Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Memories

"Remember the moment someone special came into your life?"

--NBC Promotion

Yes, I do.

I remember standing at the briefing counter at the FSS in Barrow while an electronics technician told jokes and made me laugh. Quite a feat considering that my heart had broken about fifteen minutes before. I sensed that underneath the humor was a sad desperation that matched, or exceded, my own and I admired this man so much for maintaining his brave front in the face of his own unhappiness.

We went on to make each other happy--for two decades now. That first meeting was more than twenty years ago, but I remember it clearly, for it changed--and redeemed-- my life.

I remember hearing the loud cries of a very young kitten as I walked up from the parking lot at the Homer Animal Shelter. A handful of orange fluff, screaming in hunger, outraged at the unfairness of the world. Three weeks into her life in this world, she was already possessed of strong opinions and a force of will that I was helpless against. I took her home--just for a little while--and never took her back. I know now it had been meant to be. I may have saved her life--but I am the lucky one.

The phone rang and the voice on the other end was more familiar than my own. It's funny how life throws things at you--even impossible things--as if to see how fast on your feet you are. Does an arrow in flight know the course of its trajectory? I doubt it. Some forces we just must submit to and hope we land where we are intended to.


"We've gotta roll with the punches
Learn to play all of our hunches
Make the best of whatever comes your way
Forget that blind ambition
And learn to trust your intuition
Plowin' straight ahead come what may..."
--Jimmy Buffett

Monday, December 30, 2002

Birch

10 degrees
18 inches of snow on the ground

The dawn came up in the colors of a dove--slate-blues, pale grays and soft pinks.

In the lunar calendar, we are in Beth, the tree-month of the birch tree, the first of the sacred year. The birch is a symbol of inception, of beginnings. What I like about the old religion, about pagan spirituality is the way that the sacred is imbued into real life and every day objects. The sight of a birch tree, or a raven, accesses a whole web of complex concepts and interlinked correspondences.

Truth is too big to be contained in one set of precepts.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Lightweight

20 degrees
16 inches of snow on the ground

I have managed to get through both Thanksgiving and Christmas without gaining any weight--so I am pretty pleased. I also ate what I wanted over the holidays--but except for candies, it was all stuff that is on the diet anyway.

I know this diet doesn't work for everyone but it has worked for me. My blood work came back very good to excellent, so I must be doing something right.

There is less of me to love these days....

Pumpkin Cheesecake
from The Harbor Girls' Cookbook

12 oz (1 1/2 pkg) cream cheese, at room temperaure
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar or Splenda
1 can (or 1/2 large can) pumpkin
Your favorite pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, cloves,nutmeg and ginger)
I like a spicy pie so use about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger and nutmeg, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cloves)

Mix in the order given, pour into a graham-cracker pie crust, and bake at 350 for about fifty minutes, until the center is set. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

I made this recipe up out of several different ones. I love pumpkin pie and cheesecake, so finding a way to combine the two was fun. I have made this recipe twice with excellent results. Aside from the graham-cracker crust, this is a solid Adkins-diet recipe, and I felt the crust adds enough to the ease of the recipe (rather than making a walnut or pecan crust) to justify the few extra carbs.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Ice Planet

0 degrees
16 inches of snow on ground

"Your Tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker..."

Honey, I think my Tauntaun has already frozen.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Cold

5 degrees
16 inches of snow on the ground

This what happens when it clears off in the winter...

Was it just last week I was complaining about the warm temperatures and wishing it would cool off? This *is* more seasonable--and drier--but my heart goes out to the wild or abandoned creatures that have to cope with the cold. I checked the electric water dish by the back door to make sure it was working properly--I always have dry food out for the stray cats but I imagine finding unfrozen water is a challenge to them.

I heard birds up in the spruce trees while I was bringing in some wood for the stove, so I strew a generous portions of sunflower seeds out on the snow for them. I was hoping to see some pine grosbeaks--I thought I recognized their song--but I had to leave for work before any birds took up my offering of food.


"To live here, you have to like to suffer, or to watch others suffer, preferably both." --Pat Monaghan on the sadomasochistic theory of Alaskan life.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Green Flash

25 degrees
16 inches of snow on the ground

Green Flash

Watch now for a green flash, for the last moment
When the sun plunges into the sea;
And breathe no wish (most wishes are of weakness)
When green, Love's own heraldic tinture,
Leads in the mystagogues of Mother Night:
Owls, planets, dark oracular dreams.
Nightfall is not mere failure of daylight.

