Monday, December 31, 2007

The Circle of Time



Why don't we turn the clock to zero honey?
I’ll sell the stock we’ll spend all the money
We're starting up a brand new day...

--Brand New Day
Sting


My last entry of Holidailies--and 2007.

New Year's is an arbitrary point in time--a creation of a human calendar. If there was a starting point for the new year, it would probably be at Winter Solstice. Some cultures mark a new beginning at Spring Equinox and one or two at the Autumnal one. But the year is really a circle, a cycle of seasons with no end or beginning, just the unending change that marks all of life.

But humans like to organize and categorize, so we have endings and beginnings. While I was napping this afternoon, the new year began its creep across the spinning world--midnight at Greenwich Observatory is three in the afternoon here. If I understand the International Date Line correctly, the Far East has been in 2008 for almost a day already. Here at the last edge of North America, 2007 lingers while the rest of the world celebrates.

I am not sorry to see 2007 go--it was a hard year on me. While I have hope for the new year, I know it will probably be a mixed bag of losses and gains. I have seen enough years go by that I don't have too many romantic notions. It is enough for me to be here to see the new one in, with loved ones around me, warm and safe and well-fed. That is plenty to be grateful for in this old world.

To those of you who stopped by, thank you. I want to wish you and yours all the best in the coming year. May 2008 be good to all of us.

For tonight is New Year's Eve
Uncork your spirits and welcome it in--
Who knows what it's got up its sleeve?
Can't wait for it all to begin

--Laughing Into 1939
Al Stewart



*~*~*~*~*~*

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Other End of Day

After several days off, I was back to work this morning on the opening shift. I will close out the year with two of these shifts and then have the first two days of the New Year off.

I have enjoyed participating in Holidailies but realize that I wasn't prepared for the demands. While others were writing thoughtful essays or humorous entries, I was scrambling all month to get my daily post in by nine pm during a time of year when visitors and the social demands of the season were cutting into my free time.

So there were a lot of photo posts. I'm so glad my brother-in-law sent us the digital camera this spring. It has made the daily post deadline easier to meet but I'm not all that happy with the content.

But then, my pre-Holidailies posts weren't necessarily all that deep or insightful. I am just amazed that I have managed to make it through the month.

Although we are on the far side of Winter Solstice, there hasn't been a noticeable change in what time the sun comes up--I'm still clicking off the airport rotating beacon just after nine am.

I took this picture about forty minutes later of the waning winter moon riding high in the sky.



About the same time, the peaks to the south were glowing pink with daybreak.


Click for larger

*~*~*~*~*~*

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Road Trip

Once or twice a month, we like to drive up to Kenai-Soldotna to do some shopping. The twin cities of the Kenai Peninsula are eighty miles north of us on the Sterling Highway.

Four inches of snow had fallen overnight and snow continued into the morning. We left home about nine-thirty, as it was just beginning to grow light, driving north /in the haze of snow. Traffic was light--most of it going south. One nice thing about the limited number of roads we have in Alaska--the Sterling Highway is the only route from the Kenai Peninsula north to Anchorage, so it is well-tended by the State highway crews. As we travelled back and forth today, we passed several plow-trucks and sand trucks, keeping the route open and well-maintained.

The Sterling Highway, a few miles south of the K-Beach Road turnoff..

Soldotna is located where the highway crosses the Kenai River. It is a utilitarian community focused on servicing road travelers and the tourist industry. Kenai, a dozen miles to the west of Soldotna where the Kenai River empties into Cook Inlet, is the site of a 1791 Russian settlement and is as such one of Alaska's oldest towns.

When we go up for a doctor's visit, we circle through Soldotna--where we patronize several medical specialists--and often shop at the big Fred Meyer store on the north side of town. But today our list took us exclusively to Kenai: Home Depot for sheetrosk mud and a vanity-top, the second hand shop we have dubbed "the Junk Store", the IGA store for their selection of meats and the big Three Bears warehouse store for some supplies not available in Homer.

Fueling up in Anchor Point

Because of our early start, we were back on the road in the early afternoon. The weather started clearing and snow ended about forty miles north of Homer. We stopped in Anchor Point to refuel the Suburban about three this afternoon. We were home and unpacked by four.

