Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Stories

This summer melted far faster then that last stretch of snow.

Our newest family member and first grandchild, Yarona Blue, was born September 18, 2012, on Douglas Island to parents Merrick Ann and her sweetheart Joe Jacobson. She's a spirited delight and, like her parents, proving to be an intrepid traveler. In two months of life this little kiddo has covered vast territory, back and forth across Alaska for oncology appointments. It's a big state!

At present, Yarona is keeping her mamma, poppa and grandma on their toes in Bellingham, Wa.  Her momma's undergoing chemo sessions for Hodgkin Lymphoma, (detected a year after her first treatments). Bellingham is a somewhat easier climate. But, gad... it's wet!

Writing, as always is good medicine for the entire clan. This season, it's best approached in a private manner. I'll share, soon, when I return home to Alaska. Until then.

   It's a family!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shapes of Summer

I've been away from writing and I miss it.

In late May the snowshoes were repaired and put away just as a green grandness unfurled. May and June have been quite cool, in the low 40°'s. Not a gardening summer. The Kluane-Chilkat Bike Race last weekend had calls for snow in the Chilkat Pass, twenty miles beyond our place. I tuck in at night with a cozy sweater and socks.

But, that green explosion. Again I value the intelligence of hooves and horizontal movement through a summer rainforest. We wind through reaches that gently open to the herd as we nip and nibble shoulder width paths so inviting that the rest of the forest dwellers share our route; bear, moose, coyote.

This summer, we consist of four Oberhasli goats; Mom, her two teen does and their impressive older, wether-brother. The three young adults all sport full horns, muscled, agile and beautiful! Two middle-aged ewe sheep join us as well, (we have both browsers and grazers.) Both dogs keep aware of our periphery; Mason, the ancient and wise and his lady, Tupher, the new trail boss/apprentice. Each scout ahead. The tail runners are two white and orange kitten boys from the Hay Ranch at Dezdeash. Life is extremely large for those little fellows and they love it!.

We're a well oiled team, a silent presence. We are the watcher in the woods.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting Better, Thanks, And Pass the Soup. Please!

There's absolutely nothing as effective as getting puny to remind me how much I value my health, good diet and outdoor time. Plus, I just don't do puny well.

This winter, I've had the interesting challenge of returning to the classroom as Title 1 Aide at the Klukwan School. Working with the kids who are in sixth grade through Juniors in high school has been great, though they're light years ahead of me in most arenas offering the dual benefit of hope for the future plus daily lessons in humility.

For the students that I work with, I AM able to lend an elbow to elbow focus-tether plus frequent reality checks on the relevancy of what they're studying: "You see, mastery of math and grammar matters now and in the long haul. Just look at how I struggle trying to help you!"

Also, I confess my surprise over how little general knowledge most kiddos have of history and the world in general. Last week I heard: "You mean the Nazi's were real! Not just characters from computer games who turn into zombies once you've killed them?" And: "So, who was Martin Luther King?" "What the heck are civil rights?" "Why do we have Elizabeth Peratovich Day?", what was the Arab Spring?" (translated as "Why should we care?")

The all consuming attitude of "BORING" is the largest challenge, especially as most Jr. High kids work really hard at maintaining that mindset. Here's my take: dullness combined with a lack of exercise effects our health and opens the door for migrating bugs to be shared, (homegrown science labs yearning to be explored.) Plus, it keeps you stupid and generally unattractive to others.

I mandate that each time a kid runs a fever or shows other clear indicators that they're sick, they should be required to stay in bed - IN BED,  (no gadgets allowed). This also requires that someone is home watching over them - as they sleep, read one good book, or two, or three, draw, write letters, make frequent notes in a journal about what they are dreaming and pictures of the progression of their symptoms.

Frequent chicken noodle soup, (with plenty of basil!), is optional, (though it comes highly recommended.) Reading together as a family never, EVER hurts!

Now, back to healing, (damn shared bugs). Blessed are Edith Pearlman and the joy of a savory Garrison Keillor Love Sonnet  or two. Go ahead, read the reviews, while you're at it.

P.S. A special thanks to my Honey Man for firewood and a cookie and to Yevette Graham for sending her private stash of Emergen-C Super Orange. What friends!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gathering White Stuff And Confidence Too

The snow continues to mound here at the Alaska-Canadian border having gathered to the rather impressive depth of 200 + inches and up until today, it's all powder. The willow, scrub maple and alder are heavily buried. Deep holes and treacherous trenches beneath fallen trees are completely filled in. With the temperature beginning to climb towards 30° the snow pack will turn to pristine white cement everywhere, the kind that vanishes somewhere around the first of June. Until then, the going's going to be great.

