23 degrees, six inches of snow on the ground
Light snow falling
I woke up this morning to the sweetest thing. One of the cats was vigorously, ecstatically rubbing against my feet. I looked down to the foot of the bed to see...Black Bart. Yes, the cat that I judged "hopelessly feral" two years ago. Over the past few days, he and I have been getting closer to an understanding. He has let me approach closer and even done "courting" gestures, like rubbing his face on something nearby when I talk to him. The signals seem to be that he wouldn't be adverse to being petted, though he retreated off the bed this morning when I reached toward him. He didn't seem to mind my feet rubbing him through the quilt, however.
Today is the hundred-and-first anniversary of my Grandma's birth. I think of her almost every day. As I grow older, I feel her loss more--I miss our conversations, wishing I had had the insight of experience when she was here to talk with. A bond of love joins us still, nearly two decades after her death. "Today is Grandma's birthday," is one of my first thoughts on Christmas Eve morn.
Click here for our online Holiday Card...
Saturday, December 24, 2005
23 degrees, six inches of snow on the ground
Friday, December 23, 2005
"We are saddened by the passing of a great man today, on the 23rd December 2005 , Norman Vaughan passed away peacefully in Anchorage, Alaska, he was 100 years old.
Born in 1905, when Teddy Roosevelt was president and polar exploration was in its heyday, Norman was weaned on tales of Robert Peary, Roald Amundsen, and Sir Robert Falcon Scott. In 1925 he left Harvard to join one of his heroes, Sir Wilfred Grenfell in Newfoundland, bringing medical supplies by dog sled to isolated villages. He left school again three years later to go to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd - a bold move that changed his life.
Norman was part of history as the chief dog driver on the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition in 1928-30. He raced with the best in sprint mushing demonstration races in the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games. In 1967, drove a snowmobile 5000 miles from Alaska to Boston. Brazenly declared himself dog driving champion of the Pentagon to compete as the first non-Alaskan dog driver in the North American Sled Dog Championships in Alaska. At age 68, moved to Alaska for dogs and adventure with empty pockets after a business collapse and a shattered marriage. Shoveled sidewalks for food, found a job as a janitor, and built a dog team. Participated in 13 Iditarods, running his first one at age 72. Norman completed 6 with his last finish being in 1990 at the age of 84. Crashed President Carter's inaugural parade and was in the next two. Taught John Paul II how to mush. In 1997 organized the annual 868-mile Serum Run from Nenana to Nome, Alaska. This commemorates the 1925 dash to Nome by the fastest village dog teams to deliver diphtheria serum to save Nome. Norman "Dreamed big & dared to fail". Safe trails Norman." --from Norman Vaughan's Official Website
Associated Press story...
One of my fond memories is of working at the Flight Service station in Nome in March of 1986 or 87. The briefing phone rang and a now-familiar voice cheerfully asked me for the weather between Unalakleet and Nome. "It's looks like a nice day for a dog sled drive," said Colonel Norman Vaughan. I have to say, from my small personal experience, he was an up-beat and positive person and I treasure the moment our lives touched, even a short telephone conversation.
May the glories of creation light your trail, Norman. Safe journey.
I was beginning to get a bit concerned last night, sitting at work waiting to hear from Denny. He usually calls me as he is leaving Anchorage, about four-and-a-half hours from home. He had called me about mid-afternoon from Cold Bay, waiting to board the plane, so I had been waiitng expectantly for the phone to ring all evening--his flight usually arrives in Anchorage about six-ish.
It was almost nine before he called. He had just arrived in Anchorage--having been holding on the ground in Kenai waiting for fog to clear from Anchorage. He had been killing time just an hour-and-a-half up the road. Unfortunately, his vehicle was in Anchorage so he needed to go through there on his way home, or he could have jumped the flight in Kenai instead.
He had been up late the night before, doing some modifications to the navigational aids that couldn't be done while they were in use, so he was tired and faced with icy roads and the long drive home, he decided to spend the night in Anchorage. As much as I wanted to have him home, I didn't relish the thought of him driving that long, dark road in possible freezing rain. So he decided to stay in Anchorage long enough to get some sleep and to head south when he woke up.
Rosalee escaped her private room again last night, coming upstairs to hide in Denny's closet once again. Obviously, she doesn't like being shut away from the activity of the household--such as it is. She hasn't shown any aggressive tendencies and our other cats are so innurred to newcomers that they view them only with mild curiosity, so we'll just leave her out and see how she integrates herself into the clowder.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
5 inches snow on ground
25 degrees, overcast
It finally looks like Christmas!
I woke up with a sinus headache and too much to do--as usual. I didn't sleep all that well. I woke up about two-thirty to see Dinky looking toward my closet and growling. I knew before I even looked--the newly-added stray cat that I have named Mimi was in my closet, looking scared. (I didn't check to see if Grendel was in her hidey-spot and refusing to share with a stranger or what...) I spoke calmly to Mimi, picked her up and carried her back downstairs. As I had feared, she had managed to wiggle out of the vestibule between the door frame and the temporary closet doors. I adjusted the closet doors to fit more snugly against the door frame and hoped that having satisfied her curiosity about what was on the other side of the door, she would be content to stay in "her" room. I worried she would try to get out and hang herself up against the doors. But after I put her back in the little room, she stayed in for the remainder of the night, so perhaps she found the rest of the house and the resident cats a bit more than she wanted to face so soon.
I had an 11:30 vet appointment for Mimi, so after I made coffee and took a sinus pill, I decided to pack up my candy gift boxes before I got involved with cat chores. I don't know what I was thinking, making so much candy. Denny and I certainly can't eat it, and even after gifting the guys at work and packing the boxes for Arnie and Sam and the Harts, there is plenty left.
I got almost all the cat-boxes cleaned before I had to run to the vet clinic. Still have three more to do when I get home from work. Dots checked our new addition over pretty thoroughly, even shaved her tummy to find the spay scar--it was a relief to know her reproductive status but it begs the question--whose cat was she and why haven't they been looking for her? Anyway, Dots thinks she is only two or three years old. After we were done at the vet's, I took her down by the Shelter to show her to Mike and Sherry to see if they recognized her. There is something almost-familiar about her that I have been ascribing to her resemblance to our late Rosie but Mike seemed to think he remembered adopting out a cat like her to someone in our neighborhood. So--I wonder why she wasn't hanging out at her house instead of mine? Cats generally have a great sense of location and if she lived in our neighborhood, she should have known where her home was--not shown up starving and scared at our house....
After some consideration, I went ahead and put her and Twitch in the papers as found cats. If their families don't want them, they won't claim them. I suppose there *could* be an intelligent excuse for both of them to be bumming at my house. We shall see if anyone responds.
I have been so terrible about getting ready for the holidays. Every year I vow I will get an early start *next* year and yet here I am--three days from the big event and I haven't sent out a single card or letter yet. I just don't have the inspiration. I know once I get started, it won't be so bad but it is the getting started that seems to take the biggest effort. And I know damned well no one's holiday will be spoiled if they don't hear from me, no one will go, "Damn, we didn't get a Christmas letter from Denny and Laura yet this year!" come Sunday morning. I guess I am of two minds about the whole Christmas letter thing. It is easy to poke fun at those cheery annual missives but I actually look forward to hearing from folks I don't keep in touch with via email or telephone and hearing what has been going on in their lives. I have had some positive feedback on my annual letters, so I know some people--at least--enjoy getting them.
After sitting here at work this afternoon looking at a very rough outline of "our year in review," I realized I am just not going to make the deadline. I might--by doing nothing else for the next two days--actually get forty-some letters in the mail before midnight Christmas Eve but they aren't going to get to anyone before Sunday rolls around. It just seems more important to me to spent the time with Denny and the cats, enjoying the celebration of the season.
And next week, I'll start on a New Year's Letter.
Monday, December 19, 2005
A century of memories...
Legendary musher Norman Vaughan, who dropped out of Harvard to join the first U.S. expedition to Antarctica, turned 100 on Monday and the celebration -- including Vaughan's first sip of champagne -- was a few days early.
Vaughan celebrated the milestone Saturday from a chair at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Smiling broadly through his white beard, he shared memories with dozens of family members and friends, some of whom took part by videoconference from South Carolina, Massachusetts and Colorado.
One hundred candles topped a cake; Vaughan indulged in a few oysters and a sip of champagne.
Born into an era of polar exploration, Vaughan left Harvard in 1928 to join a two-year Antarctic expedition led by Adm. Richard E. Byrd. Vaughan is believed to be the last surviving member of that expedition, among the last accomplished with dog teams.
Byrd honored his chief dog driver by naming a 10,302-foot Antarctic peak for Vaughan, who fulfilled a lifelong dream by climbing Mount Vaughan in 1994.
