Monday, August 25, 2008

Hope, destiny and Winterland.

This morning we woke to a treat. Mama and her babies were meandering the compound. Actually, yesterday mama and her babies were meandering the compound until our little creighton, Kenai, decided to bark at them through the window and mama gathered the kids and split. You just don't think she will ever get it, do you?! But this morning we were able to hide their presence from her and enjoy their visit. Again, mama watched me come out just 20 feet away from her and the babies, but allowed me to stay and observe. The two babies were very giddy and playful, as they were galloping around mama and frolicking about. To cute! Apparently my dad experienced the same thing up on the driveway one morning on his way out for his daily regimen to get the newspaper from the road. He encountered them, sweet talked mama, and she allowed him to stay put and observe. Quit an honor. Our visit was enjoyable and the folks got to see more of the peninsula this time around and experience more of the splendor we live in. But like I told them, they....we have only begun to experience yet a fraction of Alaska. Coincidentally, it is official, our deep freezer is now 97% full of salmon, halibut, and cod. It gonna be a fine eatin winter! And I have an unofficial yet close account of this years firewood stock. I am estimating 10 cords as of now....simply meaning that we are good to go with what we have, but ya just never can have enough, when it comes to firewood!

So admidst the visit of my folks, Maryann and I found it imperative to do a roadtrip. Seems as "Sweet Pea" had gotten to Maryann one too many times. Oh yea, that's what I'm talking about, uh-huh!! Maryann ripped her a new rearend up down, sideways and in a circle, and the bitch gained unmentionable respect and effectuation for just where she stands in Maryanns office. Some just don't seem to get it. Anyways, after watching my wife deal so effectively with this ordeal, I just said, "let's go". "Where she asked?" "Let's go to Hope" I said. She looked at me with a scepticle look in her eyes and asked, "is there Hope". Yeah. Hope is a little town across the Turnagain Arm and downwind from Anchorage. As the crow flies it is probably only 30 miles from Nikiski. But the only way to get there is going the couple hundred mile drive towards Anchorage, and it is off the main road tucked away in the mountains, lining the water. When I say small, I mean Dorrington small, minus all of the vacation cabins. There are not many places with running water, and many accommodations there are still using outhouses or community restrooms. We were fortunate enough to find a tiny, old and cozy log cabin off the beaten path of the bustling downtown (sarcasm). The busiest we saw was some little coffee/gift shop with a couple hippies playing guitar on the steps and locals sitting around wasting the day away. Doesn't sound like anything ol Greg and Maryann would like, does it? We found ourselves in complete bliss just lounging around the cabin, doing nothing but unwinding and reflecting, something much needed for us both as it has been a very trying summer with work, lack of sunshine (oh cry me a river, aint it!), and the disappointment of a lousy salmon season for our son. As night began to fall around 7:00 PM, still light out like it was afternoon, we found ourselves wandering the streets of downtown Hope, trying to find a good eating establishment for some local fare. Keep in mind, downtown Hope consists of primarily a campground where the river pours into the Arm, the coffee/gift shop, a few houses and a small diner with a detached bar called the Seaview Cafe. Completely unaware to either of us at the time, it is this Cafe that would invariably impact the fun and loving sector of our souls forever....destiny, if you would. As we ate a quiet dinner with a few other diners, the cook was in the kitchen with his radio going, and conversation abound about the place. Maryann noticed I had a strange look on my face. Now most would of figured I was silently choking on some stray food and trying to conceal my despair as to not denote attention to myself. But no, Maryann knows me better than most and she realized that in fact I wasn't gaging but shutting out the white noise around me to focus and center in on the music I was hearing in the backround. The sounds that were just begining to eminate from the bar, out the back door of the Cafe and accross the outdoor patio separating the two. This music, this sound fading quietly in and out.... My brows frowed as I struggled, searching for the sound. As she sat in utter amasement at my illimitable focus, I found that I could no longer stand it. No, what I was hearing....what no other human in the diner was even aware of at that moment, was what seemed to be an acoustic version of "I Know You Rider", a Grateful Dead set opener, renouned to Deadheads for decades past. I found myself hurriedly yet coy like scrambling for the back door. As I stood in the doorway, my wife sitting there shaking her head with an acknowledging grin and amasement, I hear what I am believing to be, at that particular moment, Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitarist for the fabbled Jefferson Airplane, founder of the acoustic band Hot Tuna....the 'playin whore' of rock and blues..... Naah, although Hot Tuna was just in Anchorage back in May, I konw not of their presence I wander towards the back door of the bar with my pulse charging, my anticipation drumming. I enter the threshold to find a small acoustic band complete with percussinist...but is not Jorma, it is not Hot Tuna. It is a band calling themselves Winterland, and as Maryann and I paid our bill to go into the bar to enjoy what it was Winterland was to offer, found ourselves 2 barstools front row and inches from the band to dig in what would be an evening of Grateful Dead tunes. Yes, not the Dead but a very hot Dead cover band. Our first time in a bar either of us since we got together 15 years ago, we opened a tab and drank, rocked, shaked our butts and wiggled our heads to that band down there playin' the Grateful Dead. Oh what a night! I mean, it couldn't have been a better night for the type of time we needed. In other words, we couldn't bring about a time like this if we tried, and here it falls right into our lap. We made new friends, some locals, some tourists who glued to our every word of life in Alaska, listened to ammusing folklore of tourist antics from the bartender, carried on continual conversations with the band. Man, what fun. They played 3 sets of acoustic and electric instrumentation of many Dead tunes that night, a few even the Grateful Dead themselves had not done for decades.

