher in false eyelashes, glitter eye makeup and pearl earrings, plus a wonderful Big Bad Wolf in granny's clothing, and a terrific Yoda costume.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Makoshika Meadow letterbox gets its first finder

Had an email this morning from a gal named Judy who was the first finder on the box that we placed during the Long Haul Chicks tour on our way out of Bozeman, MT. It took me almost a year to post the clues of the boxes planted on the trip, and I fear that some of my writeups are too vague as I tried to decipher my notes - which didn't seem as crystal clear as I thought they were at the time, since I was trying to be careful. But I knew the Montana box was written up clearly including compass headings and paces, so my only curiosity was whether the box itself had survived in its location to be found, and if anyone would make the effort. So I raise my cuppa to Judy, and picturing so clearly the lovely view she saw from that meadow on the high buttes of the badlands. As glad as I am to have made it home, my thoughts of those two cross-country trips find moments in which to beckon me, and I really want to hit the road again.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Movie: Dreamer, Inspired by a True Story

Much as I prefer movies that are a little more meaty, an advantage of being the caretaker of an elderly person is the occasional outing to a G-rated movie. There's something...reassuring, in a quaalude sort of knowing that the movie you're about to see will move inexorably to a completely satisfactory ending.

What else is there to say. The horses are beautiful, the countryside is beautiful. Kris Kristofferson and Kurt Russell really do look like father and son - I'd have a tough time making that choice given my extreme preference for the GQ (geezer quotient). David Morse comes back in a reprise of every villain he's played (we get it, you aren't the good doctor from St. Elsewhere anymore). And that darned little Dakota Fanning is a real actor.

Besides some pretty cinematography, there are two moments of exceptional filmmaking in this movie. I've never seen a horse race filmed from the perspective of just a little above and behind the horses as they run - the immense power of those hindquarters is so transfixing that you forget the giant screen is actually filled with horses' butts as they dig in and push themselves to their limits. The other moment is when the horse has its accident. The fluidity and grace of the animals in powerful motion is so horribly corrupted in that crashing fall, you felt a physical shock wave went through the theater as everyone bodily recoiled. There is no warning, it all takes maybe a second and a half, and I've never seen anything quite like it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ecclesiastical humor

I was out in the Valley, where the snow is now well over a third down the mountainsides on its relentless approach toward full engagement. In an eccentric little area known as the Butte, I passed a church with the following on its letterboard:

JOB 37:6

Monday, October 17, 2005

Catfish Emma

Today while I was at work, I got a sweet little email from Emma, who has come to be with us for the next week. I think it's grand that the dogs I love will take a few moments to email me about their day.

The picture she sent is also grand, and gives a glimpse of the immense, thick whiskers she has on her flews and over her eyes. I call her Catfish or Fishface a lot, partly for the whiskers and partly for the distinctive perfume she carries from eating a lot of salmon meal and salmon oil to help with her dermatological and allergy issues. Though right now she smells like oatmeal and strawberries because she had a bath before she came here. Poor doggie has to be bathed every other week to help her cope.

Of course I often call the duo "Catfish Hunter" for its classic twist. Oh, and her letter? reads

Dear Auntie Peg, I am doing well at home with Nana today. I like being at your house. Even though I miss my family, this is surely the second best place to be. Love, Emma

She's an awfully polite guest to write her bread-and-butter notes before she even goes home!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It shouldn't happen even to a moose

In another stellar example of Alaska's ambitions toward a bureaucracy as screwed up as the rest of you have, Fish & Game put the stranded moose out of its misery today. It only took EIGHT DAYS of protracted animal suffering and anguished public outcry to finally rub a couple tiny little public-employee neurons together and - lightbulb! - put a bullet in the goddamn gun. They said after eight days, it "didn't look well." (Really?)

Now, I don't think that any of the proposed rescue scenarios would have truly worked. And I recognize that such incidents play out with no human intervention or knowledge, all over this great land, to species large and small in the myriad ways of nature. But when it plays out on the bluff across from a city of a quarter million people and you can see it and you can do something, then for god's sake, you DO something to end the thirst and the terror and the desperation. You don't suddenly pretend that Alaska has some high-minded policy of non-intervention, for a species that is "managed" to the level that can damn near predict the second when folks in McCarthy will be able to pick up their dinner forks...but we can't possibly spare a bullet to hasten the inevitable for this one that suffers for days before our eyes? I am so ashamed of this debacle I don't even know what to say.

