Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year's End




The light that dies in our western sky tonight is already dawning on a New Year in the east.

I bid good-bye to 2008 with mixed feelings. Our lives have gone through changes this past year and in the larger world, turmoil and challenges have gathered like storm clouds. But we also found hope and resolve in 2008 and can face the New Year with hope.

I wish for us all a happier year to come.

For tonight is New Years 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




Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frost



Frost patterns have formed in between the double window panes.



The light of dawn reveals the delicate patterns in crystaline form.



Monday, December 29, 2008

Cold, Clear Light

It was cool enough this morning that I was reluctant to leave the warm cocoon of green flannel sheets and sleeping cats. We are enjoying cooler bedroom temperatures but there was just a bit too much nip in the air.

By the time I got downstairs--shortly before sunrise, the outside temperature was four below zero. The wood stove filled the kitchen/dining area with radiant warm, so even though it has the most windows of any room in the house, that area is the warmest spot in the house. Little Slippers rarely leaves the hearth now, basking against the heated rocks and oblivious to the rest of the world. The stove--a Blaze Princess--goes through wood slightly faster when the temperature is down to zero, but we have plenty of wood and can keep the house comfy.

Winter is still oppressing us out of a deceptively blue sky.

Brutal weather doesn't come in a blizzard-y bluster. It comes from pallid skies and motionless air with the cold of the spaces between the stars pressing down on you. The sun makes a brief excursion above the southern hills, coloring the snow a washed-out yellow and making us squint into the light.

From inside, looking out, it looks like a nice day--clear and calm. But if I stand too close to the patio door, I can feel the chill reaching out to me through the glass and I know the sun-kissed day outside is an illusion, mid-winter dreaming of summer.



They tell us the days are getting longer but we haven't noticed it yet. We stay abed until nine in the morning and even then the southern horizon is just beginning to show light. By four in the afternoon, we are watching the oranges and pinks of sunset color the few thin clouds out over the Inlet.

We have been taking it easy since Christmas, a break that coincides nicely with the present cold snap. Even the cats are taking it slow, sleeping away the hours between meals, perhaps dreaming of those warm, endless days of summer that are half-a-year away.

We still have to pass through January and February before we can expect warmer days and nights when you can stargaze without inviting frostbite.

For now, we are hibernating...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Water Like A Stone

This is the time of year, after the arc of the Solstice, when Winter gets serious.

The thermometer stood at several degrees below zero at midmorning, the sky clear and pale blue, like ice. There was little warmth to the pale wash of sunlight, broken by long shadows even at noon.

The wind was bitter and dry, merciless and unfeeling.

Under a foot of snow, the Earth is wrapped for her long sleep.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy...

As I snuggled in bed this morning, I felt myself basking in a quiet contentment. The world at large is sailing dark waters and the days are short, the nights are cold and the arctic wind nibbles at the windows. But I am happy

..because Punkin is nestled on my pillow, her paws touching my head--the way we have slept for years. She is approaching the end of her life, so these shared moments of intimacy mean even more to me.

...because Denny is retired now and gets share the snug bed-nest with me and three or four cats.

...because Twitch is back to his mildly cranky old self. He is past the worst of the flu and is recovering and restoring himself now. He seems much more confortable. And Black Jack, the only other cat to get sick, is doing much better than Twitch did.

..because now that we are retired, our lives are our own.

Eleven AM

..because sunrise and sunset occur at a time of day when we all can enjoy them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recovering from Christmas

This post is too late to make the cut for Holidailies for today but it is still December 26th here in Alaska so what the hell...

We must have had fun yesterday because we didn't get home until after eleven last night. We had shared a big family dinner at my uncle's house, a multi-generational celebration in the best tradition of the holiday. A bustling house full of comings and goings punctuated by a spendid dinner of turkey, ham and all the accompaniments.

My cousin and I started a two-handed game of Sequence which morphed into a four-handed, then six-handed game that went on for hours. The nice thing about Sequence is that players can be added or replaced without having to spot the flow of the game.

So, we came home late (for us) and fed the cats before turning in for about seven hours of sleep. We took today rather low-key. Denny cleared the snow that had fallen yeaterday from the driveway and the deck and I didn't really do much of anything.

It felt good.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Now Dash Away...

Just a very quick update before we dash away to Christmas dinner.

A quiet weather day in our neck of the woods; we are between storm systems.

The snow on the ground is upwards of ten inches now, softening the contours of the land and what lies on top of it.

A quiet day at our house. Twitch seems to be feeling very much like his old self. I am feeling more confident in his recovery now. He has become a dear companion despite being an ill-used cat with an attitude when he arrived here three years ago.

Charcoal and Punkin are still with us--something I didn't want to hope for. The infirmities of age are upon them but they are still enjoying life. That's enough to ask of 2008.