But as all good times must, so too did this trip come to an end the following morning as Maryann had to get back to work by noon. Yes, just an overnighter, but a heck of a ride! We bared witness days later to a couple of breathtaking and amazing scenes on our way home from taking the folks to the Anchorage airport for their journey home. If you remember, the Turnagain Arm is the place of the 'Tidal Bore' wave, as well as tides that flexuate as much as 40 feet low to high. Here is a pic of that tide on it's way out of the Arm. Now mind you, it looks like a river, but is in fact the low area on this side of the Arm, draining to the Cook Inlet and out to the Gulf Of Alaska. Almost reminded me of a cork being pulled from a tub! If you look to the upper center of the picture, you can see the shallow area starting to expose itself as the water rushes outward. Look at the incredible lengthly swirl the water is making towards the bank on it's way out. Intense! And to top it off as we went through Moose Pass, we found ourselves pondering and again reflecting, only to be greeted by a reassuring glimpse of what could be construed as God himself. As usual, picture do no justice to the real thing, but what an awe inspiring moment it was for two sourdoughs, contemplating their existence in the 'great land'. A couple that took a chance, made a leap, and continues to work through all that comes before them. We are happy to be here with John and the dogs, and feel blessed to be able to continue to share our journey forward. Good night.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New arrivals to the compound.

Yet another glorious summer in the great land, and we find ourselves once again amidst the wild life that surrounds us. If you remember last year we commented on how the lake seemed to come to life with all the different animals, mammals, and water fowl that gravitated to it. This year seems no different as we essentially have what adds up to 7 arctic terns, a cow and 2 calves, 2 twisted loons, 1 tiny shrew (well, at least 1 that we knew of...."knew" being the key word here), and now 2 great horny owls...err, uh, 2 great horned owls. In Marlin Perkins' terms what would be possibly considered a "shrewminator". What is a shrewminator? What on Gods green earth is a shrew?? Lets examine, the shrew. They are quit similar to mice, only bigger, with long freaked out snouts, and are carnivorous. Scary huh. Owls like vermin....shrews are vermin....get the point?! Now back to the shrew we "knew". I was sitting at the dinner table one night a couple weeks back and about gaged as I watched a shrew frolicing across the lawn. We relocated it. Now with the 2 owls, I think the shrew existence is going to be limited from here on out. Anyways, we all got home tonight around 10:00PM after a long day of work for the 3 of us, and as Maryann was standing out on the back deck, she notices this huge owl in the thicket at the lakes edge, with the 2 loons 8 feet off shore almost as if they were just hanging out with the owl, and a moose calling from beyond the tree line across the lake. Keep in mind, again, the wild life around the lake almost chime in together like some zuluistic tribe of gatherers. Amazing really that they are all so in tuned to each other. Lets step back to this morning. I am awaken out of a dead sleep by an excited Maryann telling me that there is an owl on our property. Now I could barely open my eyes much less roll my naked ass out of bed to go see this spectacle. But somehow, the intrigue and sense of her excitement pulled me through the process. Sure enough, only visible through our binoculars was what she looked up as a great horned owl in one of the trees behind the sauna. Talk about big. This thing was huge. I thought the eagles were huge... And, judging by the size of the gargantuan crap on the deck, displayed next to a dime to illustrate its immensity, you can only imagine how huge it was! So back to tonight, after witnessing the one in the thicket fly off, she observed another in one of the other trees lakeside. Now it is just so cool to sit back and wind down to this kind of happening, ringside.

