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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Philosophy, Continued

No Plato, Aristotle, or Socrates for me.  I prefer feasting on philosophy in smaller bites.

Like, refrigerator magnets:

Love those philosophical refrigerator magnets.

(By the way, I have a wonderful, knock-your-socks-off idea for a post.   Next rainy day, I'll get it up here.   In the meantime, litter picking calls.)

Look at that -- three prepositional (not philosophical) phrases in a row.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Alder Bashing on Memorial Day

This is how I spent Memorial Day.

This is an alder, before it leafs out.

I took a photo of it because it's growing all by itself.   Usually such is not the case and alders grow in large patches, their limbs intertwining in an almost impenetrable mass.  Note there is no single trunk, but myriad limbs that grow outward and then upward.

When they grow on steep slopes, it is sometimes easier to fight your way into the center and then look for the path of least resistance, hoping your arms don't get scratched up any more than they already are.

Below is how I spent Memorial Day.   It was the hottest day of the year so far.  My thermometer at home reached 82 degrees!  The evening before was rainy, and I actually built a fire in the wood stove to take off the chill for the night.

I've tried a couple times to take a photo that accurately conveys the steepness of this slope, but every time I think it doesn't come up to muster.   Or, perhaps when I'm bashing my way through these miserable limbs in search of beer bottles and dirty diapers and McFast Food wrappers, it simply seems more of an incline.  The upper part of the slope IS steeper, as you can see in the upper left of the photo where you can just make out two guard rail posts.

This particular area, at Mile 50.5 of the Seward Highway, is one of the worst for litter.   People seem to think if it's hidden in the brush, it isn't litter, so very little is left at the top where it's easier to clean up.

I'd cleaned half of this about a week ago, and yesterday went back to get the rest.   In between, someone had dumped a tote full of packaged frozen meat.   That tote landed at least 30 feet into the brush.  The meat thawed and was well on its way to putrefaction.  It smelled awful.

I lugged all of it to the top in one trip, and it was heavy.   But the worst part was keeping an eye out for bears because they would be attracted by the stench.  Fortunately, the alders haven't leafed out and visibility is good.   For  that reason alone, I don't go into the brush after they leaf out and visibility is reduced.

A little farther along, in the area I hadn't cleaned up, was a hard shell plastic tonneau cover, apparently blown off the bed of a pickup.   What fun I had dragging it uphill, through alders, in the heat,  the shattered edges catching on every alder and blade of dead grass.   NOT!

Nothing eats alders.   Moose prefer birch and willow.  The only thing alder is good for is smoking salmon.

And that's how I spent Memorial Day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Looking for His Love in All the Right Places, but One

Ah, Romeo.  Juliet isn't here.   You missed her, maybe flew right past her on your journey north.

Romeo waiting for Juliet  this week.

 She's in a sanctuary for injured swans in Washington state.   I hear she rules the pond where she is free to leave whenever she is capable of flying. 

The arrow loosed by some lunkhead pierced her wing and lodged in her breast and did damage to her wing muscles.  They don't know if she'll fly again.

Remember the day you last saw her, the day Tern Lake was freezing?   You waited and waited and circled and circled, even left the fleet and came back.  But she couldn't join you.

Juliet in the moonlight in a near-frozen lake.

We helped her  that cold autumn a few years ago.  She was in the last open water on the lake and it froze solid that night.   The next morning she was caught and taken to the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.  (Boy, can she run fast!)  They found her a temporary home at the sanctuary.

Romeo this week.

 We watch for you every spring and autumn, and you always come back.  Keep doing so, Romeo,   Maybe someday she'll be here waiting for you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Tax Man Cometh and the Tax Man Taketh

Something to look forward to:

Tax Man Cometh 3Next year the Infernal Internal Revenue Service will assume responsibility for enforcing the taxing  provisions of  Obamacare.

I assume that since the tax man will then be involved in our health care, the IRS will modify our tax return forms to include a box to check if we are an organ donor.

Thus, if you don't send in your arm and a leg on April 15, they can come after you for a kidney, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Some Days You Can't Win......or Lose

I know.   I've been neglecting this blog.   Been too many days since I've told you what's going on.   Two things:  1) I've been sulking about the cold weather, and then, 2) It's litter picking season and I've left parts of the highway blooming with yellow bags.

So, yesterday I parked in the driveway of a seasonal-use cabin.   My plan was to go south and then north, filling yellow bags.   A young man named Sam came out of the neighboring cabin and I asked permission to park there.  He thanked me for what I was doing and said he might join me one day.

We chatted a while and then I started.  I was on a schedule because I was going somewhere that evening and didn't want to be late.   I'll tell you about that in a big post coming up--when I have time, that is.

I went south, crossed the highway and worked my way back.  I tied off the bag and reloaded the fanny pack in which I carry extra bags....and couldn't find my work gloves.  I looked all over.  They had to be here.  I'd taken then off when I tied off that last bag.