So, all my friends, it is a happy holiday at our little home. I hope the peace and light of the season are shining on you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

We were up past midnight last night, as the holiday influx of friends and relatives began. Denny drove to Anchorage and back , helping to ferry people and cargo down to our end of the Kenai Peninsula. Midnight found us standing in the driveway, exchanging tidings of good cheer as people split up for their respective destinations. The wind from the west was bitter and carried the sound of a restless sea.

My cousin stayed the night with us, so we sat around the kitchen table, the three of us, unwinding from the stresses of the day, until we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer.



It didn't really feel like Christmas Eve today. I have the feeling Christmas will come and go before I get myself in the proper frame of mind. That is so often the case for me that I almost expect it. But then I will be in the grip of festive feelings clear through to the New Year.



I am starting to believe we may have turned a corner with Twitch. He seems to be feeling better since his last vet visit and a change to injectable medications. He has been acting preety much his old self since last night and I am allowing myself to hope he may be on the mend.



It is a quiet, cold night at my edge of the continent. I hope the dawn find each of you with light and warmth.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

After the Storm

What was I thinking?

I mean, signing up for Holidailies. I barely had time to do justice to the project last year. I envisioned myself inviting the community into my life and sharing the joys and the challenges of daily life in my small Alaskan town. Instead, I found myself rushed for time and often posting photos and captions instead of prose.

In the intervening year, I told myself I would do justice to Holidailies this December. Whenever I had a particular elegant turn of phrase or amusing thought, I tried to file it away to trot out during this season.

Of course, I assumed that because I was retired this year, I would have ample time to make the insightful or amusing or illuminating entries I imagined myself making.

Silly me...

Someone told me that the trouble with being retired was that what used to take you an hour to do would now take all day. I thought it was a joke but I find tasks tend to expand now to take up all available time. I just got my holiday cards in the mail yesterday and today was taken up in the continuing saga of Mr. Twitch's bout with the flu--yet another vet visit and more medications.

So here are a couple more pictures.

When I got home from town this afternoon, I worked on replacing burnt-out lights on the trees in the back yard. And for a change of scene, I took a picture looking back at the house--to the north--from the stand of spruce trees. We have ten inches of snow on the ground--over six of it fresh-fallen today.



Yet another view of the sunset. I know--but this time of year, our attention at this latitude tends to focus on the light-play taking place most of the day along our southern horizon. The late afternoon brought clearing skies behind the storm front as a suddenly brisk wind started to strip the trees of the fresh snow. The result was a glory of light and color.

It is worth clicking to enlarge....





Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Views of Sunset

I ran into town this afternoon a little after three to mail off my holiday cards and letters.

Finally...

By the time I was heading back out of town, this evening's sunset was playing across the open waters of lower Cook Inlet.



I pulled off the road at the top of the hill--the usual spot--and caught these images.




The play of sunlight and clouds is constantly changing...



There are a couple more on Northern Life...


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice 2008 in Pictures

Daybreak and dusk on the shortest day of the year, as seen from south-central Alaska.



The crescent moon is high in the South as the day begins to break...about nine in the morning.



Dawn tints the sky...



An intersection of lights...about ten in the morning...just at sunrise.



Five in the evening, about an hour after sunset, looking southwest.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Spirit of Solstice Past

Solstice Night 2007

I took this photo of the full moon over our backyard last Solstice. It is better if you click to enlarge but being nighttime and existing-light, there isn't much detail. Just an impression. As it is overcast and warm (30's) today, there won't be any pictures tonight.

Don't forget to set your clock for the Global-O for Peace...

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 Revisited -- Reflection of Dawn



One of my favorite photos of those I have taken this year--it is currently my desktop background. It originally appeared in this post last January.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twitch Update

Just a quick update to try to get an entry in before the Holidailies portal date flips over--something it does well before my date flips over.

Today was taken up mostly with Twitch. After a disrupted night--too many cats, no Dennis--I got up at five to drive to Soldotna. There is veterinary clinic there that has endoscopy ability and I was half-convinced that Twitch had something lodged either in his airways or gullet. I called yesterday and got an eight-o-clock appointment.

So shortly after six, Twitch and I were on the dark and lonely Sterling Highway, heading north. I was so wrapped up in worrying about Twitch that I took little pleasure in the drive, the scattered holiday lights of isolated homesteads, the peacefulness of the long distances. I have been fighting a feeling of helplessness in regard to Twitch--nothing seemed to be bringing back the strong young cat I have grown to love. I don't want to lose him.

Denny, who has been up in Nikiski ice-fishing this week, met us at the Soldotna Animal Hospital. Twitch, stirred up by the two-hour drive, was actually looking pretty good. The vet who examined him seemed to feel so as well. He didn't think endoscopy was warranted at this time and wanted us to give the medications more time. In the exam room, Twitch didn't seem to be as distressed as he had been yesterday morning and hearing the vet confirm most of what our vets in Homer had found quieted the fear in me that I wasn't doing enough for our kitty. the vet ended up drawing blood for a re-check on those values and suggesting a few additions to our approach--a vaporizer and nose drops.