Vaughan moved to Alaska when he was 68 to pursue adventure and to continue driving dogs. He has taken part in 13 runnings of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and completed six Iditarods, the last one in 1990. --Miami Herald
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Friday's Volcano Update:
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
Several small steam explosions occurred this week and sulfur smell was reported by residents in a couple of villages and towns east of the volcano. AVO scientists aboard an overflight on Monday reported profuse steaming from numerous fumaroles on the summit, emanating mainly from behind the 1986 dome. Additionally, several energetic fumaroles are located about 200 m (650 ft) down the southeast flank. A gas and steam plume extended 75 km (45 mi) to the southeast. Web camera and satellite images of the volcano have been obscured by clouds for the past few days. There is no indication that a large eruption of Augustine is imminent. AVO has fieldwork planned on the island during the first good-weather window to deploy additional equipment, and to make detailed observations of any recent morphological changes.
Small explosions are likely to continue to occur. These explosions occur with no warning and could affect low-flying aircraft in the vicinity of the volcano. Augustine remains in color code Yellow and AVO continues to monitor the situation closely.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
At 11:36 AST (2036 UTC) this morning another small explosion occurred at Augustine volcano, similar to, but not as large as, that recorded last Friday evening (Dec. 9). Today's event affected the summit seismic station (AUS), which stopped being received at 11:48 AST (2048 UTC), presumably because the explosion damaged the site. The activity is slowly tapering off as has been the case with the previous events. There is no indication that a large eruption of Augustine is imminent. Similar small explosions are likely to continue to occur. These explosions occur with no warning and could affect low-flying aircraft in the vicinity of the volcano. Augustine remains in color code Yellow and AVO continues to monitor the situation closely.
Monday, December 12, 2005
2 inches of fresh snow on the ground.
Partly cloudy, strong southwest winds gusting to 25 kts.
From the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
A steam plume extending at least 75 km (45 mi) SE from Augustine Volcano is clearly visible by satellite and has also been reported by local pilots. Images in the web camera also show a plume. The plume appears to be primarily steam.
During the past several days, AVO has detected changes in the style of earthquake activity and received other information about gas emissions and steaming at Augustine Volcano. Two seismic events on Friday evening (12/9/05), and Sunday evening (12/11/05) may have perturbed the hydrothermal system, initiating steam explosions. These events are consistent with reports of steaming at the summit observed on Saturday (12/10/05), and distinct sulfur smell ("like from a sewer") in the air on Sunday evening (12/11/05) at Nanwalek and Port Graham, approximately 80 km (50 mi) east of the volcano. Collectively, these events are signs of continued and elevated level of volcanic unrest, but do not indicate that an eruption is imminent in the next few days to weeks. The level-of-concern color code remains at Yellow and AVO will continue to monitor activity closely.
Depending on the direction of the wind and the amount of gas emitted at the volcano, sulfur odors may persist. Periods of foul smelling air may accompany the present level of unrest at Augustine, but these periods should be relatively brief and are not expected to be a significant health concern. Humans can detect at very low concentrations the volcanic gases sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. At higher concentrations (or if a person has respiratory problems) the gases can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. People with respiratory problems should take reasonable precautions as they would for dealing with other types of slightly unhealthy air.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
We had five inches or so of snow Sunday night/Monday morning, but by Tuesday, the weather had warmed up and the rain began falling Tuesday night. Now, all our deep snow is gone--just scattered patches of wet snow and smooth ice. I'd despair for our holidays if I didn't know that the weather is supposed to turn colder this weekend and into next week.
Bebe got out of his cage--found him wet and scared in the garage. It's nice to know that he won't go running across the road to his old home if left to his own devices, though I would rather have found this out some other way.
Friday, December 09, 2005
From the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
The level of seismic activity at Augustine Volcano remains above background. On Friday afternoon, December, 2, 2005, AVO scientists made an aerial over flight of Augustine and although partially shrouded in clouds, no unusual activity or outward signs of unrest were observed. Clouds have obscured the volcano in web camera and satellite views during the past week and there are no new visual observations to report. Conditions at the volcano have changed little during the past week and there are no indications that an eruption is imminent.
Beginning December, 1st, 2005, AVO began operation of a web camera for visual observation of Augustine volcano from a vantage point near Homer. Images are posted to the AVO web site every 5 minutes.
Friday, December 02, 2005
18 inches of snow on the ground
Orisinal Game of the Day: A Daily Cup of Tea--I managed to get to the end of this one after several tries.
Feral cats are so easy--I wish I had a houseful of them. (Oh, wait--I nearly do...)
After six years with us, Grendel has finally gotten enough confidence to move furitively around the house during the day but she still will vanish if we pay too much notice of her. Although, yesterday she was in the downstairs bedroom while I was cleaning the cat boxes and made to dash into her hiding spot until I spoke soothingly to her. She stopped and watched me warily while I went about my chores. I got both boxes clean before she retreated to what she considered safety. She is such a pretty cat, I would like to see more of her. She must understand by now that we aren't going to hurt her. On occasion, she will walk through the bedroom while we are watching television, then stop halfway down the hall to peer at us. Maybe I am just imagining the questions in her eyes.
Skinny (officially named "Star" but no one calls her that) has been known to sneak up and sleep on the foot of the bed at night but spends most of the daylight hours pretending to be afraid of us. I have touched her several times, getting close enough to stroke her paw when playing with her (and she is a great one for playing with the kitty-teases). She is quick to show me how sharp her claws are when I venture a finger too close, but I don't have the feeling she is scratching out of fear--just playfulness.
Fat Sally obviously belonged to *someone* at some time because she is spayed. She will creep out when the house is quiet--day or night--but retreats if we pay attention to of her. She likes to sleep in the basket by the computer upstairs at night. She is another one that I talk soothingly to when I pass by. She's been with us for nearly a year now.
Black Bart is a strange one. We trapped him two years ago when we brought Baby and her kittens inside. We had him neutered at the time but he was so hostile that I figured he was hopelessly feral and let him loose to live in the yard.
That seemed to suit everyone just fine until this August. He suddenly started showing up on the deck during the day, visiting the housecats through the screen door or the wire of the small cat run. Skinny and Clarence seemed particularly fond of him and I had to wonder if he remembered Skinny from the time she lived outside (up until September 2004.) That he might recognize/remember Clarence as his kitten seems a stretch but Clarence and Lola were allowed out in the cat run a few months after we brought them inside, so I suppose he could have seen them in there from that time on, before the memory and their scents changed too much.
Over the course of a month or so, Black Bart came to take his meals on the deck. Denny built him a little "bus stop"-like shelter that looked into the kitchen from the deck and as winter approached, he was often sitting there day or night, peering in at us. He would still hiss and move away when I went outside to feed him, but he retreated a shorter distance and his hiss seemed more rote than heart-felt. A few times, he even ventured inside the screen door, but if I made a move into the kitchen, he would hasten outside again.
It took catnip and leaving the cat run open to capture him. After he was prodded inside the house, he quickly found the feral havens both in the downstairs bedroom and up in the living room. There was a minimum of hissing as the ferals were all more afraid of us than of a new cat, and he was well-behaved from the start. I have to think that Skinny in particular was glad to see him, though they don't interact much while I can see them.
After a few days of lying low, Bart began coming out of hiding when I fed the cats, keeping to the shadows and out of reach, but understanding the procedure and fitting in. Last night he got up on the second shelf of the cat tree and stayed put while I walked through the room several times, so he is taking baby steps toward us. It would be nice to wake up some night and find him curled on the bed, but thus far, he spends his nights downstairs with Grendel and Skinny, probably taking air in the cat run.
From the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Friday, December 2, 2005 1:15 PM AKST
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
On Tuesday, AVO issued an information release announcing a level-of-concern color code change from GREEN to YELLOW based on increased seismicity and measurable deformation at Augustine Volcano. These data suggest that Augustine is undergoing renewed unrest. Seismic activity remains elevated. Clear views of the volcano by satellite show no unusual steaming or thermal activity. On Thursday, a web camera was installed in Homer, Alaska, approximatly 120 km (75 mi) northeast of Augustine. Live images of Augustine volcano can be viewed at: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/webcam/augustine.php. An observation overflight of the volcano is scheduled for today. There is no indication that an eruption is imminent or certain.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Yeah, I know...I have been lousy at up-dating this journal lately. I could say I have been busy at home and that life has been quiet but since when has having nothing to write stopped me from writing any way.
Another clear, cool day--not bitterly cold but dipping down into the single digits overnight. Yesterday evening, shortly after sunset, Venus was shining through a gap in the forest right above the lighted trees outside. I took a couple pictures--I have ASA 800 film in one of the cameras, so I hope it turns out.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Augustine Island is rumbling...
From the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 12:15 PM AKST
Current Level of Concern Color Code: YELLOW
Previous Level of Concern Color Code: GREEN
AVO has detected important changes in earthquake activity and ground deformation at Augustine Volcano in southern Cook Inlet. These data are consistent with renewed volcanic unrest. AVO is therefore raising the level-of-concern color code from green to YELLOW and will continue to monitor activity closely. There is no indication that an eruption is imminent or certain.