I couldn't find them.   I got an extra pair from the truck and set off north.  As I bent over to tie a bag, I saw my gloves.   I'd stuck them inside my safety vest when I'd tied off that bag back at the truck.   Some days you just can't win.

That's the arm opening of my vest.

I walked on, filling bags.   I reached my intended destination for the day and left the bag on the shoulder of the highway as I picked up a few items around that area.   One of those was a red plastic beverage bottle.   I tossed it towards the litter bag.   The opening of the bag was facing away from me. 

Guess where the bottle landed.

Right in the opening of the bag.

Some days you just can't lose.

When I returned to the truck, I saw an envelope stuck under the windshield wiper.   (Actually, to tell the truth, I didn't see it until I pulled out onto the highway.)

Aw, gosh.  Look at this, a gift from Sam.

Some days, you really can't lose.

I'm off again.  There are beer cans and McFastfood wrappers calling me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Time, from both sides now

 “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”- Abraham Lincoln

Gully in Antarctica
You know that idiom, “Time flies when you’re having fun?”  The past few days I’ve been thinking about all the things that have happened since my husband and I moved into this new house.   I suppose it isn’t so new anymore, though, because the move was in February of 2002.

I’ve been sanding and refinishing the clear coat finish on the log siding, and have only the front wall of the living room to do.   I’ve had rails built about the decks and had a carport built.  I took down most of the chain link dog pen fencing because I don’t have sled dogs anymore.

 Probably the most earth-shaking event involved by marriage.  My husband died after a long and heartbreaking illness, and the years of caring for him during that illness about did me in.   One thing led to another, and five months after I placed him in an assisted living home, everything came crashing down on me.   That was a tough one to get through, but I came out on the other side a happier, more complete, and wiser woman.

With no one making demands on my time but Pablo the Parrot, I expanded my “giving-back” area of cleaning up litter from a mile or so near my house to 50 miles of highway through the National Park, and I’ve picked up thousands of bags of litter over the summers.

A yak in the Tibetan high plateau.

A crane sculpture in the Forbidden City, Beijing.
I traveled.  I’ve been to six continents so far, and the last one will be next Jaunary.  I’ve rode in a hot air balloon in the Australian Outback, punted on the Avon in New Zealand, snorkeled in Fiji.   I’Ve walked along the Great Wall in  China, drank tea with nomads in Tibet, sailed the inlands waterways of Russia.

 I’ve seen parts of Austria and Germany.   I’ve watched polar bears roam the tundra in Churchill, Manitoba.   I sailed from Buenos Aires (Argentina) the Falkands, South Georgia, and Antarctica and fallen in love with penguins.

Polar bears sparring in Manitoba

I rode a barrel-bellied mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, stayed over night at Phantom Ranch, and carried the US mail up to the top of the canyon.  I hiked washes and slot canyons in the Upper Canyon.   I went on a cruise to Alaska, zip-lined in the rain forest of Ketchikan, and hiked part of the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway, then rafted back down.

I rode a horse into and across Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui.

Holly ahead of me in Haleakala Crater

I’ve been to Arizona, California, and Washington.   I’ve visited  Halibut Cove, Fairbanks, Valdez, and Denali National Park.  I took the Alaska ferry to Yakutat and walked beaches alongside monstrously huge brown bear tracks.  I camped in Yosemite National Park with best buds for a week, for the first time.

I caught my first salmon in the Kenai River, something I tried to do but couldn't.  Put me at the Russian River, though,  and no salmon is safe from me.

I've done many things that escape my memory right  now.

The best thing is I returned to writing after a 40-year hiatus, and it has given me much satisfaction.  I could go on and on, but you’ve probably stopped reading by now.

I hope not because this isn’t about me.  While I was reconnecting with old friends, seeing the world, taking classes to learn new things, shooting tens of thousands of photographs, and living life as fully as I can, three young women were held in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, subjected to things we don’t want to think about happening to us or our loved one.

So while the rest of the world went on, for those women time barely moved as they survived minute by minute in fear, pain, and humiliation.

Thanks to the bravery of one young woman and with the assistance of a kindly neighbor, they were freed, freed to have their own lives.   I wish them Godspeed.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Out and About and Signs of Spring

Some things I've seen lately.

Turnagain Arm
Male Northern Pintail
Mountain Goats, photo taken from my living room.

Female and male Northern Pintail.
Yellowleg Sandpipers

Male and female Barrows Goldeneye

Male Barrows Goldeneye

Mew gull, I think.

I think this is a mew gull.

This is what happens when you take too long to focus and frame.