Patience pays

Or maybe it's just inertia. But after what feels like much longer than six weeks of negotiations (probably because there were six months of anticipatory worry preceding it), as of Friday afternoon I have four months of a reasonably better job deal. Four months was the best that my bosses at two jobs and I could put on paper. I have a lot of ambivalence about this process - there are things about these jobs that tug and pull at me, both in what I'm doing in my work life, and in the working relationships and long friendships that I hope to preserve.

The patience part was simply that I made my demand and then I waited until it happened. It was without exertion but not without effort.

For now, it's just a matter of these next few months should at least bring some relief in not having to work days, nights and weekends just to get by. It will basically be the equivalent of one full-time job, with some extra hours here and there as both businesses have pressing demands. There is a small retirement benefit, some leave, no health coverage. But one of the biggest consequences to my health has just been the fact that I've just been working constantly, so this will help.

All cards will be thrown into the air again in January.

I didn't feel the relief until just a little while ago, in the small hours of Sun morning. My mom is spending the weekend with Becky out in Palmer, to give them a chance for a visit before my mom return East next month, and to give me some caretaker respite. After running around today doing various things, I was tired and thought I'd lie down for a few minutes before feeding Hunter, and I didn't wake up for over two hours. Woke up feeling that all the strength had gone out of me, in a physically over-exerted, nauseated way - a feeling I recognize as when all the fright/flight hormones have begun to dissipate. I held my furry dog and the tears I've been holding in on various scales finally started to seep out a little - something I haven't had the privacy to indulge in a long while. But unfortunately the habit of containing it has become pretty strong, as I couldn't just cut loose either to get it all out of my system. I imagine that's where all this blood pressure stuff has come from over the last few months. And I would think that will come right once I am actually living alone again.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Signs of aging

Or is it a welcome sign of my approaching crone status when a hair appointment turns into an effin intervention? Jeez. Three and a half hours of industrial strength effort and numerous chemicals got me looking like...well, looking substantially like I looked before I went in. At least I haven't lost any ground I guess.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Vanilla, Latte

Looked like I'd need to work late tonight, so I took a break about 4 pm to get a bite to eat and just clear my head a minute. Got an adventure instead when a few blocks from my boss's house, I encountered a stray dog in traffic. Getting close to evening rush, there were a lot of cars passing from all four directions, cars pausing but being bypassed by other drivers with evidently more important things to do. The dog was an enormous chocolate lab. I parked along the street - he'd veer when I tried to approach him, but when I just backed off and encouraged him toward me, he'd wander generally in my direction. From his distant look and his lack of confidence in choosing a path, I got the impression this was a dog who was tired of being lost. You can almost always tell in loose dogs that either (1) they've just realized they're lost and they're panicked about it, or (2) they know where they're headed and although they're loose they're not lost. This dog didn't, either one.

He never engaged me - always kept looking over my shoulder or past me, even when he climbed obligingly into my car. Since he was wearing tags, I had him home within about 15 minutes. Latte's family was very happy to see him, but concerned that he's getting out of his 6-foot chain link fence. I think he's probably just climbing it. He'd come across once of Anchorage's largest arteries and was nearly at the next one when I caught him.

Got home later and then had to head out again for an errand, and down the street there was another loose Lab, this one a very small yellow female so pale she was almost white. She was just plain lost. Shy, skittish. Wouldn't come to me, but would walk six feet from me and accompany me down the middle of the street. We walked all the way back to my house, where I sat on my neighbor's steps and the dog finally touched her nose to my hand briefly. About that time some little kids came from the opposite direction on bikes and started calling to her. She was just too confused - evidently unsure she wanted to go with these little hooligans - but when I shouted down to the kids, they said yes, she was theirs. I started walking down the street toward them, issuing responsible pet owner instructions at 8-year-old's level (never abandon the teachable moment) and finally Vanilla recognized her own corner and her own kids and within moments was trotting down the sidewalk next to the little boy's bike.