--Robert Graves

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Christmas

20 degrees
13 inches of snow on the ground

I woke up yesterday in the dark.

And silence.

The power was out.

I fumbled for the flashlight I keep on my side of the bed for just such occasions and squinted at my watch on the bedside table--seven-thirty. It was at least an hour and a half until daylight, so I snuggled back down into my quilts and cats and went back to sleep.

Sometimes you have to know what's important and what can wait to be dealt with.

About eight-thirty, I decided it was time to make coffee. I trudged downstairs and fired up the stove. The old-fashioned perculator was already filled with water--all I had to do was measure grounds and light the propane. While I waited for it to perk, I made sure the woodstove was loaded with wood, turned on the radio and lit a few candles.

By the time it was growing light, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing a last few Christmas cards, basking in the warmth of the wood stove and the glow of the candles and sipping my hazelnut coffee. The morning was as peaceful and lovely as if I had planned it.

It was briefly idyllic.

The power soon came back on, but all day long, the electricity cycled on and off at random intervals. I can't imagine the reason--there wasn't heavy snow falling or strong winds blowing. I did the best I could to clean house, wash dishes and get some baking done so it wouldn't look like I'd spent the last two weeks pathetically hanging out on the Internet.

I lost count after the thirteenth power outage.

I abandoned my attempts to re-do the House of Many Cats web page in a festive format. The power spikes and fade-outs had me scared enough to shut down the computers early in the afternoon.

I got the bedding changed and put on a new quilt I had bought about a year ago and never used--it is cream, dark green and burgundy--rather holiday-like in its colors. I got the downstairs vacuumed and dishes washed. While the pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie baked, I fed the cats and made a salad.

Denny called from a pay phone in Girdwood--seeing the unfamiliar number on the calller-ID made my heart sink, thinking he was calling from Cold Bay to tell me the plane hadn't made it. No--he had forgotten his cell phone in Anchorage--that was the extent of the bad news. He told me to expect him in four hours (as usual, he made it in three and a half).

About ten pm, I made myself some eggnog, got the steaks ready to grill and sat back for a moment. The phone rang again.

This time it was Kathy, my favorite cousin, calling from Washington State in the final round of telephone tag that we'd been playing for a month. I grabbed my eggnog, turned on the broiler and sat back to talk. Damn, it was good to talk with her. It made me freshly aware of how I miss her.

As we talked, the power cycled off and on a few more times, finally dying with finality. I had known in my bones that the minute I started cooking dinner--the one thing I was counting on electricity for--the power would go down for good. Oh well--this is Alaska--it's always something.

I talked and laughed with my cousin in the soft glow of candles when the sweep of headlights hit the window over the sink. "If you want to talk with Denny, hold on," I told Kathy, and grabbed a flashlight and went to meet him.

"The power is out? I thought it looked a little dark along the road."

"Come talk to my cousin," I told him, and went in search of another phone.

All the lines upstairs weren't working, so I ended up in the shop, standing next to the cats' water fountain, still humming away thanks to the independent power supply I have it and one shop light connected to. Not because the fountain is so important, but because there was room to plug two things in, so what the hell... I keep a light on in the shop for the cats because--despite their press--they really can't see in total darkness and the shop has only one small window. I worried about them falling or hurting themselves when the power was off at night, so we hooked up one light for them out there.

Anyway, I stood there and petted Newt while Denny and I talked with Kathy, trying to talk her into coming up to visit us next summer. That would be nice.

After we got off the phone and Denny brought his bags inside, we put the steaks in a frying pan on the stove and visited while they cooked.

Candlelight Christmas Eve dinner--that wasn't so bad.

There wasn't much else to do after we ate, so we went to bed. It had been a busy day for both of us, and the simple happiness of having Denny home was all I wanted Santa to bring me.

The power came back on about two-thirty in the morning.

I woke up to the broadcast of the Pope's Midnight Mass on television. I went around the house blowing out the candles, turning off lights, checking the doors and the woodstove. I left the Christmas tree lights on to cast their glow downstairs. Across the yard, the lights of the outside trees--wrapped in soft snow--answered them.