Male Barrows Goldeneye

Male Barrows Goldeneye

Kenai Lake last month.   Those little dots right in the center are ice fishermen.
Yup.   Sure sign of spring.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Blood Doesn't Lie

Pablo's blood sample sexing test result is back:

There will, however, be no bronzed baby shoes for this guy:

Birthdate:   Sometime in 1972

Current Age:  41 years

Length:  14 inches

Weight:   1.1 lb.

Eyes:   Orange

"You could have just asked, you know."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

You Think This is Funny?

Your sense of humor escapes me, Mother Nature.   This is not funny.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Birds of Different Feathers, with Good Deeds Mixed In

I started Wednesday off in fine style by consciously making a mistake.  Instead of my staying-at-home clothes, I donned leaving-the-house clothes.  That initiated a full-blown  red-tinted orange-eyed fury in the feathered changeling that lives in my house.

Stupid mistake.  I know better.  Nonetheless, even after changing back to a staying-at-home tee shirt, Pablo rewarded me with a punctured finger that required a Band-Aid when I tried to get him out of his cage for his trip to the vet.   The blood the vet required was supposed to come from Pablo, not me.

My bandaged finger, courtesy of Pablo.
After leaving Pablo at the vet’s clinic for things I didn’t want to think about (i.e., sedation and a needle to the jugular vein), I was a very anxious mother hen, stomach clenched and all.

So, needing something to do that would distract my imagination and worst fears, I drove out of Anchorage to Potter Marsh where I stopped to photograph the snow geese that are taking a breather there before heading farther north, and then drove another mile south to Potter Station.

A muddy-faced Snow Goose.

This former railroad section house is now the headquarters for the Alaska State Parks in this area.  There’s a small park with railroad-related displays, including an old engine with a 9-foot rotary snowblower.  There’s also a parking lot, which was my destination, because I’d stopped here on the way into town to use the facilities.

The Potter Station House, now state park headquarters.

The  snowblower engine with crew car behind.

I  asked the rangers if they would mind if I picked up the litter in the parking lot.  "Mind?" a lady replied,  "Do you need a bag?"  I cleaned up four bags of winter-accumulated litter and as I was tying shut the last bag, the vet called to say Pablo was ready to go home, so I went to retrieve my still-living-thank-goodness bird.  

He needed a nap even before we left the vet's office.  Dr. Nicholson was able to find a good wing vein for the sample, rather than using the jugular.

 By the time we got as far south as Potter Marsh, Pablo was in desperate need of a nap, so I pulled into the parking lot again.  

Part of the BEFORE.  You can't see all the bottles and cans and wet paper.


While he napped, I finished picking up litter from the little park and went in the “employee’s only” back door entrance to the old station house, where I handed the ranger a driver’s license I’d found, and told him there was another bag of litter—the fifth.  They’d already cleaned up the first four.

I was rewarded with an Alaska State Parks pin and a tour of the old station house.   We talked things railroad for a while (my dad retired from the railroad after 30 years), and Pablo and I were on our way home.   We got two miles down the road and had to stop again.

Wandering across the two-lane busy highway was a Greater White-Fronted Goose.   It was obviously injured, its right wing dragging across the asphalt.  I pulled over and with the help of a couple people, captured the goose.  I put it in the back of the truck, closed the door on the truck cap, and headed back to Anchorage.   Ironically, the goose choose to sit on a few empty yellow litter bags.

There’s an avian rescue organization in Anchorage called the Bird Learning and Treatment Center—Bird TLC for short.  They took the goose to the back of the facility where a veterinarian examined it immediately.

From a distance, this looks like a brown goose, but up close--look at the feather pattern on the neck.

The white patch above the bill is what gives it the name of "White Fronted."

When it wasn't chewing on my bandaged finger (courtesy of Pablo), it loved to chew on my jacket, or the green blanket, or anything else within its reach.  It particularly loved the zipper pulls on my jacket.

Add caption

And THEN Pablo and I went home, but not before I carefully washed my hands at Bird TLC.  A few minutes later I reached up to pet Pablo and he recoiled.   I’m guessing he either smelled the goose on my hands, or he didn’t like the scented hand wash I’d used.

He calmed down after I rinsed my hands with water.   I gave him a chip, and now he's drinking water from a bottle cap.

 Now, I have to go launder that jacket and green blanket AND remove smelly goose souvenirs from the back of my truck. 

No good deed goes unpunished.

Tiny Pine Siskins at the feeder when I got home.

Next day addendum:  So far Pablo's blood test results are fine.  There are more to come, such as liver function.  The sexing test had to go to California and will take a week.   Pablo is doing well today, though he doesn't want me out of his sight.

Not good news for the goose.  The wing was so badly damaged it would require amputation.  Bird TLC tried to find a place that could take it afterwards, like the Alaska Zoo which takes many injured and orphaned animals, but in the end it had to be euthanized.   I think that was a better result than getting run over on the highway, or dying a miserably slow and painful death from infection.