Every loose dog I've nabbed this whole summer and fall has been wearing ID tags. Good humans.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Movie: Wallace & Gromit, Curse of the Were-Rabbit

So my penance for going to kill-kill-kill movies is to go again later, and take my mother to see Wallace & Gromit. I can't believe somehow she has missed this whole franchise. I dunno, there was something about this one that is...too much somehow, when put up against A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers or A Close Shave. In this movie, W&G run a successful venture as Anti-Pesto Humane Pest Control to keep rabbits from destroying the gardens of citizens all bent on winning the Golden Carrot Award at the largest-vegetable competition (sounds familiar for Alaska), the 'humane' part being that they bring all the bunnies home to live with them. Though the voice talents of Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes were incredibly funny, and there are just silly laughs and all the requisite near-misses and new inventions throughout, there was a sense to me that the world created in this movie has gotten just a little too big and complex and jaded for these characters now. Still, let's face it: in any universe, Gromit rocks.

Movie: A History of Violence

At first I felt a little cheated at this movie's short length and the way it does not plumb deeply into the trauma/drama of the events that unfold, but about halfway through I decided that was a near-perfect treatment - to make this a (very grim) fairy tale in its telling, stylized with just the main brushstrokes, and to leave unfinished that for which an ending would be impossible to tell. You can't make a neatly-wrapped story from a premise where all sense is lost, and the shock throughout is better left unsettled so that you feel it rather than just watch it happen.

Really I came for the violence. The first three deaths are wrongful but the rest all had it comin'. They threaten your employees, blow em away. Threaten your family, blow em away. Bully you at school, beat the shit out of em. Try to finish you off? Kill, kill, kill, kill, and...kill. (Go home, eat dinner.) For the kind of week -month, year, life- I'm having, this was very gratifying. Problem? BOOM. No more problem.

Okay, I really came for Viggo Mortensen. Upstanding family man, Indiana pure but a dagger in disguise. Sigh sigh sigh. His ability to inhabit a character is compelling. You see just a hint of the change in him when his real identity surfaces, the voice is a bit more edgy, the broad open face a little hooded, the eyes with a different past behind them. But the movie's best performance is from William Hurt, who is only onscreen for a few minutes but in that time delivers a fully developed character both funny and hideous. In the scenes between Mortensen and Ed Harris, I just kept thinking how much I want to see them playing father and son - I never thought about their physical resemblances and the nuances of expression that seem to be cut from the same cloth.

Okay, I really came for Viggo Mortensen. And all that boom, boom, boom. You won't look at a bowl of chunky tomato soup the same way again either.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ducks on Jupiter

I've tried to declare this as a mostly-off-weekend. I spent about six hours of today out in the woods walking and letterboxing. First, Hunter and I explored a part of the Coastal Trail that begins downtown. Part of the recently completed Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk was along our route, as Jupiter lies just beyond the waterfowl preserve at Westchester Lagoon. Not too many people out on this crisp fall day. Hunter and I have been so off our walking schedule, it felt good to go without breaking stride for over an hour. After that, he went home to nap while I drove on out to Thunderbird Falls to finally snag the letterbox that has eluded me on previous trips, up toward Eklutna Lake for another letterbox. Then back to Anchorage and on south of town to work letterbox clues on the Potter Creek trail system. By late afternoon the sun was bright on what gold leaves still cling to the trees, and the air was so chilly. I want to take Hunter back down on that trail system with its breathtaking views of the incoming tide on Turnagain Arm. All told I walked a good four hours today and I really needed it so much. Have been thinking of how I could place letterboxes at all stations of the Planet Walk, but the downtown locations would be pretty tough placements to maintain in such a public urban setting.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hunter is Dog Tired

Hunter spent most of today at doggie daycare. It was a good experience, though Nana missed him until I brought him back home in midafternoon. He emailed me partway through to tell me he was having fun, and to show me some photos with his new lookalike friend Molly. When I picked him up this afternoon, Auntie Erin and Auntie Kari said that he'd had lots of fun and got along well with all the playmates - they had 14 dogs there today.

Can I also just say, looking at this photo, how much I love my dog. I love him so much it feels my heart will burst, or break. For the last six months, I have been going through a rather spiritual experience with another doggie friend Jenny, who has been teaching me patiently (because I am so slow to learn) about communicating with dogs. I believe this is deeply impacting my relationship with Hunter too - at least I don't think this is entirely coincidental. In just the last few months, there are new precious routines with Hunter that we hadn't had before - especially the morning wakeup, which now involves him curling up next to me in bed for a little quiet talk and some hugs before the day starts. And more precious than anything else, is that this dog now meets my gaze at times, and doesn't break it in distraction or agitation or just inability to stay connected. Our eyes really meet now, often, and when we're alone and quiet in the evening, sometimes minutes go on and he doesn't stop looking, doesn't stop engaging me just with his eyes. This is brand new for us. There are some windows opening, and I know now that there is more which lies beyond for us to find.