Five inches of new snow soften the contours of the landscape at home.


Our backyard view just after five this evening


*~*~*~*~*~*

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sauna

A short entry tonight. I just got out of the sauna and I'm pretty much melted.

Time was when the sauna was our main means of bathing, back before we got plumbing in the house. The sauna is a small cabin with a barrel stove out behind the house. There is a porch for changing and pegs inside for towels and robes. A large pan on top of the stove holds water which is heated by the stove then mixed with cold water in individual basins for washing and shampooing.

Even though we have had indoor plumbing for almost two decades, we use the sauna a couple times a month, especially in winter. The small bathing room around a stove is an ancient tradition in northern countries. I read once that the English word "stove" and the German word Stube (room) can both trace their origins back to the sauna. It makes sense.

I particularly like to sauna in the winter. Coming back to the house steaming through the snow in the darkness. And it is so relaxing...

*~*~*~*~*~*

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Chris-Moose

We went to my uncle's house for dinner yesterday afternoon. Just before we sat down to eat, a moose wandered across the draw below the house.



The view beyond the moose would normally be of the shore of the bay and the mountains on the other side but a fine snow fell most of the day. We have between fourteen and eighteen inches on the ground now.

Winter has definitely begun.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ghosts in the Candlelight

The snow let up briefly after dark last night. By the time I got home, the moon was shining faintly through a veil of clouds. But today, dawn brought more wind and snow. Television has been off the air since last night but as we still have power and Santa brought us some new DVDs, we aren't without entertainment.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Here at the tail-end of the year, I guess it is natural to find yourself taking bearings, comparing where you are this year to where you were last year at this time, and wondering about the future.

I have been holding memories of last Christmas at arm's length for most of the holiday season. Memory hurts too much. Dinky, one of our dearest cats, died just after Christmas last year. Her decline cast a shadow over the holidays and her death left me shattered for most of 2007.

I still have moments when her memory is so strong that I catch a glimpse of her tiny white paws in the movement of one of the other cats, or hear her chirp in their voices. I love that little cat so much...



But I soldiered on into 2007 and put up a brave front. The other cats needed me. I had to face Punkin's diagnosis with the same condition that killed Dinky and know I will be losing her too before too much longer. I have to wonder if this will be my last Christmas with her, my little hand-raised kitten who grew into such a strong personality, the Queen of the household and my most devoted cat.

Which turns my thoughts to our other orange Queen, Frieda, who rules the shop. I was so sure that she wouldn't live through last winter and yet she rallied and persists, her digestive troubles replaced with the spectre of chronic renal failure. Will she be with us next year at this time?

Then there are the losses you never expect. I knew that Molly and Fred were old and that Tiny and Tommy were ill but losing Pickle Boy in June just broke me. Like the loss of Dinky, it is a pain so deep I just have to wall it up and try not to think about it. But I surely miss our pure white boy. Nine years was too short a time.



I can look to the future with hope. We plan to retire in the coming year and having more time together and at home will be sweet. But I know there will be inevitable losses of our companion cats. Our household will be less full by next year and we move on but we never forget the ones we lose along the way.

I shouldn't complain. This is the price we pay for loving creatures with life-spans so much shorter than our own. I knew going in to my many-cats phase that these days would come and I wouldn't trade off this pain against the pleasure that our cats have brought us. Even in my sorrow at losing Pickle and Dinky, I am so glad to have had the chance to have known them and all the others who have passed through our lives along the way.

There are other ghosts in the candle-light at Christmas.

Always, I remember my maternal Grandmother, born on Christmas Eve, 1904. She has been gone for over twenty years now, but I hold her forever close in my heart.

I recently found this photo among the boxes in the back rooms. My grandmother and her aunt Helen (1875-1940)--so I guess the picture was taken in the late 1930s. The house in the background was built by my great-grandfather. Off to the left the porch of grandma's house, also built by great-grandpa Ketner--is just visible. I believe those houses still stand in Tacoma, though these two ladies are gone.



*~*~*~*~*~*

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blizzard

There's no more succinct way to put it--it is blizzarding outside today.