I've been thinking today about my mother and a very dear friend who died two days ago. The two were similar personalities; strong, resourceful, quasi-adventurous, extremely smart. Both were fine conversationalists who read everything.

Thursa Revenaugh, Mom, learned to create happiness with what she had. If that fell shy she'd make the necessary changes, either in circumstance or attitude, so that life felt right. It didn't take a lot. She fed herself with the simplest things; tap dance shoes at 65, all the doors and windows open wide with Hoagy Carmichael tuned up. She encouraged the Morning Glories to climb above the neighbor's cement wall, the new wall, built higher than the sunset. Every sunrise she'd read, sip her coffee and count the number of humming birds that visited her side of the concrete. Though her keen intelligence clouded with death pending, she chose to celebrate, Valentine's chocolate smeared on her lips and chin. She was a tough, resourceful cookie.

The years shared with Jane were our early parenting years, the seasons we watched our kids becoming people. She and her toddler Seth were an active part of everything we did as a family; birthday adventures, skinny-dipping expeditions, going to the public pool for swimming lessons, ice cream parties at Porcupine Pete's, a whole gold pan full of different flavors and ten spoons. We shared a deep love for reading aloud to our kids and Jane enthusiastically critiqued all of Micah's first manuscripts.
Jane left Alaska long ago and I don't know enough of what came down through the years but she died earlier this week from pneumonia via heavy smoking and chronic depression; soul sickness, the contemporary variety, the kind that seeps into one's deepest holes, filling the lungs, blood and bones then turns to cement. I hope there was some secret delight to see her out, some glad memory, sweet like chocolate.

I'm taking them both snowshoeing with me tomorrow, fond memories combined with the happy tramping of four dogs, (our two and Merrick and Joe's pups, grand-kids with tails).  We're looking for individual snow flakes, winter's four leaf clover. That and a confidence boost over the wall. When we get back, there's a roof or two to shovel. Winter builds confidence just staying out from under.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's ...the night

How could she possibly find the energy she once knew when each and every night began and ended the same way? Oh sure, there might be slight variations on the theme but basically the beat went on, week after week.

Tonight was different. She climbed out of bed when she could no longer stand the dullness, put more wood into the stove, made a cup of tea and moved her chair in front of the sliding glass door to watch the moonlight on the mountains and write a bit. Perhaps later she’d go back to bed and catch a memorable dream.

For years she promised herself this kind of respect; to walk away purposefully and with design from a sleepless night. Instead, she suffered the tedium of endless hours; neither asleep nor mentally, or physically engaged enough to be awake.

She tried prayer. She found the rapport with spirits inspiring but rather one sided thereby bound toward emotional and intellectual collapse. Each dearly departed would drift in, one by one, leave a bit of residual doo then mist off again, nothing substantial. Of course, what could she expect? She stood committed that engaging with ephemeral dust was generally better than overly pinging off the inside of her own head.

And now, it was nearly New Years!

New Year's
By Bei Dao

Translated By David Hinton and Yanbing Chen

a child carrying flowers walks toward the new year
a conductor tattooing darkness
listens to the shortest pause

hurry a lion into the cage of music
hurry stone to masquerade as a recluse
moving in parallel nights

who's the visitor? when the days all
tip from nests and fly down roads
the book of failure grows boundless and deep

each and every moment's a shortcut
I follow it through the meaning of the East
returning home, closing death's door

"New Year" by Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen, from LANDSCAPE OVER ZERO, copyright © 1995, 1996 by Zhao Zhenkai, Translation copyright © 1995, 1996 by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen.  New Directions Publishing Corp.


Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.  
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,  
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,  
lists of vegetables, partial poems.  
Orange swirling flame of days,  
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,  
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.  
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,  
only the things I didn’t do  
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted without the permission of the author, though I'd prefer otherwise. Naomi, this is beautiful might I be in touch to compensate you?

She thought back to last New Year. That was the final time she attempted to entrance him with her "Feminine Mystic Wiles”, her “Hoo-doo Dance of Love Joy.”  His drowse proved far more intoxicating than aged thighs working classic Fosse rhythm and jive in tight heels, step sliding to a random selection of Internet Radio. Said in a whisper more like a prayer, “Someone, anyone, we need, Really need live radio, a DJ's musical discretion tonight” 

Once again, dust.