All the Write Stuff

Northland News

October 2002

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Signs of Autumn in Alaska

The mountains have gone gold; a young bull moose wandered through my back yard yesterday; there's frost on the ground this morning; we're down to less than 12 hours of daylight (11 hours, 20 minutes on October 2). Last Friday morning, when I returned from a week-long visit to Massachusetts (the fall East Coast counterpart to my trip down the West Coast in April), I saw that the aspens and birches had all turned gold and the underbrush had become scarlet in my absence. I think I've mentioned before how intense things are in Alaska -- one week to go from summer to fall!

I had figured to get two autumns this year, but late September in Massachusetts turned out to be hotter and more humid than it ever gets in this part of Alaska! I stayed at Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, and had planned on using the sauna and whirlpool there. But with temperatures in the 80s and humidity at 80-90 percent, I had only to sit in the lounge to realize the same effect: sweat.

Now, less than a week later, I'm seeing frost in my backyard and snow down to the "chest level" of the Chugach Mountains (for my friends in New England, this is the equivalent of being down to tops of your "mountains" -- about 2,000 feet). Time to prepare for winter.

Trip to Massachusetts

The flight to Massachusetts was not fun for me. I left my home on Wednesday at 9 p.m., and my son Kent picked me up and got me to Kripalu at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday evening. I got a couple of hours of doze along the way, but no real sleep. The return trip was much the same; left Kent's house at about 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday and got to my home at 2 a.m. Friday (which was 6 a.m. in Massachusetts), but I got a couple of hours sleep between Seattle and Anchorage on that return flight.

Visit at Kripalu

While in Massachusetts, I was delighted to connect with several old friends while staying at Kripalu (in Lenox) and environs, enjoying dinner and an evening walk with Dashrath (Endel); a great percussion concert in which Nanak (John) played; long talks with Manisha (Lynne), Saluna (Laura), Shanti (Joan), and Jashumati (Randi); and a good visit with Niranjan (David), who was at Kripalu from Hawaii -- seems strange for us both to travel thousands of miles east to meet in Massachusetts. Kripalu, a yoga and health center, has changed a great deal from when it was an ashram at which I lived for three years. Although I was glad to see old friends and partake of excellent vegetarian meals, I didn't feel the same sense of "belonging" that I once had.

Visit with Family

The second half of my East Coast visit was with Kent and his wife Carol in Washington, Massachusetts, about 15 minutes from Pittsfield and about a half hour from Kripalu. On Sunday, I met Kent and Carol at the Hancock (Shaker Village) Fair where Carol had a booth for her West Branch Flower Farm. She has a good business selling fresh flowers to florists in the Pittsfield area and from a summer stand in front of their home and farm on Washington Mountain. At the fair, she was selling mostly dried flowers and arrangements.

Kent, who designed my Web site and logo, had also arranged to have my letterhead and business cards printed at American Speedy printing in Pittsfield, which allowed me to visit with my friend (and owner of the print shop) Jean and also to bring back all the end results as my second piece of luggage.

I also got to spend some time visiting with Carol's brother J.D., who is also an artist, and with her parents (her mother is a fabulous cook and also makes lovely quilts, some of which were on display at the Hancock Fair). I also enjoyed my two grandcats (Barney and his new playmate Patoutie) and the two grandcats and six greatgrand kittens that Kent and Carol are fostering for a local pet shelter. Can't say I "enjoyed" the roughly 30 grandchickens Kent and Carol are raising, but I marvel at the couple's dedication to their farm activities while they still pursue their professional artistic careers.

I also got to spend some time visiting with Carol's brother J.D., who is also an artist, and with her parents (her mother is a fabulous cook and also makes lovely quilts, some of which were on display at the Hancock Fair). I also had fun with my two grandcats (Barney and his new playmate Patootie) and the two grandcats and six greatgrand kittens that Kent and Carol are fostering for a local pet shelter. Can't say I "enjoyed" the roughly 30 grandchickens Kent and Carol are raising, but I marvel at the couple's dedication to their farm activities while they still pursue their professional artistic careers.

Summer Activities

Summer in Alaska was fantastic this year. June and July were mostly sunny, with temperatures in the 70s most days; we didn't get much rain until September. Although it was pleasant for tourists and residents alike for getting out and about and enjoying Alaska's scenery and recreational opportunities, it made for a very poor wild-berry crop this year. On my little backyard raspberry bushes (someday it will be a patch!), I found only three rather small berries.

My one Alaska vacation was in August to visit a friend (from ashram days) who lives in Anchor Point, some 200 or so miles south of here. Betty Jo has a marvelous home (run by wind and solar power) on the top of a ridge. Looking to the south, I could see five glaciers on the south side of Kachemak Bay, on which Homer is located (you know Homer: home of Tom Bodett, who'll keep the light on for you). To the west, I could see across Cook Inlet to Mt. Augustine and Mt. Illiamna, both volcanoes (and not finished blowing off now and then). Betty Jo and I discovered we both loved to play games, and we got our "fixes" with multiple rounds of Scrabble, RSVP, 500 rummy, Rummy Cube, and several other word and card games.

On the way down to Anchor Point, I pulled into the village of Ninilchik because I enjoy looking at the attractive Russian Orthodox church on the hill above it. Ninilchik is on Stareski Creek, where I saw two harlequin ducks resting on a rock amid the rushing water. The harlequin duck is one of 10 sea ducks about which I am writing under a contract with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so it was kinda fun to see one in person.

On my return to Eagle River, I drove the Skilak Lake Loop road, which parallels Sterling Highway and allows access to numerous campgrounds, hiking trails, and lake front areas. There I saw two trumpeter swans. Further along toward home, I stopped at Tern Lake, which is at the junction of the Seward and Sterling highways. Although I saw few Arctic terns still hanging around, I watched several ducks on the lake and mountain goats on the mountains across the lake. I also watched (and listened to the haunting cry of) a common loon swimming on the lake.

Moose Again

I have always been fortunate to easily spot wildlife. I think it has something to do with seeing what is "out of place" in a still scene and recognizing it as an animal or bird. Of course, it helps when it moves. That's how I happened to see the moose in my yard yesterday . . . in my peripheral vision, moving slowly about 30 feet from my office window. This is the first bull I've seen in my yard since I moved here in April 2000. He looked young, not too large (all relative, of course), and sporting a not-too-majestic (relative again) rack.

The two cow moose who have been frequenting my yard over the past couple of years, including spending a lot of time here last winter, didn't return this summer. I don't know if they calved somewhere else or just moved on. I did see one cow moose with two fairly new calves a little further down Eagle River Road back in early July, but couldn't tell if it was one of "my" cows. But I know some moose have been in the yard this summer because of the "plops" of moose pucky I find out there (for more on that subject, see Northland News for June 2002).

Professional Activities

In addition to writing the sea ducks information sheets, I have been busy editing case studies about North Atlantic cod and hake fisheries (and the effects of government subsidies on same) and plan to make yet another trip to Kodiak in December to work with a big-game guide in writing his applications for special-use permits on the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

I am again taking on coordination of the Alaska Press Women Communications Contest (for 2003) and start gearing up for that later this month. I was pleased to learn that all three of my first-place winning entries from last year went on to National Federation of Press Women competition and also garnered awards there. Although I am slowing down some these days, it's good to know that my professional efforts still pass muster.

Speaking of which, time to get back to those sea ducks . . . next up, white-winged scoters.

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