Monday, April 29, 2002

Fire & Water

Another hot day. We turned on the air conditioning at work about 9 am just to keep it bearable. When we walked out of the building at 1:30 p.m., it was actually warmer outside than in--very much a novelty. It felt as if we had skipped directly from winter to summer.

As I backed out of my parking space, I caught sight of three yellow-shirted fire fighters walking from the ARFF station toward the Dept. of Forestry ramp. The fire season is starting so it's official--spring is here. For the past few years, the Dept. of Forestry has stationed a fire crew and aircraft at the Homer airport for quick response to wildfires. Later in the season they will follow the fire danger further north--up into the Interior--after things green up around here. In urban America this past year, citizens learned to appreciate the heroism of firefighters in a whole new light. In Alaska and far-flung spaces elsewhere in the West, smoke-jumpers and hot shots have always been our heroes.

I stopped by The Wagon Wheel on my way home to pick up some catnip seeds. I ended up buying several packets of wildflower seeds, poppies and cornflowers to scatter around the yard. Spring fever.

At the Post Office, I was surprised to have a package slip in the box--from Malaysia. Malaysia? Who do I know in Malaysia? Most likely, it was the VCD of "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" that I had ordered a few weeks back. Even though I have no way of playing it. Another acquisition for my Vincent D'Onofrio Collection. I *do* have it bad.

And such it was. For now, I have to content myself with having it. Actually seeing the film will have to come later.

I went jogging when I got home. Nothing too ambitious--just around the block to our other piece of property and back. I dug out one of our old jogging tapes from Nome--a Dire Straits mix that had propelled us when we used to run down from FAA Housing to the dump and back up along the runway. That brought back memories.

I walked almost as much as I ran, but I worked up a sweat and got my heart pumping--that was the main idea.

While I was in the shop feeding the cats, I heard on the radio that the Sterling Highway was closed at Mile 161 due to flooding. We live off Mile 167. As warm as it has been for the past two days, I wasn't surprised. They said the Anchor River was over the road at Black Water Bend and traffic was being routed via the North Fork Road between Homer and Anchor Point. I guess it was good that the flooding happened at a location that had alternate routing.

Ah, springtime in Alaska ...

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Break-Up

The first hint of encroaching summer--I stumbled out into the pre-dawn twilight to go to work this morning and the ground was soft underfoot. It was warm--about 40 degrees--and the air was soft with moisture. A classic warm front, with still air and low clouds.

Quite a change from the past month of clear skies, cool days and cold nights. Break-up has been slow but steady and the snow line has retreated up the ridge to about the seven- or eight-hundred foot level.

We still have a foot or more of snow in the undisturbed portions of the yard--and four-to-five foot berms along side the house where the roof sheds its load. The cats are restless, wanting to get out to find new shoots of grass. We need to build them another enclosure--one with grass and trees inside it--so they can answer that feline call of the wild.

By the time I came home from work, mid-afternoon, the temperature was in the mid-50s. Almost too warm for this time of year. The ditches were full of torrents of muddy water and running water crossed Green Timbers Road in two places. I took the hoe and did some drainage management in the back yard--that sounds better than saying "played in the water" though that's essentially what I did.

It's almost May.

Double "Criminal Intent"s tonight. I am all tingly with anticipation. It's hard to over-dose on Detective Goren, but I'm willing to try.

"Homer, Alaska: A Quaint Drinking VillageWith A Fishing Problem."--Popular Local Bumpersticker

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Tustumena

Oh, joy...

This morning, Denny and I took part in that rural Alaskan ritual--meeting the State ferry.

The MV Tustumena ("The Trusty Tusty") came in from her first trip of the season out to Cold Bay and the Aleutians. Typically, Denny had some items he shipped from Cold Bay to pick up, so we got up early and by six, we were heading into town. I could see the Tustumena out on the Inlet, at least forty-five minutes out of port, as I rounded the bluff. The sun rose from behind the mountains at the head of the bay as I was driving down the hill into town, and the pale peach sky against the azure and slate mountains almost made getting out of bed at such an early hour worthwhile. Almost.

It's the first time we've been out on the Spit this year. At that hour and this time of year, there were no tourists, just a motley cluster of Alaskans who had--for whatever reason--come out to meet the ferry. I must admit to being quite impressed with our state ferry system. At least from the point-of-view of a gawker on the dock, the ship seemed well-maintained and efficient.

And one of those slices-of-Alaskan-life that give me a warm feeling inside and make me glad to live here. Standing on the car deck, waiting for our turn on the elevator, we were surrounded by cars, trucks, heavy equipment, boats and trailers of various kinds--nearly all packed to the limit. I guess it says something about the informality of life in a small town that even though every driveable vehicle is left with keys, no one asked us for any kind of identification. We just went on board, found our payloads, then waited our turn to disembark.

The air was cold and the breeze off the water brisk. At first, only five or six eagles soared on the wave of air over the spit...by the time we left, there must have been forty or fifty, vying with gulls and ravens for airspace.

I sat in the Dodge while the guys attached the trailer and loaded the forklift--listening to Neil Young and trying to work out bits of my CI story in my head. It took the better part of six hours before we had our load back home and stowed away. Not the way I would chose to spend my day off, but an adventure anyway.

And no time spent hanging out with Denny could be called wasted.