Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wintertime has all began to run.

I still continue to say that no matter how much we love to get away there is really no place better than to be home, here in Alaska.  It is a completely different world outside than it is here! Somehow we managed to totally miss the beginning and what I think is often the worst stages of 'break up'.  Most of the snow is melted away now, although at our place it seems to be sticking around far too long for my desire.  Yes, an avid lover of the snow says this?!  Let me tell you, the sun is out, the temps are up to 45 by day and it is getting light out around 6:00AM with darkness shrouding around is hard not to have the fever!  Hibernation is over, the snow had it's day and it is time to do what Alaskans do; work your ass off by day and play through the night!  Seem unthinkable?

It was just yesterday that Maryann coaxed me into going out to enjoy the beautiful day we were having.  As described above, it was fabulous and felt really good to get outside.  We pulled out the bikes and decided to do some riding between Kenai and Soldotna.  Just before we pulled away in Kenai, I decided to change out of the light over shirt I had on and put on my heavier hoodie.  That would be about the single best decisison I would make this day!  I figured it was only going to be a little jaunt around town and with it so nice out who needs to bundle up?  It turned into a ride to the end of town, which continued on.  About the time we hit the flats just outside of Kenai, I, in particular, realized how much the breeze was kicking up off of the bay, funneling up through the flats and making me wish I had dressed a little warmer for the ride.  Frozen, I continued to rough it out and frankly if I hadn't decided about 4 miles into the trek to pull the plug and head back, we would have gone all the way into Soldotna, I am sure of it.  The woman has become relentless in her pursuit of exercise!

My wish is simple really; sunshine 6 days a week with one day of rain each week so we don't have to water the lawns or wildflowers!  It's not asking much.  The lake is still frozen although it is to the point that it would be foolish to walk on the ice.  Most of the snow is melted off everywhere else and the ground is thawing pretty good now.  It is like walking through a swamp in most places that aren't covered with snow.  You a sloppy 'fart' sound emitted from both sides of your sinking boot, with water squirting out like a pissed clam...  This is break-up!  We are so ready for some spring and yearn for the summer.

When we arrived at the Anchorage airport a couple weeks back, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the seagulls have returned.  Although some people may say BFD, for us, it is a BFD!  It is just another sign of summer on it's way and anyone who has spent a summer in Alaska knows that a summer here is a very exciting and energetic time where nobody sleeps.  We live for summer!  Today we saw several squadrons of ducks in flight on their way to available water....which is lacking with lakes still frozen and thawing slowly.  And we can't forget the pregnant cows!  The female moose are about ready to start dropping their calves here soon.  Although we haven't heard of any incidents, the grizzly bears and black bears are coming out of hibernation now and it is a time to be very aware of where you are and what is around you.  It is the time of year that I like to keep the 454 Casull on my hip or chest when out and about.  Last year Maryann got herself some bear pepper spray.  She is not quit hip on pulling a 'Palin' and running amok with a 12 GA shotgun on her shoulder.  We were hiking up Exit glacier last spring and had a run in of sort.  If walking through patches of snow in sandles seems odd and enough to draw the attention of a curious tourist.....her bear spray turned some head.  She was approached by this guy who commented that she was crazy for walking through snow in her sandles.  He proceeds to ask her, "so, what's up with the fire extinguisher?"  Ok.  Obviously a clueless camper!  Oh by the way, did you notice the scat on the trail back there....dude?!

All in all we are ramped and ready for another good year.  Maryann has her vegetables and herbs germinating in her studio which doubles as a sun room, sprouting and shouting with utter glee.  With about a couple of cords of firewood left from winter, we are gearing up to start hauling up the beetle kill and dead fall from winter and start that sacred stache of heat source.  That comes out to about 10 cords of wood we have burned since late August.  Fortunately, as of now, we are able to burn in the morning for a couple of hours and then again at night for a few hours before bed to keep the house adequately heated which suits me.  I would really like to be able to conserve that last 2 cords.  As of June 13th, it will be officially 4 years since we landed.  Will there be any kind of celebration or hootin annie?  Most likely not.  But it is another notch in the belt, and the beginning of year 5 which is looking to be the best year as of yet!  It was the biggest move we ever made and the best decision we ever calculated.  We love it here!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beating The System: Avoiding the frisk!

Today upon arriving at the San Francisco International Airport for our flight back home, I came face to face with my utter dread for the past 6 months.  The Full Body Scan machine!  Ominously it stood above all of the other old school metal detectors.  As I casually watched the line, as to not draw suspicion to myself, people would just walk right in, throw up their hands as if they were being showered down in a pre-incarceration process, and in seconds were on their way again.  Folks, the whole thing is just wrong!  You can try to argue the point that it is for the safety of all passengers, but I don’t buy it.  For starters, it was just days before we flew out of Alaska, a couple of weeks back, that a solitary Air Traffic Controller was left in the tower somewhere in the lower 48, by himself in the middle of the night, and fell asleep!  WTF??!!  And we are worried about terrorism?!  Pilots with long hours and no rest, airline customers who are so fed up with being treated like less than the ‘paying customers’ that they are supposed to be.  I am more worried about ‘air rage’ or mutiny in that case.