Beginning in May 2005, there has been a slow increase in the number of earthquakes located under Augustine Volcano. The earthquakes are generally small (less than magnitude 1.0) and concentrate roughly 1 km below the volcano's summit. These earthquakes have slowly increased from 4-8 earthquakes/day to 20-35 earthquakes/day. Additionally, data from a 6-station Global Positioning System (GPS) network on Augustine Volcano indicate that a slow, steady inflation of the volcano started in mid-summer 2005 and continues at present. The GPS benchmark located nearest the summit has moved a total of 2.5 cm (1 inch). This motion is consistent with a source of inflation or pressure change centered under the volcano. This is the first such deformation detected at Augustine Volcano since measurements began just prior to the 1986 eruption.
No reports of increased steaming have been received by AVO, nor have satellite data shown increased thermal activity.
Historic eruptions of Augustine typically begin with explosive bursts that may send plumes of ash to 30,000-40,000 feet above sea level. The primary hazards to communities, aviation, and mariners in Cook Inlet and parts of south-central Alaska from an Augustine eruption are ash fall and drifting ash clouds. In 1986, 6 mm (0.25 inch) of ash fell in Homer, 120 km (75 mi) east of Augustine and light ashfall was recorded in Anchorage, 290 km (180 mi) away. Hot, ground-hugging flows of volcanic rock debris called pyroclastic flows may form during an eruption and could be hazardous to people, aircraft, or boats on or in the immediate vicinity of the island.
Island volcanoes can generate tsunamis by collapse into the sea. There is no evidence that conditions are developing that would lead to a major volcanic landslide or similar event at Augustine that, upon entering Cook Inlet, could generate a tsunami. No tsunami waves were generated during any of the last five eruptions of Augustine Volcano.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
26 degrees, overcast, snow falling
5 inches of snow on the ground
1 inch fresh snow
Finally, after two days of rain and a night of howling winds, I woke up to steady snow driven in on a westerly breeze. An inch or so had already fallen by the time I went out to bring in wood for the stove. At the time I ventured out, the snow was falling as snow pellets--hard, compact pills of snow that pelted me like rain. That probably indicated some sort of disturbance in the air aloft...by the time I was done hauling wood, the pellets had been replaced by more conventional snowflakes.
I was out until nine last night, helping to set up the Homer Animal Friends booth at the annual Christmas Bazaar. It was fun but I don't plan to attend the Bazaar. We aren't much for gift-giving. Denny and I give gifts when the spirit strikes us, not on special days. Besides, I have no real reason to brave the snow-over-ice roads.
I have stumbled across a possible item for next year's bazaar, though. The warehouse store has been selling glass flower/candle holders for about a buck a piece--just a fluted bowl, really. I picked a couple up this summer to use for flowers on the patio table and was dinking around this week trying to use them as holiday holly or flower holders. Instead, they became votive holders. I had some tumbled glass and some glass cubes for holding floral arrangements in place. I mixed the cubes and glass in the bowls until they were about half full, then scattered a few tiny green, red and gold ornaments I got at the drugstore around the edges, holding them with a thin layer of the tumbled glass. They looked really nice. I decided that a red or green votive would look better in them than a sprig of artificial holly. So I bought some votives last night and tried them out. Impressively cute. If I could find more tumbled glass in town, I would make several more as "hostess" gifts. I will keep my eyes open and stock up on supplies after the holidays, and make some for next year's bazaar. I bet we could get $10-15 each for them--especially if the money was to go to the Spay/Neuter Fund.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Another beautifully clear, bitterly cold day. There is no mercy in the pale blue sky. The northeasterly winds are frigid, dry...
I am glad that we have brought the "stray" cats inside, that there are no paw prints in the snow outside, that I don't have to lie in bed at night and wonder whether the yard cats have found warm enough shelter. For now, at this moment, there is peace of mind in that regard.
First impressions can be a dicey thing with cats. The white cat ("White Cat #4" in the vet's records) has shown an unexpected aggressive side toward the other cats in the shop. Lola's Dad ("Black Cat #4") seems--surprisingly--social and docile for a supposed "feral" cat. He comes out from his day-time hiding spot when I feed the cats at night, lurking in the shadows until I fill the plate nearest him, then eating with a quiet gratitude. He is wary but not terrified of me.
At this turning of the year, there are other cats populating my mind, ghost cats, those gone but still close in my heart. As I move around the shop, doing my cat chores, the absent ones press into my thoughts: Johnny and Boo Boo, the still-painful memories of Lucy Sue and Little Black Newt.
And underneath all, the missing of Kisa, who lives now and forever in my heart. She died before the house was finished, before there were even walls and ceilings--just the bare wooden frames and plywood floors. Somewhere, however, lodged in some cranny of the floor boards or tucked in a corner of the wall frames--some tuft of fur, the ghost-print of a paw--something of her remains, lives in this house.
I watch the noon sun gild the individual hairs of Slippers' tabby coat as she sleeps on the lowest shelf of the cat tree. She is happier here than she has ever been in her life. So much so that I doubt the memories of her first four or five years--in that other home--intrude on her daily thoughts. She bears the scars of those times, of being unloved or ignored. She is quick to seek a hiding place when voices are raised and even now is tentative when she approaches us for affection. Her honest delight in being treated with kindness can be sad to see. I doubt she was abused in the conventional sense of the word, but I sense she was ignored or discounted, occasionally allowed to fall from an insecure grasp or kicked out of the way and she came to us convinced that if she didn't beg for food, we would never remember to feed her.
Here, there is always food and warmth and room for one more in our hearts. Our house isn't much but I imagine to this little tabby cat--and others--it must seem a haven of peace and contentment.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
3 inches of snow on the ground
Clear skies, cold winds from the north...
The snow-covered mountains turn pink in the setting sun before the rising blue showdows obscure them.
My November Guest
My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grady
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
3 inches of snow on the ground
A quiet turning of the year for me.
I ate myself into a stupor at the Animal Shelter party--coming home about eight and falling across the bed to rest before I could manage to feed the cats.
I started the day by getting up early for a doctor's appointment. I wanted to find out what was causing my back pain, once it became apparent that waiting and wishing it would go away wasn't helping. So I spent most of the morning at the medical clinic and hospital for x-rays. The doctor thinks it is a muscle spasm and prescribed physical therapy but I need to find out if PT is covered by my insurance. I also think that if I can find time to go to PT, I could probably find time to walk and exercise on my own. I also want to ask a friend for a recommendation of which of the local therapists to see.
So, my next project was to make the infamous "litter box cake" for the Shelter Halloween dinner.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
He's in the house.
I spent a very long night checking on him every two hours, standing on the snow-covered deck in my sleepshirt, holding the cat-flap open with a broom handle and trying to convince him to go inside. On the plus side--it was a clear night and the stars were magnificent. Mars burned down like a huge ember all night long and a few hours before dawn, the cresent moon rose in the east.
On the negative side, under clear skies, the temperatures dropped to the mid-teens and the black cat looked forlorn, huddled in weary shock in the cat condo. I know he has been living outside for years but he must have dens to retire to when the weather gets too bitter. When I went back up to bed, I dreamt all night about the black cat in various scenerios--escaping the pen, turning out to be friendly, etc.
I had a moment of hope this morning when I went down about eight and couldn't see him in the enclosure but as I leaned closer to look, I heard his hiss--he was sitting on top of the litter box on the lower level, not readily apparent to the casual eye.
I had *so* hoped he was inside, being comforted in a warm crush with Grendel and Skinny. That did it--he had been locked up for twenty-four hours and it was time to get him to move inside. I got dressed and collected a curtain rod and a roll of duct tape. From the inside, I taped the cat flap open, then went outside with the idea of prodding him into going through the door.
He surprised me. (Well, he had been surprising me for the last month-and-a-half, but this was sort of special...) When I reached the curtain rod in through the chicken wire to touch him, he rubbed his face against it! That inspired me to run the rod down his back, and he arched into the metallic caress. That de-railed my thought processes enough that I stood by the cage for several minutes, stroking him and speaking to him in a quiet voice. I wasn't going to prod him with sticks after a demonstration like that. Perhaps he isn't as totally feral as we had thought.
So, I went upstairs and talked with Denny and we formed a plan that he would open the cat condo and hopefully prompt the black cat to go through the cat door, and I would use the broom handle to try to keep him from retreating into the far corner. After a small amount of initial resistence, the black cat obliged us by dashing into the spare room. By the time I got inside to bar the cat door from the inside, he had vanished behind the plywood plank and was--indeed--huddled with Skinny and Grendel.
So--he's safe, he's warm and he is among friends, whether he appreciates that yet or not...
