"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, July 31, 2010


File this one in the Now I’ve Seen Everything file.

This evening about 9 o’clock I noticed the wind had quit, so I drove up to Jerome Lake to do some kayaking. I was hoping for duck and loon photos.

I saw a family of Barrows Goldeneye ducks hiding in the grassy parts of the lake, and a lone loon floating about keeping an eye on two fishermen, but that’s about it for wildlife.

I wound up paddling the circumference of the narrow lake, snagging beer cans and other litter from the lake bottom. I filled a yellow trash bag full of muddy beer and pop cans. When I got back to my truck, I found it was 11 p.m., so I loaded up and headed down the hill towards home.

Tern Lake is a mile below Jerome Lake, so I pulled in there to do a quick clean-up. There were a couple motor homes parked for the night, and a couple cars.

This is Tern Lake on a rainy day a couple months ago. The pullout is just that--a wide spot in the road that's very handy for quick stops.

This is what I saw beside one of the cars:

Dude was taking his chicken for a walk.

Seriously. The Banty rooster likes to ride in the car. The guy had stopped here to let the chicken walk around and get some water from the lake. He picked up the chicken and set it down next to the water.

After the chicken had its drink, Dude picked it up and handed it to a passenger. Last I saw of them, the Banty was all nestled down and ready for the next leg of the trip—sitting on the passenger side head rest.

I mean, really. A chicken for a BFF?

I swear, some people.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

¡Hola! ¡Ole! ¡Sestina time!

Hola, everyone. Listen up. Big learning opportunity here....


Yeah, uh, hello? Anyone there? Hello?

Hey! I said "sestina," not "siesta." Wake up and pay attention. Quiz at the end of this.

Okay. That's better. Now, sestina. Don't feel bad. I'd never heard of sestinas either until two months ago when I took an online poetry class. A sestina is a type of poem with a rigid structure.

Here's the deal: six stanzas of six lines each, then a three-line stanza at the end that sums up the gist of the poem. Total of thirty-nine lines in all.

Ah, but there's more.

Each line ends with one of six words that are somehow related. That's the same six words in all six stanzas. But! The order changes in a particular way. I could diagram it out for you, but it wouldn't make any sense. Just read what I wrote below, note the six words that end each line in the first stanza, and then where they are repeated in the following five stanzas. You'll get the idea. This order cannot be changed.

Ah, ha, ha! There's even more: within the last three lines, the six words are used two to a line, again in a particular order. See my example.

The six words can change slightly--verbs can change tenses, nouns can be used as verbs, etc. Before you give up and say this is way too hard, sestinas used to be written in iambic pentameter--which is enough to drive you batty. Battier. Battiest.

Remember, you can't change the order of those six words. So, here's my sestina, and NO it wasn't easy. I beat myself bloody for a week or so, then decided to skip this poetry assignment for the class I was taking. Hours later, some words came into my head when I wasn't even close to thinking about sestinas.

All of which proves one of two things: I've learned how to trick my muse, or, my muse has learned how to trick me.

Stumbling through the Alzheimer’s Memorial Garden

Can’t you control him, angry eyes demand

As he stumbles through the flowers. I will

Try to corral him before he tramples more,

even though a scream lies fallow in my heart.

I’m too tired to care, whether about tomorrow

Or what they think. I’m just trying to cope.

I wasn’t made for this, this trying to cope.

My body’s strong but I fear these demands

Will diminish all my tomorrows,

Leaving nothing at the end, nor will

I ever again find love in my heart,

If it’s even in there any more.

He sleeps. A couple hours or more

Of peace and silence, no thoughts of coping,

A time for restoration that steels my heart

To face the ever-increasing demands—

feeding, bathing, and controlling that will

Get us through the day. Don’t think about tomorrow.

What if, for him, there were no tomorrows?

No more showers, no more shaves, no more

Dressing a resisting body whose will

Exhausts my sleep-starved ability to cope

And whose cognitive outrages demand

Something that no longer lives in my heart.