I carefully studied the system that TSA had in place this day.  The answer was simple!  Wait, lets go back….  Before we even arrived at the airport, Maryann and I discussed what we were going to go for….the ‘cop a feel’ pat down or the scan.  If they say that the scan is harmless to us…to me, that is a red flag that they have no idea.  Forget about the privacy issue!  I made a conscious decision that I was going to let some poor unsuspecting TSA operative feel me up and just plain screw with him.  But this would not be necessary on this day.  I detected a simple flaw in their system.  There were so many people flooding into security today that it was difficult for the seemingly confused TSA operatives to keep on top of all that was going on.  I detected a  leak in the main line going into the screening area.  The stanchion’s were down where the two incoming lines merged and then split back into 6 or 7 lines through the screening area.  I mean, not down for like a second or so, they were just down….period!  So, I chose the split in the line that took me away from body scanner line.  Instead, I was able to move myself and Maryann conveniently over to any one of the points away from the body scanner with nobody on watch to tell me different!

Now, as you would figure, I, had absolutely nothing to hide other than my boys which I chose not to share with TSA.  But what bothers me is that anyone who was lucky enough to be there today, who did have something to hide, would have been able to avoid the body scanner at their own leisure.  This can’t be the only time this kind of thing has happened…believe me, I‘m not that lucky.  It was an enlightening experience, and I felt achieved that I was able to avoid what I feel to be an utter invasion to my constitutional right to privacy! 

Other than that, our flight out of SFO was delayed by 40 minutes because like half of the passengers were apparently held up at Security.  More than likely TSA had figured out by now that all of the lines through screening were crammed….all but the scanner line….do ya think?!  So, we, the boarded ones, waited and as a result were late to our connecting flight in Seattle, to Alaska!  When I brought up my concerns to the flight attendant about the possibility of missing our connecting flight now as a result this, she replied, “oh, no worries!”  “Just talk to a gate agent (who we civilians refer to as “Gate Nazi’s”) and they will hook you up“.  Huh?  Hook us up with what?  I mean, if we miss the flight, what are we going to hook up with??  Politely, as to not create a stir like I did last time I flew, with my tainted comments, I pressed her a little…you know, laid out a couple of options, like; Make an announcement when we land that the passengers who are about to miss their connecting flight need to be allowed off first.  Or, at very least find out the time the plane will land  and at what gate so we can figure out our route before we get off the plane this way we can just bolt in the right direction.  Something….anything, but the damned ‘hook up’!

As it rode out, her final answer to our dilemma was to not worry, the plane would land at the gate at 9:30A, the boarding for the connection is starting at 9:30A and we would have plenty of time…..  Really?!  No potty stop, no food, no nothing.  Just bolt.  When we arrived at the gate, the plane was about loaded and we fumbled our way in on time to get into our seats for the earlier than expected departure.  Yup, just like the nice flight attendant stated, there really was no need to worry!  That’s nice….

Other than that the overall experience was typical.  Cramped quarters, corralled like cattle, kind smiling attendants that would snarl at you every chance they had.   Or, I love this one, “Good morning sir” all bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Only to totally diss you when you return the kindness with a smile and “How are you today”, back to them.  Believe me, if there was an easier way to do it, I would skip flying in a happy heartbeat.  I guess maybe I just expect way too much common decency and standard customer service for the money I’m being fleeced of to fly.  That and all of the unnecessary elbows to ass, and body contact sitting in the isle seat freaks me out!  Actually though, I do deserve this one as I choose the aisle seats.  Unnecessary contact is far better than doing ‘the sardine’ stuffed between  two people or ground into the corner of the window for 3 hours. 

We are looking forward to getting back home though.  It was a trip, man.  We accomplished much relaxation and fun times.  But despite it all, there truly is no place like home!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Blank Canvas

This is what I have been staring at for the past ½ hour now….a blank canvas.  Not literally a canvas, but to a writer starring at a blank computer screen…’s damned near the same thing!  I am sitting here, encompassed by complete and natural peace.  With the vast expanse of the ocean before me, it’s creatures and life all in unison to the ebb and flow, one would think it is the perfect place to write.  Yet, here I sit, completely dumfounded with a hint of awe, and a blank computer screen. 

Well, I suppose at this point it isn’t blank anymore!  I mean, we do have this much to read.  As an incoming seagull nearly crapped on my head….how is it that they are like cruise missiles in that sense…I hear a buoy dinging out in the water maybe a good mile or more out.  Have you ever noticed that it is so hard to judge distance when you are on land, peering out into the sea?  I suppose the buoy reminds me somewhat of the shifting tide of life itself.  How when life seems calm and uneventful, the buoy remains still and serves only as a silent and visual reminder of it’s purpose.  Then there are the times when even the slightest shift in the sea can cause it to sound off.