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
4 inches of snow on the ground
Went to Soldotna today for another doctor's visit for Denny. Stopped by GF's house before heading back to Homer, where I met his new cats and checked up on Panda. She is a magnificent creature--years removed from the feisty little kitten I found that dark October morning nine years ago. What a string of circumstances led our paths to cross: had I not been working that morning, had she not cried, had I not heard and recognized her cry... Later that morning, a blizzard hit. Denny had to come into town to pick up me (and the rescued kitten) at work. By that point, tummy full and safe at last, she was nestled under my coat and slept the whole way home. Seeing her now, I mumble a prayer of gratitude to whatever destiny caused our meeting.
Such small things can change our lives. Driving in to work the other morning, I thought about RG and how much I had loved him, and yet what a different path my life would have taken if he had returned my feelings. One thing I know--there is a house full of abandoned and unwanted cats that live happily now because of that long ago heart break. I am more than content with the way my life has turned out.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Friday, October 07, 2005
It's that time of year when Alaskans have snow on their minds. Whenever the clouds lift from the mountains across the bay, one squints and guesses how much further down the side of the mountain the snow line is today than from that last time the mountains were clear. On clear nights there is a decided chill in the air, and frost on the deck come morning.
For the record, the snowline today seems to be about 3500 feet...
Last night, on my way home from work, I saw my first holiday lights of the season. Guess I should screw my courage up and brave the spruce trees out back to get my own lights in good working order sometimes before late November. I mean, I hate to break the tradition of standing on a wobbly ladder in the freezing rain getting stuck with the frost-hardened tips of the spruce needles as I track down the one errant light of the string that isn't working but maybe for just this once I can forego the pleasure. We'll see.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
A cold morning...not only frost on the deck but *ice* on the puddles. Many of my potted plants are still blooming like champs but I definitely need to do some preparation for winter, like moving the perennials into the greenhouse, cutting back the herbs and harvesting the catnip.
Since Denny did the cat boxes for me last night while I worked on some paperwork for him, I had the morning free to do other things--like shower, do some vacuuming, and play a bit on the computer. When the thrill of all that paled, I took a bucket of hot, soapy water out on the deck and washed the bird feeders. The chickadees and nuthatches chafed at the delay but I'm sure they will appreciate the clean, fresh seeds. Lola's Dad hung out at the edge of the deck in the shadow of the alders watching.
Once or twice I heard a strange sound--almost like rattling springs on an old pickup truck--coming from the back of the lot. Finally, I saw the fluttering of wings and realized I was hearing spruce grouse. Denny took a walk out back earlier this morning and startled one--or more truthfully, it startled him. I haven't seen any ring-necked pheasants yet this fall but I heard one crowing before I left for work, so I know they are out there.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Borrowed from fruitynut
Chances are people you don't even know are being introduced to your journal every day, either randomly or through someone else. In addition to recent entries, people can get to know you better by what you posted in the past. With that in mind post a link to your entries on this day exactly three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, a year ago, and two years ago. If there was no entry on that day, link the closest date.
Three months ago...
Six months ago...
Nine months ago...
One year ago...
Two years ago...
Friday, September 23, 2005
It is a gray morning after heavy rain last night, our neighborhood closed in by heavy mist. It is the sort of mist beloved of computer game programers because it reduces the need to draw detailed backgrounds. The world shrinks to a 50-yard circle.
Deprived of vision, I concentrate mostly on sounds: my own feet scuffing along the dirt and gravel road, the dripping of drizzle through the leaves of the alders, a dog's persistent barking several blocks away (makes me glad I have cats), the overhead drone of a single aircraft and--once--the haunting cry of a loon.
Walking feels good. On this, my third morning of walking, I feel only a bit of stiffness in my tendons. My troublesome feet--to my surprise--grow less painful as I walk. I recall as I trudge along that Mom walks almost daily in Fairbanks, up and down Badger Road. Grandma used to walk, too, after she moved to the senior citizens' housing. So I guess I come from a lineage of walkers.
Of course, human beings are walking animals. That is our signature stance. Millions of years of evolution have shaped our joints and bones. I feel the fluidity of motion, the thoughtless ease of it, putting one foot in front of the other, striding down a foggy country road in Alaska. My mother walks in Fairbanks, my grandmother walked in Washington State. Going further back, my ancestors walked the prairies of the midwest and the forests and towns of New England. Before that, over many countries, the DNA I carry in my cells walked many far and foreign roads, a long line going back to that distant mother in Africa some 150,000 years ago.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Had my annual check-up with my GYN today, for which I have to drive eighty miles up the road because this little hamlet doesn't have a ladies' doctor. Boy--serious reality time. Maybe I should have taken my shoes off before they weighed me. It was serious, serious sticker-shock! I mean, I'm in my medium-sized jeans, for chrissakes. How could the weight have crept up on me so badly?
That explains why my feet have been hurting, I guess.
So, I have to lose weight. Hard to consider when the days are turning cooler and the metabolism starts lusting for meat and potatoes but I have to face the reality that I don't want to be this heavy and *do* something. "Something" has turned into a vow to walk thirty minutes every day. A modest start but a goal that is attainable. I have been hungering for a way to spiritually connect with myself, to get grounded again after drifting for a while. This could be it.
So this evening, before the national news came on, I went walking. I walked out for fifteen minutes along Green Timbers and Thomas Roads, turning down toward the newer homesites that I rarely get a chance to see. There was a time when I knew the game trails through this neighborhood and where the houses were located fairly well but the area has grown, of course, in the decade since I went back to work and didn't have the leisure to wander the woods any more.
I found I liked our little neighborhood. There are a few contractor-built houses but a large number of the homes are owner built, from simple cabins to more elaborate structures with free-standing garages. Once on Thomas Road, the lane slopes down toward Diamond Creek while the bluff falls away to the left, opening up on views of Lower Cook Inlet, Anchor Point and the distant islands down toward Kodiak. I enjoyed the quiet and the scents of the autumnal forest, mingling with a whiff of freshly-mown grass. After fifteen minutes, I turned around and walked back home. There are a few alternate paths I can take but I imagine as I become familiar with the lay of the land within a fifteen-minute walk of our house, I will want to take longer routes and see more of the neighborhood.
Well, it beat the alternative of sitting in front of the TV for thirty minutes. I hope I can sustain the desire to be active when the weather gets more unpleasant. I arrived back home feeling as if I had done something positive for myself.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
I wonder if September 11th will ever--in my lifetime--be once more just a normal day. I mean, even after sixty-some years, there is the awareness every December that the seventh is a day of terrible remembrance. Memories will fade in time, of course. There may have been a time when the anniversaries of Civil War battles were fresh in the public consciousness but now they are faded into scrapbook keepsakes as the last people to have ever known a Civil War veteran age and pass on.
Time is a stream that washes everything away eventually...
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Not to take away from the people in need of support, keep in mind that many had to leave their beloved pets behind, not to mention the suffering of the stray and ownerless animals in the hurricane area. If you would like to make a donation to assist in the humane efforts, you might consider these:
The ASPCA has a Katrina Disater fund to help rebuild animal shelters impacted by the hurricane.
Noah's Wish is an all-volunteer group devoted exclusively to rescuing and sheltering animals during disasters.
And the ever-popular Alley Cat Allies is friend to friendless stray and feral cats.
In addition, I imagine the USHS (US Humane Society) and local SPCAs in Mississippi and Louisiana are responding to the need as well.
Friday, September 02, 2005
There was frost on the deck this morning. I guess that explains why Lola and Tiny joined us on the bed last night. I turned the house heat up to 65 this morning and the furnace immediately kicked on for the first time in weeks. As the sun rose and warmed the air, the birds were out in force around the back yard. A varied thrush explored the area around the wood pile and I even saw a spruce hen (spruce grouse) in a small tree in the back lot.
I watched Ted Koppel's interview of the FEMA director last night with a sick sense of disbelief in my gut. You would think after all my years as a civil servant, government incompetence wouldn't upset me so much but the staggering inertia of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security is just embarrassing. Predictably, the discussion of the hurricane and its aftermath has gotten politicized as people try to comprehend such a staggering failure of government to provide for the common welfare on all levels. Rather than drift from the personal into the political here, I've posted links to some interesting news articles on my other blog.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I can only watch with a horrified fascination as civilization disintegrates along the country's south coast. FEMA and other government agencies seem paralyzed by their own inertia while civil authorities in Mississippi and Lousiana beg for help. Where is the National Guard? In past disasters, we could rely on them to keep order and facilitate rescue work. Surely they can't all be over in Iraq? The only agency that is getting good press is the Coast Guard--and I doubt their commanders are looking to Washington for permission or guidance.
The reports of looting and other lawlessness are very distressing. Louisianna's governor was on The News Hour tonight, castigating the troublemakers like a disappointed mother. Surely it isn't just electricity that keeps us civilized? Or the fear of law enforcement? Of course, I live in a small town in a frontier area where most of us have alternate sources of light and heat and keep well-stocked pantries against isolating blizzards, floods or earthquakes. Most of us have personal firearms as well. I can't imagine that looting would even get started around here.
