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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Living Alaskan

Years ago, a couple local fellows complained about me to my husband.    They had spotted some windfall trees after a winter storm and the next morning they geared up to go cut them for firewood.   By the time they got there, they said, I was loading the last of the rounds into my truck.  Every time, they complained.

What they didn't mention, and what my husband knew darned well, was that though the fellows started out in the morning, they stopped at one of the local bars to fortify themselves for the chore ahead.  By the time they were well-fortified, those windfall trees were on their way to my wood stove.

 But that was years ago.   Here's how it's done today.

Some things are better done in late fall or winter.   Some people don't know any better.

Count me among the latter.

That's why I spent the past couple days perspiring heavily, drinking gallons of water, and using a half roll of paper towels drying my face, all the while bucking up some spruce trees felled by my neighbor.   I was so anxious to get started with that, I forgot to take photos, even though I had a camera in the basket on my ATV.

So, here's an "after" picture:  After I cut the limbs off, after I cut the logs, after I loaded the pieces on a trailer, after I hauled them to a spot where they joined other wood I'd previously cut, after I unloaded them, and after I tarped the pile, but before the rain started. Such a nice feeling--getting the pile covered before the rain.    Just minutes before the rain started.

Yesterday I continued with this cold-weather project, fortified once again with water and paper towels.

You can tell the old, seasoned wood from the new, green wood just added to the pile.

The process of splitting the rounds into pieces that will fit in the woodstove.   This is the fun part.   Actually, it's all fun.   (Ed. Note:   Not all Alaskans think firewood gathering is a "fun" chore.   Some have been "affected" by living too long under the rays of the Midnight Sun .)

Seasoned wood split and loaded on the trailer, green wood split and on the ground.   I'll stack them in different places in the woodshed.   That's my project for today.

All the while I was doing this, I was entertained by a cute little yellow helicopter landing and taking off, apparently giving rides to guests at a wedding taking place at a  nearby inn.

Not all Alaskans engage in this firewood chore.   Some lead lives that appear normal to folks who don't live in Alaska.   They have homes and condos and apartments with no wood-burning apparatus (apparatuses?   apparati?) of any kind, hence they have no need for firewood, but they are the ones who scream the loudest when the electricity goes out in winter and their furnaces won't work.

Some of those folks might want firewood to take camping so they can have a campfire.   Assuming, of course, that they have secured said wood securely on whatever vehicle they transport it.

The unsecured wood?   I pick it up alongside the highway when I'm picking up litter.   Can't let a good piece of firewood go to waste.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Following Instructions, Sort of

The instruction manual for my camera recommends against pointing the camera at the sun, lest damage result.

Because I always follow instruction (;>o), I didn’t aim my camera directly at the sun.  I aimed it at something between the camera and sun.  That counts, doesn’t it? 

I’ve done this before, using the sun for backlighting, but lately I am obsessed with photographing flowers in this manner.  Thus:

Dandelion seed head

Cotton Grass


Wild Geranium

Dwarf Fireweed




Grass Seed

Seed heads



Now that I think about it, this isn't an entirely new obsession:

This photo was taken in Maui.

Jerome Lake

Hiker in Cathedral Wash, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Autumn at Tern Lake

Fall colors at Jerome Lake

And, I am not above using the moon, either:

Juliet, the injured swan, as ice forms on Tern Lake.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Impossible Dream

By the time I'd frittered away most of Monday, it was 8 o'clock when I drove north to pick up some litter along the highway in Silvertip.   Yesterday, the afore-mentioned Monday, was Supermoon Weekend-plus-one day.

The lake at 10 PM.

As I drove past Tern Lake, the scene was breath-taking, but then, most everything about Alaska takes my breath away (especially if it's uphill).   Sunshine, calm water, terns and gulls flying about--this is where I should be going, I thought, not 25 miles away to pick up beer cans and McFastfood wrappers.

That's when the halogen light bulb went off in my head and I had the most brilliant idea:   Tern Lake, Midnight Sun, Supermoon-plus-one.   Combine all three and THAT definitely was a Kodak moment, even if my camera is a Nikon.

I continued on my way.  Plenty of time.  Moonrise was just before midnight.

Tern Lake at 11 PM.

And that's where I was at 11 PM--in my kayak at Tern Lake, wedged in some grasses for stability, waiting for the moon to appear in the east.