Where did the love go, I ask my heart.

Is there a chance I’ll find it on some tomorrow?

Is it lost in all the mind-numbing demands

As plaques and shattered synapses take more

Of who he was? And now I have to cope

With implementing his living will.

I open his papers and turn to the will.

I brace myself, ignore my leaden heart.

I sign—no more drugs to help his body cope,

But ease him into death on some fateful tomorrow.

He’s forgotten how to walk and talk. Soon more

Will be stolen by AD's insatiable demands.

I dread all the tomorrows as I struggle to cope.

I pray time will mend my wanting heart,

And more: free me from these endless demands.

©Gullible 2010

And that, people, is a sestina of sorts. My very first, so don't judge me too harshly. Actually, if you can get started on one and actually make it through to the end, they're really rather fun. No, you don't have to choose your six words to start--just begin writing and see what happens. Then you can cram--I mean, rewrite-- it into the proper form

Now, for the siesta.

By the way, while these thoughts and emotions were current and valid at a certain time in my life, they are no more. I have healed after all.

Huh? Oh, the quiz? Don't bother me right now. I'm napping.

Good Stuff Alert

Want a good laugh-out-loud or two. Or ten?

At the Elder Storytelling Place today:


There's a link down there on the right side--down in Come Visit My Friends.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Day in the Life

This is what I woke up to this morning.

I tried to blame some of it on this guy, but he claims that without opposable thumbs, he was totally incapable of making THAT BIG a mess, unlike someone he knows around here. I don't think he was talking about the African Daisy that lives downstairs on the kitchen counter and is pretty well rooted in place.

Not wanting to tackle the above-mentioned mess (I mean, I'd just cleaned it a couple days ago!), I decided to do a chore I've been putting off for two years. Actually, it's out of sight and thus out of mind most of the time. Plus, it's been raining a lot and this is definitely not something I'd do in the rain. Anymore, that is. There was a time, though.... neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night...

I have had two (count 'em) two very very very fine days. Two whole days without rain, most of which I frittered away playing Spider Solitaire.

However, I did get a couple things done, so while I figure out how to finish the Yakutat Journals, I'll tell you about my day. I have one story about Yakutat left. That would make it chapter thirteen. No way, no how am I ending that series on the thirteenth chapter. So I'm thinking.

In the meantime, my very very very fine day started last evening when I went up to Mile 54 to complete a gap in my litter-picking, all in an effort to make it continuous from Mile 23.5 to Mile 68.

This is a BUG ALERT. I am now going to show you two photos of a fascinating bug I found in the parking lot at Mile 54. I almost stepped on it, as it was right beside the driver's door of my truck. It's coloration saved it.

(My research tells me this is a Sexton beetle, or burying beetle. http://bugguide.net/node/view/32497)

At first I didn't think it was real, but then I saw it moving. Couldn't tell what it was doing in that little patch of sand. It seemed to be rubbing its face. You know the caricature sketches of bugs? How they always have ping pong balls on the ends of their antennae? Take a close look at this bug.

See the balls on the antennae? And look at all that armor plating! It paid no attention to me as I snapped macro photos from two and three inches away. Then, it sprouted wings from somewhere and flew away. Amazing creature.

Don't ask me what it is. A bug is a bug is a bug, if it isn't a mosquito, fly, bee, or butterfly. Or spider. Seriously, you know "ichtheology?" The study of fishes? Shoulda been for bugs. "ICK-theology." Get it?

This is where I was cleaning up litter. Those are all wild daisies.

Here are daisies and fireweed.

And some more. I had the thought last night that I was enhancing the life experience of wildflowers by cleaning up their neighborhood. I think they like that.
The daisies were especially happy about it.

Then came this morning and this mess:

And this guy's denials of involvement.

I checked the temperature. Fifty-six. Perfect. I have to wear long sleeves for this job and this was a pleasant temp.

I gathered up the tools I'd need.

Rounded up the equipment...