Poem: "Instructions" by Sheri Hostetler

[This is today's Writer's Almanac poem.]

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


This is the headline of an article at that actually has to do with the poor attempts of network television to recreate some ghost of Sex and the City, but the word itself is just so clever and funny on so many levels, it demands to be stolen. It's my new all-purpose excuse: "Sorry, I guess I was just ovary-acting."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Perchance to dream

I had a tremendously vivid dream last night, more like a memory in its clarity. The setting was a funeral. Kari and I were at the front of the church, singing a duet of the old hymn "Near to the Heart of God." A lot of FOP people were there but dozens on dozens of others I didn't recognize. So I got a little worried after a time that I didn't pick out Michele anywhere in the crowd, but finally figured out from a variety of circumstances that whether or not she was present, she couldn't be the one in the box. The fact that there was no crossover - no disparate parts of life meeting impossibly - made it all the more realistic. No cameo appearances by my kindergarten teacher sitting in the third row, no combination of people from different eras all in the same room. Not even anyone from any other realm of life except FOP, so I wasn't even a common thread (presumably that was also reserved for the guest of honor). And it wasn't the church of my childhood or any other part of my past, but one right here in Anchorage that I've been in only twice, the last time probably 8-10 years ago. It didn't feel like a dream where you are subconsciously working out familiar issues; it felt like journalism and I the participant-observer.

Nancy took the gestalt approach in interpreting this and said that in the middle of my life's upheavals - some of which have resolved but with at least a few still in full flail - this represents the part of my current life that is dying, that has to be buried and grieved in advance of the changes still coming.

Oh. More change. Yaaaaaaaay.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Ye cannot rival for one hour...

...October's bright blue weather."

Ever since I read this Helen Hunt Jackson poem in a Sunset magazine when I was eight years old, there has not been even one October since without a day (or more) like today where the words spring into mind. For me a day's perfection is set at +39F, and this morning we were there. Took our first walk back at the bog for a while now - colder temps mean the bears have moved on, and the thinning leaves give better view into the woods off-trail, so that moose encounters are less of a surprise. My dancing dog, so delighted to be back in our regular surrounds. Brilliant blue sky. Our breath on the air. The nice older gentleman from Corpus Christi taking photos at the trailhead, trying to catch leaves in flight - "We don't have this weather at home." We don't either, not for nearly long enough anyway.

This is just like April, only with a different promise. Feel these moments slipping through fingers before we plunge into cold white sleep.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Creature comforts

This gorgeous quilt made by Jan Wills was the big winner at FOP's quilt auction this weekend. It's just beyond description in its beauty, its color, and its technical precision, with each frame a different classic quilt design. And Jan is such a lovely lady, who's made quilts for us year on year, many of them just stunners.

The night before as we were setting up the auction, I had called my boss Deeta and told her she really needed this quilt - the black cat in each frame reminded me so much of DC, and it also had Deeta's colors in it, in all those variegated greens and purples. During the auction, I took a chance on bidding up someone who I was pretty sure would want the quilt, but then I got left hanging at $700-which-I-didn't-have. But I made my peace with it - figured at least I'd have one of the most beautiful things ever shown in our auction's nine years. (And it would have been cheap at double the price.) And so I waited.

Then Kari came along, and did a very kind thing and bumped the bid to $725 to rescue me... Then after the auction closed, Deeta finally showed up, and she bought it from Kari.... So everything turned out as it should, and I can probably even visit the quilt.

The one I got was one I really wanted - one of three first-quilts created by a local Girl Scout troop. These little girls aged 8-10 did a fine job, and the first time I held this one I wanted it because it's heavy felty flannel and just so darned cuddly, and a nice size for snuggling on the sofa. I wanted it in order to use it, and use it I shall (and already have). For a tenth of the price of the other one, it will mean just as much to me. Tonight when it was time to come to bed, Hunter didn't come up, and I found him on the sofa snuggled up in it too.

Quote for October

Barn's burnt down . . . now I can see the moon.

Masahide (1657?-1723)