But that's easy to say when I'm safe and secure a continent away from destruction I can't even comprehend. I know I am blessed and live in a blessed land. I hope I may never know what it is to lose everything in one fell swoop. I try not to judge the actions of others when I haven't walked in their shoes and I learned a long time ago not to say, "I'd never do that" because fate has a way of making you eat your words.
Nightline tonight was a reminiscence of the essence of New Orleans by several prominent offspring of that city. They spoke of the soul of the city and its culture in tones that made me wonder if I was witnessing a wake. It was very sad.
I feel powerless to do anything significant to help. There is a wound in our national fabric that throbs in pain.
Perhaps things will look brighter tomorrow.
Music: "Do you Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans"
Harry Connick Jr.
Monday, August 22, 2005
...because otherwise I'd have to sit here at work and actually--you know--do work...
I set the alarm for 4:30 this morning to allow time to care for Bung-Bung*, my hospice kitty, before heading to work. (*--I have *tons* of back-entries to post. Some day soon. I hope.)
I managed to rise from the dead get up and mostly dressed with the help of ready-made coffee. I decided to put BeBe outside in the small cage because otherwise he would hear me tending Bung-Bung and raise a fuss trying to get into the room.
It was still dark and quite cool outside. It felt good.
I keep thinking Bung-Bung could go at any time but she persists and seems to be comfortable and pain-free. Her urine is colorless and nearly odorless, so I imagine her kidneys have failed. Her body is so stiff, I have to turn her from side to side. One of her eyes is clouded but I can see her in there through the other one and know she is aware and responsive. She seemed well-hydrated this morning but I wiped out her mouth with cotton swabs and gave her a couple of droppers-full of water just to clean her palate. Since I had fed her more than she wanted last night, I just rubbed her and combed her this morning, trying to stimulate her circulation. I'd like to see her get a bit more flexible but I suppose it is a moot point.
I got her settled into her carrier for the morning and will tend her again when I get home from work this afternoon. Poor old black kitty.
I still can't find my black short-sleeved blouse that I have been wanting to wear for the past three days. It probably got stuffed away on the mezzanine during the great house-cleaning frenzy in July.
It was cool outside and the sky mostly clear, except for some high thin clouds. I forgot to check the temperature at home but it was warmer--at 48 degrees--down by the bay. It is supposed to cloud up and rain by this evening.
It figures. Just in time for my days off.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
So, of course after I assured Charlie Martin last night that there was no forecast for smoke to move into our area, I woke to find the hills obscured by wildfire smoke this morning. I sort of had a feeling that would happen. In fact, when I read her the forecast for Homer, I mentioned that it didn't seem like the National Weather Service had even entertained the thought that the smoke along the west side of Cook Inlet might possibly move in here. They are whizzes at retroactive forecasting and never seem to pay much attention to what's happening down at this end of the Inlet anyway. We are fond of saying that the terminal forecast is only one amendment away from being accurate. Sorry if that sounds cynical but I have been burned too many times by bad forecasts--and the pilots tend to remember the person who told them the bad information--not the people who actually wrote it. The forecasters are safely insulated in their Anchorage offices from irate users who might want to complain so guess who gets to be the designated target?
Pilot reports all afternoon and evening from the other side of the Inlet had described smoke and haze reducing flight visibility to one to three miles and I had the sense that the smoke was drifting in our direction as I watched a haze layer creep up the Bay during the last few hours of my shift last night. By the time I was driving home, the mountains across the Bay were obscured below the 2,500-foot level--just the peaks floating above a silver-blue layer that melded with the water. So I wasn't surprised this morning to find we are smoked-in again. The winds are stirring about so they may help dissipate the smoke. We shall see.
So, I came home last night to several messages on the machine that I have to deal with today. The lady that has had our cat trap for the last four or five months was calling to complain about her inability to catch the cats in question. I don't know what she is expecting me to do--her roommate keeps feeding the cats in places other than the trap, so I suspect that for some reason the old woman doesn't want them to be caught. There's not much I can do in the face of that sort of sabotage. I wonder if I will ever get our trap back...
And a neighbor called wanting to talk to Dennis. I don't have the time or inclination to call people at ten-o-clock at night when I get home from work, so I'll have to get in touch with him today. It just hasn't sunk into this fellow's head that I work evenings...
I also need to get a space cleared for the hospice-case cat I will be bringing home from the Shelter this evening. I would like to put her in the downstairs room but someone has been spraying things down there and a strange cat--even one in a semi-coma--might be the straw that makes the little shits start spraying on the new bed and I don't want to chance that, so I'll probably put Bung-Bung in the bathroom. I'm surprised the poor thing is still hanging on and I had been secretly hoping she would pass on before her owner had to leave today, so the gal could have some closure. But Bung was still with us last night when I checked on my way home from work, so I guess I'll be nursing her until her situation resolves one way or another.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Today is the birthdate of one of my high school friends.
I was a shy, poorly-adjusted child and didn't make friends easily. My social development was stunted not only by the oppressive atmosphere at home but by several moves made by the family during my school years. From the time I was in fifth grade until I was a senior in high school, I never went to the same school for two consecutive years. I wasn't attractive or out-going and confidence? What's that? So I ended up with a small but cherished group of people I considered friends.
So I hate to let one get away....
I suppose it is inevitable that as people change through time, old friends are replaced by new. I know and accept that for the most part. I guess what I find inexplicable and somewhat hurtful--even now for gods'sake--is how most of my high-school and college friends have dropped me without a word. That makes those who have endured--Shannon, Karen, Preston--all the more precious to me.
Over the past six or seven years, the world of the internet has brought me into contact with like-minded, compatible people from around the world and I now can claim as friends some people I have never met face-to-face. I feel blessed and fortunate.
Yet still, on this day, I feel a sense of loss and mourn the friendship that meant so much to me at one time. For some of my most tumultuous, formative years, D was a source of strength and guidance. Her urging helped me step out of my shell and gave me confidence. We shared adventures and laughs and heart aches from the start of my junior year of high school all through college. We kept in touch through letters and rare visits for years afterwards. When Denny and I went to Portland in early 1988, we had dinner and visited with her and her family. Since then--nothing.
Honestly--we had a smashing time that evening, so I can't ascribe the coolness to that visit. Perhaps she came to some realization that our paths in life were taking different tracks. Perhaps my lack of commitment to the Christian faith was a deciding factor. I don't know. I have tried to re-establish contact through email and notes but get no response. Since I get no feed-back, I have no clue to what her feelings are. I am only left to wonder why?
Of course, it is likely that the pressures of daily life have prevented her from even thinking about me or the old days. Maybe the problem is with her, not me. But the old reflexes are no easily lost and to this middle-aged, moderately competent adult, it still feels like rejection.
Anyway, for what it's worth and if you take the wishes from this source, know that I wish you a happy birthday, D and all the best that life has to offer.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
I decided this morning that a bowl of popcorn is perfectly acceptable as breakfast. After all, was is the intrustic difference between a bowl of pop corn and a bowl of cereal? Really.
Besides, I'm an adult, damn it, and can eat what I want.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Saturday, August 13, 2005
I could have done without a wake-up call from my MIL at seven this morning, since I was up until about two this morning cleaning house and caring for the cats. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I was moving pretty slowly by the time I trundled up to bed with my sodas and a bowl of popcorn.
Anyway, the mother-in-law wanted to talk to Denny about something. So once I told her he wasn't home and it was apparent that she had woke me up, she apologized and signed off. But by then, I was awake and aware, so I made some coffee. I lay in bed drinking coffee and waching our second season of Law & Order DVD until about eight-thirty before getting up.
Clouds enfolded the yard this morning. Last night's aviation forecast had mentioned fog for the Homer area between four and eight this morning but as the morning progressed, the fog showed no sign of lifting and it was still quiet and gray when I went in to work in the early afternoon.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Another hot, hazy day.
Bebe's ears looked much better today--virtually normal except for a faintly greenish cast where I had rubbed the aloe vera gel. Nonetheless, I took care to keep him in the shade this morning, moving him to the cage on the north side of the house once the sun began to shine into his usual cat run.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Boo Boo died last night about 10:20 pm.
She has been failing slowly over the past two months, so it wasn't unexpected. I started giving her subcutaneous fluids about a month ago and it seemed to buoy her a bit but I knew in my heart that time was catching up to her. I will never know how old she was--I guessed her age to be around fifteen but it easily could have been more.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
That's our next weapon in our efforts to integrate Frannie into the household.