Another breath-taking moment:  my camera precariously balanced on the kayak's curved bow.   I'm covered up with jeans and a sun shirt, not for warmth, but for protection from the mosquitoes.

I whiled away the hour watching the Arctic Terns trying to chase the Mew Gulls away from their nests, and the vanquished Mew Gulls trying to chase me away from whatever they thought was so important in the little patch of marsh grass where I waited.


And waited.

The little blue frog on the bow has been a constant companion in the kayak since I found him floating in the lake

And waited.

And waited.

Zip, zilch, nada.   The moon was a no-show.   Rats.

Can't you just imagine the sight of a big, beautiful, pink moon rising over those distant mountains and reflecting off the lake water?

Ah, well, it was a good idea nonetheless.   Turned out it was a Kodak moment after all.   Folks driving past took pictures of some crazy lady kayaking on Tern Lake at midnight, of all things.

THIS!   This is what I SHOULD have seen.   This photo of the Supermoon was taken in Juneau by Leticia McRae.   She posted it to Facebook, so I'm sharing.   And envious.   Soooooooooooo envious.



Oh, and about those out-of-focus shots of the gull?   I can take in-focus photos of birds in flight, but these terns have the most delightful and helpful ability to hover in the air:

This is an Arctic Tern flying away from me.   Late at night, so the bird's colors don't show.

Monday, June 24, 2013

On Supermoon Weekend, It's All about the Midnight Sun

So there's supposed to be this fantastic moon this weekend and tonight, a moon that works its magic on the tides and creates the largest bore tide of the year at Turnagain Arm.   The crazy bore tide surfers will be out there riding that wall of water that moves at 15 to 20 mph.

Another year, another bore tide.

Closer and brighter, they say about the Supermoon.  Would have been nice to have seen it.  Unfortunately, it hid behind clouds in this area.   For us in Alaska, though, it was upstaged by the sun--the Midnight Sun.

Tern Lake, 11 PMJune 13, 2013.   Note the sun is still shining on the mountains.

Cloudy night.   I had to reduce the exposure a few stops to get a more accurate representation of the ambient light.

In Anchorage and Fairbanks, baseball games were played at midnight with no artificial light.  In Anchorage, it was two Alaskan teams, so no big deal.   But in Fairbanks, the locals played a team from San Francisco and I'll bet those guys were amazed.   The TV sportscaster was wearing sunglasses on the 10 o'clock news.

Officially, we had 19 hours and 21 minutes of daylight at the Solstice.  Unofficially, it just doesn't get dark.  Around two-ish in the AM, it's kind of twilighty.

I love it when tourists ask, "When does it get dark?"

That's a straight line I simply can't resist.

"September," I respond.

Don't look at my pathetic winter-killed lawn.  Look at the mountains in the midnight light.

Taken at midnight a few days before the Solstice when I remembered some droopy plants that needed water.

Sound odd?   Not to me, not after 65 years of living here.  This is normal for me, and I love it!  It makes up for all the darkness during winter.

At the Midnight Hour.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bewitched before the Midnight Hour

Tuesday, another hot day in a sequence of unusually hot days.  This day was a little different, though, because a nice breeze kept things cool enough to be tolerable.

Unlike Monday, which was far too hot for me, and which broke records in several coastal towns.   In fact, Alaska set higher temperatures than most of the US west, except in those places where gila monsters and rattlesnakes live (where no humans should, either).

I went kayaking Monday evening at Tern Lake.  Pulling into my driveway at 9 PM, that Midnight Sun was still shining brightly on my house.

At 10:30, I glanced out an east-facing window and saw a wall of dark gray heading this way.

When the promised rain began, I stepped onto the back deck and got this photo of a faint rainbow as the sun pierced through the cloud bank.   The combination of dark clouds, rain showers, and late sun made for some fantastic colors.

This was at 11 PM.    The sun is on the upper parts of the mountains.

Here's the progression of the sunset in the west:

11:23 PM:

11:30 PM:


11: 38 PM

These photos give as accurate a representation of ambient light as I could manage with my Nikon Coolpix..   I had to decrease the camera by several stops to get close.

Hard to stay in bed with that Ol' Midnight Sun putting on a show like this, and obviously, I didn't.