...and went to the job site. It's in there somewhere....

Much sawing and clearing of dead branches later, the windfall tree appeared.

Got cut up into firewood lengths...

...and then I thought of an excuse why I couldn't finish the job.

And, it wasn't this:

Not that he'd be any help:

Actually, I had a writer's group meeting to attend in Seward. So, I watered the flowers. The domesticated ones, I mean.

Then off I went to Seward. As you drive into Seward on the main (only) road, you pass a lagoon with big houses up on the cliff overlooking it. I've always wondered who lived up there.

Well, Margaret of our writer's group lives in one of the places up there and she was hosting this month's meeting. From her balcony I took these photos:

Looking south towards downtown. You can't see the actual downtown in this photo.

And southward overlooking the small boat harbor, cruise ship dock, and coal loading terminal.

After the meeting, I headed home. As I passed by Kenai Lake, the clouds had parted off in the distance and the lighting caught my attention. I stopped, turned around and went back to take pictures.

Then I came home to this.

This guy claims that he would have been more than happy to clean up my desk and the rest of the loft as well (despite the lack of opposable thumbs), except that he'd been locked in his cage the WHOLE time.

The End.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Yakutat Journals, Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve: In which we are led to Sunshine Boy

I never knew Nathan Bremner.

I’d never met him nor heard his name. I never knew his parents or his friends, though I have reason to believe I’ve spoken with some of those who loved him. By default, that is, simply because I spent a few days in Yakutat.

Portion of carved eagle mural at Yakutat High School

When JJ and I asked the locals what we should see during our time in Yakutat, all mentioned the totem. There was something in the way they said it, something in their voices that caught my attention. I should have followed up on that, asked a few more questions.

The lake where we found Sunshine Boy.

I’ve seen lots of totems. There are a few in my area of Alaska, but they are atypical this far north. Totems are indigenous to the Haida, Tshimshian, and Tlingit peoples of Southeastern Alaska, neighboring British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest.

Along the trail to the totem.

Totems are not idols to be worshipped, but are monuments of various types. Many are memorial markers.

Occasionally a shame totem is carved, such as the one erected in the fishing town of Cordova, Alaska. It, according to Wikipedia, “includes the inverted and distorted face of Exxon ex-CEO Lee Raymond, representing the unpaid debt that courts determined Exxon owes for having caused the oil spill” in Prince William Sound in 1989.

On our last day in Yakutat, JJ and I drove out to the small lake where the trail to the totem began. The trail itself was wide and well-constructed through the huge forest.

We walked quite a distance and began to wonder if we’d missed the totem. Finally, there was a break in the thick forest and we saw the lake again.

A short distance farther and we spotted the totem in a clearing.

A boardwalk over a small creek led us to the clearing.

The sun was directly behind the totem, which faced the lake.

Fastened to the base of the totem was this plaque. [Click on the photo below once or twice. That should enlarge it enough to make it readable.]

Not until I reached home and Googled Nathan’s name did I learn more about the young man.

Nathan was a Down Syndrome child whose nickname was Sunshine Boy. His family said he always knew when someone needed a hug.

He was also the eagle mascot for the Yakutat High School basketball team.

Display at Yakutat High School

During the 2004-2005 season, the team let Nathan play, setting up shots for him.

Nathan was diagnosed with leukemia. Before each game in the 2005-2006 season, the team dedicated their season to him, holding a 30-second moment of silence in his honor.

The Yakutat High School basketball team won the state championship that year for the first time ever. Nathan died on July 4, 2006, at the age of sixteen.

The plaque tells the story of how the totem came to be carved at Yakutat High School, with lead carver David Boxley of the Tshimshian people.

Once I learned the provenance of this totem, I understood the looks and tones of voice used by the Yakutat locals when they told us to visit the totem. It stands in a sunny clearing surrounded by wildflowers, beside a peaceful and picturesque lake, an appropriate place for the Sunshine Boy.

Note the eagle feather inserted behind the plaque.