I ran Clarence into the vet clinic today to have his latest wounds examined. He is healing without infection so far but I told the doctor that we have to find some solution to the problem of Frannie's stalking of Clarence or we will have to get rid of Frannie. I am just not going to spend the next fifteen years running Clarence to the vet every few weeks. I got several Valium to mellow Frannie out while they look for a more permanent solution to her aggression. In the mean time, I am keeping her totally out of any area that Clarence has access to. She tolerates being in the back room with the boys, so that's where she's been spending her days.
There's a wildfire burning up by Skilak Lake--it has already grown to over a thousand acres since it started Sunday night. That explains the smoke in the air--I thought it might be from the huge (80,000+ acres) fire near Fort Yukon. We had a brief, heavy rainshower move through the neighborhood last night just in time to delay our cooking dinner over the wood grill out back for about half an hour. But it saved me from having to water all the flowers, so that was a good thing.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
The winds were kicking up by the time I got home last night. Unusual for that time of night. Once I got inside, I discovered a message on the answering machine from Denny's sister. Their party had arrived in Anchorage. Great--they would have to arrive when the visibility was so crappy. You always want someone's first impression of Alaska to be when the weather is at its best. Instead, a frontal system has moved in and it looks like it will be cool and rainy for several days.
I miss Sunny every time I go into the kitchen. It was so sudden. A few days ago she was chipper and bright and now she is gone. I suppose I should be glad it was so quick for her, not lingering through a long decline like so many of the others. It just happened so fast I didn't have time to prepare myself mentally, I guess.
Friday, July 15, 2005
It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.
I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.
Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*
I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.
For some reason that doesn't seem all that clear to me now, I stopped by Safeway last night on my way home from work and bought 15 pounds of blueberries and eight pounds of strawberries. (They were having a sale...) I plan to wash and freeze the fruit--the blueberries whole, the strawberries sliced with some Splenda--but didn't have time to get started on that this morning. Hopefully, I can get that taken care of before the fruit starts to spoil.
The bay was full of smoke this afternoon but visibilities were much better than yesterday. The fire must be fairly large--the TFR has expanded from twelve to sixteen miles in diameter. Anchorage and the valley are reporting restricted visibilies in smoke so it may be a fairly quiet evening despite being Friday.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Sunspot was gone when I went downstairs at eight-thirty this morning.
She was semi-stretched out under the telephone table--virtually in the same spot where we had lain together Monday night whle she was going through her ordeal with the blood clot. She was already cool to the touch and stiffening.
I can't say this was unexpected. Monday night had put a tremendous strain on her. Still, I had hoped that after coming so close to death and survivng, she would be with us for some months to come.
I hope she didn't suffer. I hope she hadn't sought out that spot where I had comforted her on Monday seeking comfort this morning. I had gone downstairs to get a cold drink about four-thirty this morning and she had been sleeping curled on the floor. I had petted her had said something to her. She hadn't been in any distress then. I have to wonder why she went to that particular spot--maybe she sensed that was where her death had begun...
She had seemed so well, so content, yesterday. In the car, coming home from the vet's office, she was purring, sitting beside me on the armrest and looking at the world going by with interest. When we got home, I fed her some baby food chicken and then she spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening sleeping. She got up while I was cooking supper about ten pm. She wasn't interested in eating but did go over to the water fountain. Afterwards, she went and lay on the carpet between the woodstove and the sofa, before moving over near the telephone table later. If she seemed restless, it wasn't enough to do more than raise subconscious concerns in my mind.
Dots thinks that she may have thrown another clot that went straight to her brain. I hope so--I hope it was quick for her.
I have to take comfort that she had a nice last day and that she went quickly, without a long, painful decline. She kept her faculties and was very much her own cat right until the end. She was never demonstrative nor did she actively seek out attention, but she was appreciative. She was with us for only two years, and our relationship didn't always go smoothly, but I came to appreciate her quiet strength and dignity and her understated affection. Someone else had named her and raised her from a kitten; someone else had enjoyed her youth and maturity--only to abandon her to the animal shelter when she was sixteen years old. I regret that I didn't go downstairs last night and spend time with her, but I was so tired and sore. She knew--in the end--that this was her home. She knew she was loved.
Inseparable from the fire
takes precedence over it ..
In the huge gap
between the flash
and the thunderstroke
spring has come in
or a deep snow fallen...
in an eternity
the heat will not overtake the light.
from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower
by William Carlos Williams
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
I have never seen an animal come so close to death and then come back.
Last night, about ten-twenty, I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for myself after a long day of cleaning house. Sunspot was sitting on the counter near the telephone, having turned her nose up at a small piece of hamburger I had offered her. Her appetite had been slack all day but most of the cats weren't eating very hearty due to the hot weather.
In an instant, as if hit by lightening, Sunny was sprawled on the floor, eyes wide and staring, claws dug into the carpet. She was breathing shallowly and fast.
I ran into the laundry room and got a soft blanket to place under her and moved her near the telephone stand, positioning her on her side. She mouth was open, gasping for air as her sides worked rapidly. Her back legs were limp and cooling. I didn't know what happened but I knew it was some sort of cardiac/circulatory accident. Cats don't have heart attacks as such but she was showing symptoms very similar to those Rosie did as she went into heart failure during her last moments.
I lay down beside her, trying to speak comfortingly to her, stroking her and telling her it was alright--she could leave if she wanted to, that she was a good kitty. Every now and then, Sunny would give a deep gasp and I would think, "That's it--it's over," but she kept breathing, struggling for air. After about a half-hour, I called the emergency vet number and talked with Dots. She agreed that it sounded like heart failure. She was going to be at the clinic in a half-hour to handle an emergency case from Ninilchik and said that Sunny would probably pass before then but that she would be there if I wanted to bring her in.
Okay--I had that option. Did I want to stress Sunny with that final car trip? Would she linger on for hours, struggling for breath, until she was too exhausted? I hate these decisions. I hate having to say to a veterinarian--make my cat dead, please. Was she suffering? I looked into her eyes. So far, she hadn't made a sound, but I noticed her pupils were less dilated, her eyes moving, following the motions of the other cats as they passed through her field of view. She looked at me with awareness. Her mind was still there--still intact. Are you ready to go? I wondered. Do you need to be released?
We had been lying on the floor together for an hour. The rapid breathing had passed and Sunny no longer had to gasp open-mouthed for air. Her back feet were less cold than they had been and she even raised her head a bit and looked around. The phone rang--it was Dots, checking to see what was going on while she waiting for her emergency case to arrive. As I spoke with her, Sunny stood up and moved a few steps away before lying down again. She looked almost normal--just weak. Whatever it was had passed for now. Dots agreed and suggested that I dose Sunny with a children's aspirin, if it didn't stress her too much. I told her I would check in with her in the morning and went to tend Sunny.
She took the aspirin fairly easily. I washed it down with a spritz of water from a syringe.
She was too weak to jump up to her usual resting place, so I settled her underneath a chair in a quiet location and watched her for a while. She seemed settled, so I took my long-delayed supper and went upstairs for a bit. When I came back down, she had moved to the foot of the cat tree, ignoring the fresh sheepskin and clean woolen blanket I had made available to her. Strong-willed as always. So, she was apparently moving around alright under her own power. I went back upstairs for a while. When I checked her again, she was on the second shelf of the cat tree. By morning, she was up in her favorite spot in the window.
So, I took her in to see Dots this morning. Her blood pressure was good and there didn't appear to be any enlargement of the heart. Dots couldn't hear her heart very well as she wouldn't quit purring. Dots thinks that she "threw a clot" that blocked the femoral arteries and caused a drop in blood pressure and all the symptoms that I observed. Such events are usually fatal but somehow the clot dislodged or dissolved and Sunny bounced back. I have never seen an animal so obviously dying turn around so dramatically, but Sunny seems to be feeling pretty chipper today. She is tired and a little weak from the ordeal but she was alert and interested during our car trip and when we got home, she jumped up on a chair and then onto the desk to eat.
This is the first salvo of her last battle. She will be nineteen if she lives until October and she won't survive for more than another year or so. She is very lucky and very strong--I hope her recovery means she will be with us for some time yet to come.
Friday, July 08, 2005
She's about six years old with a shaggy white coat and blue eyes. She's deaf. And her name is Frannie...
Oh, wait--that's my *old* cat named Frannie. But that old Frannie was anxious and aggressive and so stressed-out that she pulled her fur out. Even after four years with us, she would flinch when we made a motion to pet her. The new Frannie lies peacefully at the foot of the bed and looks at me with such affection and tranquility in her eyes--it can't be the same cat.
But it is. At our wits'-end in trying to treat her aggression with Clarence, the vet suggested that we try putting her on Prozac. It has been just a week and already it is like having a whole new cat. Well, not entirely new. The old Frannie is still there personality-wise but it feels like the fear that must have been a part of her life since her youngest days has receded.