Another honor was our mama cow sharing her 2 calves with us for several days, despite the hun-like action of our knuckle headed Kenai a week earlier. They were literally hanging out along the side of the driveway for several days. We would leave in the morning....they would be there hanging out. We would come home in the evening....they would be there hanging out. Not sure what this meant. Maybe it was that enlightening chat of calm I had with mama after the near attack with the dog! Yea, right. Was strange yet as I said, a quiet honor.

Then there is the recent move on my part to expidite the collection of firewood. In an insane moment of reality, realizing that with our unusually cold and wet summer we would not have enough seasoned fire wood, I started eyeballing the house. I mean, it is seasoned wood, right. Our moto here is "wood is good"! Sick bas#^*d! Actually, Maryann got her long awaited wish. A window in Johns bathroom. Man did it make a difference not only with the light emitted into the room and it is so nice to have some air circulation. Bet we wont be saying that around January! I never realized how balding at the top I really have become. Incredible what age, wisdom, and the pursuit of happiness does to a guy!

We are awaiting the arrival of my parents for their annual pilgrimage to Alaska. They are scheduled to arrive Thursday night and we are excited. Most especially the dogs. Yes, the dogs....just like they know what a "moose" is, they also know what a "grandpa and grandma" is and as we pump them up to their grandparents' arrival they are stoked. They will be here at the perfect time this year as the fireweed is just starting to take off in bloom (if we could just get a little more sun), the moose are still present and visable all over with their calves in tow, the weather cool, silver salmon starting to come up river. Sad thing is the Fish & Game prematurely suspended the sockeye(red) salmon fishing for the season. Seems that the runs have been unusually small this year and with low counts they are concerned that the low spawning rate may effect future runs. I have to admit they do have it together with the management of fisheries here. Lets just hope the silvers are a little more abundant. Meantime, we did buy a deep freezer and have it about 2/3's stocked with salmon, halibut, cod, and some silvers. Ought to be a gourmet fish winter here at the compound. What has been in the past a rare delicacy has become here a main staple.

Meantime, John is faring ok with commercial fishing, although with the counts low he is feeling it in his cut of the share. He has also got a job as a groundskeeper, fish processor, and part time cleaner at Maryanns' lodge when he is not fishing. He met one of the housekeepers, fell head over heels in love with her and her with him and they are planning marriage when they both graduate next year. Maryann is also faring well....much better with her new position as operations manager. She has, lets say, dumped the fat, man, and is running lean. She had a little dead weight there in the beginning of the season, and realized that she needed to let go of a couple of these weight hangers. She found that all of a sudden with them gone, things run alot more efficient. It's amazing what a little diet can do, even when it pertains to staff! She is looking forward to assuming a bigger roll come this fall as her predecessor (remember "Sweet Pea"?) is on her way out on the short train. There are alot of staff and management who can't wait. Maryann has gained quit the respect from her staff and management team. We are very proud of her and know she will continue to kick butt with this thing. Anyways, it is late and I am beat tired. That early morning owl call wiped me out, but man was that a memory maker. What is that saying...."Those who soar with the eagles at night cant rise with the owls in the morning"....or something like that. We have had several friends and family come up to visit this summer so far, and hope to see more friends and "FAMILY>>>>HELLO" soon. Hope this finds everyone happy, safe and gitty. Our love to all.