Even though we only had about an inch of snow on the ground at this time last week, I never had any doubt we would have a white Christmas. With the wind gusting over twenty knots and the visibility between a quarter- and a half-mile, it is a good day to be snug inside, close by the fire.

But not me--I have to go to work.

Lucky for me, Denny made it home last night. We got enough snow yesterday so that I went out in the late afternoon and used the snow-blower to clear enough of the driveway for him to pull in and park. He had driven the two-wheel-drive Chevy pick-up to Anchorage. I had to put the Suburban into 4WD to get in and out of the driveway on my trip to town and back yesterday, and I didn't want his two-hundred-some mile drive home from Anchorage last night to end twenty yards from the house.

Clearing what I needed with the snow-blower only took about half-an-hour. It was just after sunset and the full moon lit the snow so beautifully that I really didn't mind the chore.

But this morning, Denny took the backhoe out and cleared the driveway and parking area properly, so we can get any of the vehicles out if we need them and not risk getting stuck in the driveway. That's so much easier and faster than clearing snow with the blower.


Driving to work this afternoon


At least the weather is bad enough that no one is entertaining any thoughts that they may be able to sneak in or out of Homer during a break in the weather, so the airport traffic is light-to-nonexistent. I expect I will talk to one or two air carriers this evening and that will be about it.


The usual view south from the Station

So, as the falling snow outside turns blue in the fading daylight, I settle in for a quiet shift and wish everyone out there in cyberspace a safe and happy holiday.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Favorite Photos of 2007

Running short of time today so I will reprise a few more favorite photos from the past year...


I think this one of leaves and the first snow on our back deck captures the mood of October fairly well.


Mid November brought this view of the bay and mountains beyond as winter crept closer.

And this one has to be one of my favorites--taken last winter/early spring of Frannie at her favorite activity.

Wishful Thinking


*~*~*~*~*~*

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Snow...

I awoke to the sound of the television cable tapping against the metal side of the building--a sure sign that the wind was blowing. I looked out the bedroom window and could only see the porch light from the house east of us, haloed in the falling snow. Obviously, a new storm had moved in over night.



The amount of snow on the ground had doubled overnight--now near ten inches though because of its weight, it is slowing compressing. The log planters on the deck wear tall caps of snow. I guess the lemon thyme will be sleeping now until April.


All the birdseed I scattered yesterday is buried, of course. It seems that the very act of putting out seed for the birds will trigger a deep snowfall. So I will have to strew more out under the overhang of the carport, where I hope it will be safe.

(We *did* have one snowfall so deep that the snow that fell off the roof piled up against the front door but that was years ago...)

With the heavy snow and wind, I wasn't surprised that our television signal was out. That typically happens when the power lines go down across the bay and the transmitter over there loses power. The lights were flickering, so before I left for work, I powered down the computers and lit the back-up lights in the back room and shop. Because it will be night before I get back home and even cats can't see in pitch darkness...

Since I got to work, it has been snowing off and on--mostly on. Up on the bluff, where it is cooler, I know the snow has been accumulating even faster. We'll see how deep it is when I get home.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Lights

Happy Solstice!




I took this picture last night about eleven of the moon high in the south (above the tips of the backyard Christmas trees.) The moon rides high in the winter, mirroring the path that the sun will be taking in six months, just dipping briefly below the northern horizon on its daily circuit. Our winter nights are a moon-dance.


This morning, the lights from our tree reflected in the windows against the snow scape outside. We got five-to-six inches of snow from the "big storm"--not quite what we were led to expect. That's okay--it was enough to be good ground-cover without making it necessary to clear the driveway or shovel out pathways.


Ghost lights--the tree lights reflect on the windows, making the snow-covered twigs outside look as if they were glowing with their own holiday lights.




*~*~*~*~*~*

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here Comes Our White Christmas

The National Weather Service in Anchorage has issued a Heavy Snow Warning which is in effect from 4 PM this afternoon to 12 PM AST Friday.