We are her fourth or fifth home--she passed through a lot of fear and neglect before she was even a year old. The world can be a confusing, frightening place for a deaf cat, especially one who is growing up on the street, and Frannie came to us with a whole complex of psychological baggage. She was destructive, aggressive (stalking poor shy Clarence to distraction,) and self-mutilating. But we could also see that she loved us and was very devoted to us. Even when she was being corrected by a well-aimed squirt of the water bottle (from chasing Clarence,) her response was not to run away from us but toward us. (As long as it got her away from Clarence, that was fine with us. When she was sitting beside us, she wasn't stalking him.) I told Denny one night that I had the feeling that if we were living out in the woods in a tent with all our cats, Frannie is one that wouldn't wander off. We are probably the only love she has ever known.
It was heart-breaking that she was socially crippled with her fear-driven behavior. I couldn't give her up--not after all she has been through--but she was just too disruptive to our household. After Clarence's second vet visit in a month to treat Frannie-inflicted wounds, we knew we had to do something.
So it filled my heart with warmth when I woke up the other morning to find Frannie looking peacefully out at the world that has so often in the past been a source of fear for her. I am going to keep her away from Clarence for a while longer--hoping to break her habit of chasing him--but I am optimistic that we have found some relief for her from her inner demons.
Like I said, it's like having a whole new cat. Or re-discovering the better side of an old one.
I jumped in the S10--all set to go to the dump this morning--when I spotted a parts box on the dashboard. It was labeled as being part of a "fuel delivery system." Hmm. I *thought* that Denny had replaced the fuel pump. I know he said he had bought one... I decided that I had better check with him before I twisted the ignition key--wouldn't want to start an engine fire. So my efforts of last night were premature, I guess.
Anyway, I *did* need to get some straw or hay for the cat run and to deposit some checks, so I crawled into the faithful old Dodge and cranked her up. Apart from dump runs, she doesn't get driven much except when I need a 4-wheel-drive to get to work. So a trip to town in the summer must have been a treat for her. I even stopped and filled the gas tank.
Apparently, I got the last bale of straw in Homer. Good thing I went today.
Monday, July 04, 2005
I got up this morning and looked out the bedroom window to see Mama Moose and one calf working their way up the path to the back lot. Two weeks ago, she had two calves, so I have to wonder if something got one of them or if I just didn't see it. There has been a brown bear (grizzly) in the neighborhood so it could have been that, or traffic, or free-roaming dogs. So many people seem to never give a thought as to what their dogs are up to when they are away at work all day. I am hoping the second calf was just in the brush or off the path where I couldn't see it.
An eagle has been after a snipe nest at the airport for the past few days. Saturday, I saw the eagle flying off from that area with something in its beak....
People think that the winter is cruel but summer can be just as cruel. So many babies are born never to grow up. Nature is unsentimental. This is why animals are born in litters; just so one or two might survive. When a bird gets into one of the cat runs and doesn't get out in time, I have to tell myself that the species is better off without the contributions of an individual who would fly into a cage full of cats...but I'll save any bird the cats find if I can get to it in time.
On the plus side, we finally put up three more birds houses for the swallows this year. More and more seem to show up each spring and they were scoping out any available hole as a possible nest-site--including the exhaust pipes of some of our heavy equipment, the ceiling of the sauna, and other unsuitable places. I thought I was late in getting the birdhouses up but three couples were happy to move in. It's funny, but I could sense their excitement and happiness at finding good nesting places. When I combed the cats, I took the hair outside and tossed it in the air in little clumps and the swallows would swoop down and snatch it up to use in their nests. So I guess this year's babies were raised in fur-lined nests...lol. I think the young are starting to leave the nests--the sky is full of swallows the past few days. Soon they will vanish on their long flight south--they are usually gone by mid-July.
I found out yesterday that I may have been the last person to see a Cessna that left our field on Friday. The airplane had been rented to some out-of-state tourists and yesterday the pilot's wife called the State Troopers to try and locate her husband. The plane was last seen at Homer on Friday. I recalled it because the pilot had been operating in a manner that got my attention. On Thursday, it had taxied down to the far end of the runway, which is invisible from the main ramp, and spent so long warming up down there that when a second plane taxied out to leave four or five minutes later, we thought the first plane had already left. The second plane had to abruptly leave the runway when the first announced that he was departing. So, on Friday afternoon, when it took to the runway again, I made it a point to watch and make sure it departed before someone else taxied out.
Well, the plane is missing now and because--for whatever reason--the pilot didn't file flight plans, get weather briefings, or talk to the FAA facilities, no one is really sure where he was going or where the last place he landed was. Search and rescue airplanes and the CAP are combing the area but I suspect they are two days too late. There is a lot of cold, dark water out there and I would bet that the plane is in Cook Inlet and may never be found. Some pilots seem to think that filing flight plans is for pussies but it is free life insurance in my book.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Several of my cats have come down with the "itchy-awfuls" over the past month or so. Pickle Boy was the worst--scabs and a few bald patches that seem due to him pulling his own fur own in an attempt to stop itching. He never goes outside and we have no fleas. I spent hours flea-combing him and the others just to make sure there are no insects on him. I gave him a bath which made him soft and silky but didn't stop his scratching. Three of the four boys in the back have this and a couple of the house cats are showing signs of a milder form of the same thing.
I am leaning now toward an allergic reaction of some sort. I started feeding Felidae dry food about two months ago, and I also started using scented fabric softener about the same time. I think I will re-wash the cat bedding without any extras in the wash and see if that helps.
I suspect I will need to haul Pickle's poor scabby ass into the vet to get a reliable diagnosis. I feel guilty doing that because the vet clinic is short-staffed and some folks in town are waiting a week or more for an appointment but for some reason they always try to get me in the day I call. I guess I should be flattered. I wonder if it is because they 1) know we have deep pockets, 2) know I don't usually bother them about trivial stuff or 3) know we are very steady customers. I just don't like jumping ahead of others who are waiting with what may be more serious problems.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I realized that it is not entirely a coincidence that those who were closest to Vincent during his foray into cyberspace are the ones who have taken the biggest step backward from internet-based fan groups.
Now that Elizabeth D'Onofrio has made an appearance on line, she is attracting a veritable feeding frenzy of stalkers, nut-jobs and fans in thinly-veiled attempts to use her to get closer to her brother.
I trust they will find him as frustratingly elusive as ever.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
I felt a bit better after talking to Denny last night, though my thoughts were still distracted by Lena's absence. I trusted to her unfailing equinimity to see her through a night in strange surroundings and hoped that I wasn't forced to leave her at the clinic until Monday.
Despite my usual lofty plans to get something done after work, I ended up going to bed about a quarter to eleven. I shut Frannie in with BeBe and left Pickle in with his bros, hoping that if he felt the need for comfort in Frannie's absence, Clarence would feel free to crawl in with us on the bed. He came by briefly to visit but spent the night with his sisters in the kitty condo.
When I woke at six-ish, I could hear Frannie crying downstairs. Deciding to have pity on her, I went down and let her out. Clarence chose that time to make a dash for upstairs so Frannie was sort of de facto chasing him, though I don't think that had been her intention. I shouted and waved my arms, successfully distracting her. She ran into the boy's room to wait for me to regain my senses, so I closed the bedroom door to shut her in with us ("us" being the usual bedroom crowd of me, Punkin, Bunny and Dinky) so I could sleep in a bit more without having to break up any skirmishes.
I figured the vet clinic wouldn't call until after nine at the earliest, so I slept in until 8:30 then got up, put BeBe outside in his cage (we really need to build him a cat run this summer) and made coffee. There is always more to do than time to do it. I ended up reading email out on the mezzanine and up-dating my Family History files. Then, about ten-o-clock I decided to call the vet clinic and leave a message--if only to remind them that they had Lena and we missed her. Also, I didn't want to wait until it was too late for me to pick her up if she was to be released today.
I started to leave my message when Ralph picked up the phone. He said he was just about ready to call me so I threw on some clothes and headed down to town to pick up my kitty-girl.
No one answered when I rang the bell, so I tried the front door and found it unlocked. I went in, calling Hello? but got no reply, so wandered back into the work area. Lena was in her carrier sitting on a stainless table. I opened the door and began rubbing her head. She seemed happy to see me, rubbing her face against my hands and purring. I kept rubbing her while Ralph came in and gave me some take-home instructions. On the way home, I opened the carrier and Lena came out and stretched out against me on the seat. I could feel her quiet little purr all the way home.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Newt was very much on my mind today. With thought of her came the sadness and regrets. In the year-and-a-half since she has gone, I have convinced myself that she wasn't ready to go--that she would have preferred to die at home. I berate myself for my decision, wishing I could un-do the past. I worry the heartache like a painful tooth, second- and third-guessing myself and wishing I could have one more chance to live her last day again. Knowing she is forever beyond my reach.
The thing is--I *know* I did the best I could at the time. It's just that I find my thoughts get so muddled by emotion when the end approaches. I know Newt was getting too weak to walk. I know she was collapsing getting in and out of the litterbox. I also know she would have hated being dirty or making messes--she was such a fastidious and competent little cat.