 Like a sentry, it stands the sometimes brutal and harsh waters to warn those within it’s earshot that attention need be paid.  It seems to me somewhat symbolic of life itself.  During times of calm our souls, the center of our selves remain in harmony and balance.  Then out of the blue, a rift in this balance can become overwhelming and thrust that harmony, that peace into utter disarray.  Like all good storms thrown at the buoy in the ocean, this too shall pass.  But not without the memory of it’s wounds.  The affliction and regardless assault on your spirit….on your being.  All of a sudden my canvas isn’t so much blank anymore! 

Upon it lies the moments thought, a pondering glimpse, much like the sea itself, into the uncharted questions of life.  But then again, this is foolishness.  Of course these waters are charted.  There is a damned buoy bobbing about!  Someone charted, someone felt the compelled urgency to warn, and someone was rehearsed enough in troubled waters and it’s co-existence with potential disaster amidst a storm to plop a buoy, right there, into the water.  No, this is by no means the first time….this is no pioneering experience.  Many others and many more have been here…..have navigated this rough channel of the sea.  Once again, at times it seems so serene and calm while others it will be a challenge to ride out the waters.  I feel as if I have stumbled upon some great and time honored wisdom as a chorus of seagulls, gathered closely about, squawk with concur.  Or are they all getting ready to pull flight from their perch and pepper my head with….crap!  If you have never spent time on a beach, take note the next time you do that of all the open spaces for such to transpire, the seagull will almost certainly, always find your head. 

No longer is my canvas blank.  Rather it reflects the random thoughts and observations of the moment.  In this case, the moment is not the time at hand, but rather the culmination of moments leading up to this particular point of time.  Confused?  Don’t feel so left out.  If any of it made sense to me it would be a post rather than a well sentenced menagerie of garble.  But relax….not every writer knows what he wants to say all of the time.  Or, maybe he/she does know but fails the ability to convey it in words that make sense.  In my case, here, right now, I just put the words on the screen in an attempt to sort and search for the point, or a way to tie it all in.  I am not sure if I am just slightly challenged, or if other writers would agree, that the further along you proceed with a garbled approach to making sense, the less sense you make and the more difficult it becomes to follow yourself without straying, to the point of complete failure to hold the readers attention.

There has been a calling upon me.  One of which I have never experienced on such a profound and personal level.  It has brought forth feelings of which I am not sure how to deal with much less effectively express.  I came here today to tell a story, and I have failed.  It has been told me many times, that “you have to work through the problem”  No better  a way to direct confusion, than to try and find the block or obstacle which has created it and ‘work it through‘.  Not always the easiest task!  I had an epiphany once.  All of a sudden the answer to many questions came to light!  It was then that I was able to move on this moment and “work through” what troubled me.  The days and weeks that preceded that epiphany were of silence.  Silence of the heart.  Silence of the soul….silence of a very tired mind.  Through silence, I was able to hear the sound of, and discover the solution. 

For now, I have trouble hearing the voices, trouble returning the calls, indecision on which way to turn too now and how to place my energies….much less, what I will be doing tomorrow.  I am having trouble fulfilling the supposed needs of what everyone wants from me.  Like a good storm, “this too shall pass.”  Like the waves in the sea, there will be calm in the days to follow.  Direction will once again become unobscured.  This is not to say that all will fly in tight formation, and the symphony will chime.  This is just to say that once again, some sense and understanding will be found.  In the meantime, “I” am the very least of my concerns. 

It has been said many times throughout my life, that no matter what you think constitutes a level of difficulty, someone, somewhere is going through much worse.  Although this has always made sense to me and I find it the truth, I have trouble drawing the perimeter of ‘what is worse’ in comparison to ‘what’.  What is trouble to one may be grape jelly to another.  Where one finds death to be the end of the world, another could look upon it as a saving grace.  I have always had a problem finding clarity with pain and suffering.  Some find pain and will suffer from a fallen body while another will find pain and suffer from a broken heart.  Which is worse?  It pains me to see either.  So much especially when one has to do with the other.

Yes, this trip has been clouded by some rough reality and somber emotion.  Shock is a better term.  It has left us dumbfounded and lacking a fair understanding.  It has been a swift reminder that life changes in a heartbeat and all you knew one day becomes a distant faded flash into yesterday.  It has brought awareness to this journey and appreciation for all we have shared in life and all which we hold.  My canvas has been filled.  Much like the rendering of an artists painting, it is simply the perception of  a vision or in this case presence of mind and thought.  Some will see this perception with clarity, will relate to the speak and strokes of the brush.  Still others may tilt their head in an attempt to understand.  In the end, it will be seen for what it is.  One thing though, and this is true, that if you view the work of another, you have taken a fleeting glimpse into their reality.   You have seen a brief moment in time, through their eyes.