A nearly stationary trough of low pressure along Cook Inlet and cold temperatures will bring heavy snow for locations along Kachemak Bay. Storm total accumulations of 8 to 14 inches can be expected along Kachemak Bay from this afternoon through Friday
morning. Greatest amounts are expected near Seldovia and the Homer Bluff.

Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Only travel in an emergency.


It was overcast this morning and ten degrees. By daybreak, a light snow was falling that continued through the morning. Less than an inch of fresh, dry snow had accumulated by the time I left for work this afternoon, but I decided to drive the Suburban instead of my Crown Victoria, just in case.

At dusk, the snow began in earnest--heavy thick flakes and a gusty northeasterly wind. As I write this, there is three inches of snow on the ground and the snowfall continues. It will be interesting to see how much snow we got up on the bluff.

I'm glad I drove a four-wheel-drive.

ETA: I took this picture of the lighted trees out back when I got home from work tonight...



*~*~*~*~*~*

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cold!

For now, the arctic air is winning the battle of the air masses.

Eleven in the morning...

We are at the nadir of the year. Even at nine in the morning, only a paleness on the southeastern horizon betrays the imminence of dawn.

I actually began stirring about eight to feed the wood stove. Our house has forced air heating and is built around a heated slab in the shop but we keep the wood stove burning fairly steadily for most of the year. since the great spruce bark beetle infestation, we have abundant dead wood on our property--free heat. And there is just something cozy about the radiant heat of a wood-burning stove.

Wood smoke is the aroma of comfort in our neighborhood.


I try to keep about three or four loads of wood in the metal bin beside the stove--warming and drying and ready for use so that on cold mornings like this I don't have to shuffle out across the deck in my house shoes and pajamas to the wood shed.

It was a cool night even in the house. Several cats are clustered down in the dining room in the aura of the stove--Slippers on the hearth, Frannie on the sofa, and Skinny slipping quickly back up the stairs when she hears me stirring. (Skinny pretends to be afraid of people...)

I feed a couple of pieces of wood to the stove then go upstairs to put soffee on before crawling back into bed. The television has been on all night, volume turned low, so I lie in bed and listen to the news, dozing until almost nine.

We are at our shortest days of the year now. Beginning tomorrow our hours of daylight are at their minimum. For several days, we will neither lose nor gain daylight. Then just after Christmas, our daylight will begin to slowly accumulate, a minute a day at first, then quickening with the new year.

It is as if the earth pauses for a long beat before falling back toward the sun...and summer.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 More Favorite Photos


A sunset in early May. The last light of the sun tints the snow-capped peaks and glaciers on the far side of Kachemak Bay.



I took this photo from our back deck in June, keeping a careful distance.



In mid-July, this is the sky at midnight from our yard, looking up and to the north.



An August evening. I caught the moon rising over the mountains on my way home from work at about nine-thirty.

As always, click photos for full-sized image...


*~*~*~*~*~*

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quiet Day



Alaskan winter is a battle of air masses. When warm, maritime air moves in from the southwest, we can get snow and wind--or even rain. When the air flows down from the north and east, skies clear and--stripped of our insulating blanket of clouds--temperatures plummet.

Right now, the cold arctic air mass is dominating. Temperatures today hovered around ten degrees at our house. Downtown, the daily peak temp may have been around twenty. All I know is that I regretted wearing street shoes and my cloth coat when we went into town to run errands. What was I thinking.`

*~*~*~*~*~*



Inspired by a pair of earrings I bought a year ago at Halloween, I bought some green and red beads at the local craft shop and made several sets of Christmas earrings last year. This is the pair I find myself wearing most often. The red bead is actually heart-shaped, though it doesn't show well from this angel.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

2007 Favorite Photos - Summer Scenery

Not much to say today so I thought I would revisit summer with some favorite photos.


Looking west from Bluff Point across Cook Inlet to Mt.Iliamna. The fumaroles near the peak steam fairly constantly.


I call this one "Castles in the Sky"--a line of cumulus clouds building over the Kenai Mountains bend in the on-shore breeze. As seen from the Homer side of Kachemak Bay.


A summer scene at Beluga Lake, which serves as our float-plane base during the warmer months. This is looking northeast toward the head of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains..

Click on the images for much larger views...


*~*~*~*~*~*