Maybe most of all, I just miss her. We had a special relationship--not as intense as Kisa and not as flamboyant as Punkin, but there was a bond of love and devotion and respect between us. Ah, yes--the love, the thousands of kisses with her hot, busy little tongue on my hands--her fierce purr. She had that quiet intensity--not showy or demanding--just there, solid as the earth beneath my feet.
I guess it surprises me that after all these months, the pain is still so fresh, the grief so keen. I haven't stopped missing her and I can feel my love for her well up from inside, a deep wave of longing and sorrow. I moped around depressed most of the morning and shortly before I left for work, I went out to the greenhouse and picked some violas, then braved the wet horsetails and grasses to visit her grave for a moment. So much love buried in the back lot, all those sad reminders of the ones who have gone on. I dropped a flower on Kisa's grave--forever first in my heart--then put the rest on the stone that marks Newt's resting place.
I know I should be grateful that I had them for how-ever-long, that I shared life and love with them. But this part hurts like hell...
Just as I was about to pick up my keys and walk out the door, the vet clinic called, wondering if I could drop Lena off. I had called about getting an appointment for her--her troubles at "the south pole" have been going on too long and have not responded to our best efforts. I had started to wonder if she had ruptured or abcessed anal glands or some kind of nasty bladder infection. Whatever it is was beyond my skill at diagnosing or treating. The clinic is so busy, I thought I had best get in line for an appointment before too much more time passed. To be allowed to bring her in and drop her off was more than I hoped for. Poor Lena got crammed in a carrier and was out the door before she had time to really react to what was going on. I had about six minutes at the clinic to discuss her situation with the receptionist and then the doctor, then I had to head to work. The question of when I could get her back was left up in the air.
I managed to make it into work on time despite discovering yet another hazard to road navigation--getting behind a student driver. Just when I had thought I had braved everything...
I half-expected to hear from the clinic in the afternoon. I kept calling home and checking to see if they had left a message. I was worried about all the possible bad things that her symptoms might betray. I beat myself up for not taking her in to see the vet sooner--then told myself she hadn't been acting sick--she had been eating good and not vomiting or anything like that. I fretted and worried as the hours stretched into evening, trying to draw comfort from the thought that if she was truly in a bad way, Ralph would have undoubtedly called me by now. Still, I had to resign myself to the idea of leaving her at the clinic overnight.
The prospect of going home without Lena gave me a pang. With so many, you wouldn't think that I would notice one missing but the mother hen in me wants all my babies in one safe place at the end of day. Seperation is physically painful. My longing for Lena that made me call home one more time from my cell in the car, just in case they had left a message, then I drove slowly through the parking lot of the veterinary clinic--just in case--but no one was stirring. Good night, sweet Lena, I thought as I turned the car toward home. I'll come to get you as soon as I can...
I hate going home without one of our kitties...
If anyone had noticed Lena missing at home, they gave no indication. You'd think that as popular as she is with all the youngsters, someone would be craning their necks around corners looking for her. That's okay, I'm missing her enough for everyone.
I went upstairs to change my clothes and saw a brown-gray bulk out back. A moose was stripping the leaves off the young alders growing along the edge of the deck. I walked up to the patio door for a better look and there was a little brown moose calf off to one side, attempting to mimic its mother's action. Barely had this registered than I saw a second baby moose off to the other side of the group, toward the path down to the back yard.
We always seem to have baby moose in the summer, though it seemed early this year. Well, the swallows came back three weeks early--I guess the moose can get a jump on the season as well. I was surprised to see the moose calves munching down on the alder leaves and other greenry; I would have thought they subsisted on milk for the first few months of their lives. But I don't know that much about hooved mammals--at least not as much as I know about felines. I guess it would be in their best interest to learn to eat vegetation as soon as they can.
I used this happy sight as an excuse to call Denny. As I shared the news with him, I suddenly gasped: "The baby moose are eating my flowers!"
One of the little guys had wandered over to the greenhouse area where I had set out some flowers to harden off. As he nuzzled the asters, his twin ambled up to partake as well. Not my flowers! I opened the bedroom window and yelled at them--got their mother's attention but didn't seem to faze the babies.
"You're going to have to move the flowers up on the deck," Denny laughed. Yeah--he can laugh--he doesn't know how much money I sank into flowers this year...lol.
"That's probably the same moose that had you treed last year," he teased.
"Well, it's not like I'd recognize her," I said.
It's always good to see the first calves of the year, to know our yard is still a safe place for them. I chatted with Denny, watching the moose until their mom rounded them up and started up the hill, probably to bed down for the night up in the trees behind the Harvey's place. Then I said good night to him and went outside to move my poor flowers onto the deck.
There hadn't been as much damage to the flowers as I had feared--perhaps seven or so blossoms gone. Just a vigorous pruning. As I gazed around (have to make sure the moose was really gone) I noticed a rainbow in the clouds off to the east, soft colors against the gray remnants of rainshowers, ultraviolet to infrared.
Somehow, in the half hour I had been home, my sense of loss and my worries for Lena had been eased.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Monday, May 02, 2005
Although the morning air smells of smoke, visibility is virtually unrestricted. A small patch of smoke has settled into the Fritz Creek valley toward the head of the bay, but aside from that and a few faint wisps of smoke over the top of the bluff, the early morning airport scene appears normal.
The smoke has become a darker shade of gray and the wisps are now becoming more vigorous in appearance, more like little cumulus clouds. The morning off-shore breeze must have stirred the fire back to life and is moving the smoke--but I hope not the fire--west along the ridge toward Bluff Point.
The change in appearance of the fire over last hour has been ominous. The fire officials and the weather service keep making optimistic sounds about rain showers and cooler temperatures but what cloud-cover we had yesterday and thus far today is thin cirrus-type that promises little moisture. At six this morning, the temperature at the airport was 48 degrees and probably about 44 at the thousand-foot level. The morning winds are fairly light but the forecast indicates a sea-breeze developing by noon. That breeze typically runs from twelve to fifteen knots. The advantage is that it is normally out of the southwest, so would drive the fire north and east--away from the settled areas.
It's still wait-and-see here.
52 degrees and the earlier overcast has broken up into thin cirrus--not much chance of rain. The winds at the field remain light but judging from the smoke plumes, the fire has stirred back to life with all the vitality it has shown for the past two days. It is difficult to tell--because of the screening effect of the smoke--but there appear to be two (or more) "hot spots" sending up the now-familiar columns of smoke.
Watching from the vantage point at the airport, I can see the smoke boiling up, rising pale gray until it hits what meteorogists (and weather geeks) call the "lifted condensation level" (which looks to be about five- or six-thousand feet this morning) where it blossoms into cumulus clouds of brilliant white, trailing smoke and ash off downwind.
I plan to drive home this afternoon by way of Skyline and Diamond Ridge to see if I can get a definitive view of what is going on to the north.
Alaska Fire Season Off to a Blazing Start
By RACHEL D'ORO
The Associated Press
Monday, May 2, 2005; 6:12 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska's fire season has already heated up, with crews scrambling to battle numerous blazes, including a fire from last year's record season that smoldered all winter.
Fire managers said Sunday the outbreaks in Homer, Interior Alaska and Hoonah hit even before some crews have completed their annual training and safety refresher courses held at the beginning of each season.
"Mother Nature is throwing us a curve this year," said John See, a spokesman for the state Division of Forestry. "We're getting more challenging fires like what we usually would be seeing in a few weeks."
About 80 firefighters were tackling a 3,270-acre wildfire in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula, and fire managers requested more help. The fire was reported Friday afternoon and quickly doubled in size. But half of the crews didn't arrive until a full day later.
"This is the time of year a lot of crews are finishing up their training and safety refreshers, so it's hard to put together all the resources," Kris Eriksen, a forestry division spokeswoman. "It takes longer than it would if we were completely ready."
Available crews concentrated on the southern end about two miles from a residential subdivision, even though the western perimeter was more active. That area is of less concern because there's no immediate populated area, Eriksen said.
In Interior Alaska, a dozen firefighters worked Sunday on putting out a three-acre flare-up from a wildfire that contributed to the record 6.7 million acres burned in the state last year.
"We don't see any other new source for the ignition," said Marsha Henderson, a state forestry division spokeswoman. "Last fall, some fires were still burning when it started to snow."
As of Sunday, only one of two air tankers chartered from Canada had arrived. The other won't be delivered until May 10, Henderson said. The tanker was immediately in demand, with three new large Interior fires reported Sunday.
The plane, which drops flame retardant, was heading to Homer when it was diverted to a 40-acre fire in Nenana. Before arriving there, the plane was diverted to a 150-acre fire near Delta Junction, then to a 15-acre blaze threatening homes, See said.
"In terms of the number of fires, we're kind of on track, but typically this early we see very small fires, usually ones that escape from debris burns," See said.