So, I left feeling both reassured and a little silly for panicking.

We said good-bye to Denny about nine and headd back home. Along the way, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Kenai Mountains.



We got home shortly before eleven. I gave Twitch his morning meds and let him find his secure hiding spot for the day--in this case, back out on the mezzanine where he spent most of the weekend. then I ran to town to return his x-rays to the vet clinic and let them know the upshot of our consultation and then to the drug store for nose drops and a cool mist vaporizer. I hit the grocery store for some gourmet dry cat food, as Twitch isn't much of a wet food eater and some quick meals for me.

Then, back at home, I set up the downstairs bathroom for Twitch so I can monitor his eating and drinking overnight. That meant moving BeBe into the entryway for a day or two but he didn't seem to mind. The entry has a screen door and he prefers to be there anyway where he can interact with the other cats.

I set up the vaporizer in the bathroom, prepared several bed-spots for Twitch and put out fresh water and food, then dug him out of his cozy hole and installed him downstairs. The last time I checked, there were a few of the fancy crunchies on the carpet, so I know he has been nosing around in the food dish and that makes me feel better.

Then I took a two-hour nap.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another December Dawn



The night seemed too short.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Five in the Evening


Click image for full-sized view...


According to the almanac, the sun set at four this afternoon. One hour later, I was at the scenic pull-out at the top of Baycrest Hill and took this picture of sunset, the sea and Venus.

For an update on Twitch, check out A Life of Many Cats.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, Monday



I woke up to Punkin nestled on the pillow above my head--her traditional sleeping spot. It has been weeks since she has spent the night on the bed with us. It was a sweetness I had missed and gave my day a nice beginning.

The temperatures warmed up overnight. Denny went outside to plug in the truck this morning but didn't since it was almost thirty degrees.

We got up about eight-thirty and got the cats fed before heading into town for a busy day.

Twitch wasn't doing any better so we dropped him off at the veterinary clinic so the vet could check him out at her leisure. He hasn't responded to home nursing and I am getting concerned.

Then, Denny dropped me off at the dentist to get my temporary crown down-sized and re-seated. It has felt high and uncomfortable, so I was planning on going in to see the dentist today anyway, but then it came off entirely last night. The dental assistant fixed me up in less than half-an-hour.

Then we hit the Post Office to pick up the mail (hadn't checked it since Friday) then we headed over to Ocean Drive to meet a Homer Hospice worker and return the hospital bed that our neighbor had been using. Since she couldn't meet us until her lunch break, we read our mail while we waited.

(I really need to get my holiday cards out but just don't feel inspired this year, and worrying about Twitch is cramping my desire to write. But I just need to surrender my worries and know that what will be will be. I can't save Twitch by will alone. He has to overcome what is ailing him.)

After we returned the hospital bed, we went by the Homer Animal Shelter for lunch. Yeah--not your normal lunch stop but the animal Control officer, Sherry, had called last night to invite us to stop by for a lunch that one of the local eateries was donating to the staff and volunteers at the Shelter. The sandwiches and salad were tasty and we were glad to have a chance to catch-up with Sherry and her husband, two of our good friends.

It began snowing as we left the Shelter. We headed up East Hill Road to see my aunt and uncle. We needed to drop off some things we had borrowed and borrow some more. We visited with them until just about sundown, then went by the vet clinic to pick up Twitch before heading home.

Unfortunately, the vets didn't have much to offer on what is ailing Mr. Twitch. The x-ray showed nothing wrong but his throat and airway seemed inf lammed, so he was given a steroid shot and some antibiotics and scheduled for a re-check tomorrow.

It is so depressing when one of our cats is sick and we can't help them.

lights from the driveway

With Twitch and his carrier settled on my lap, I was happy to see the lights of home as we pulled in the driveway. Here's hoping tomorrow has better news for us.



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Subarctic Sunday

The weather has been mostly clear and cold since Thursday.

Despite the clear skies and bright days, I am aware of just how short the hours of daylight have become, as we close upon the Solstice.



At nine am, the sun is just beginning to brighten the southeast horizon.



Not that the sun will get much above the horizon. At high noon, it is still caught in the trees in the south.

By four-twenty in the afternoon, the day is just a glow in the southwest...



On the cat front, Punkin has perked up a bit over the last few days, seeming more like her old, gregarious self. I can read the writing on the wall but am grateful to see Punkin having good days.

On the otherhand, I am worried about Twitch. He spent all day Thursday sleeping in the dining room. It wasn't like him but you can't really call the vet clinic complaining that your cat is sleeping all day. That's sort of what cats do, after all....

On Fiday, however, Mr. Twitch upped the ante by up-chucking. This--of course--is also fairily normal to a point, as any cat owner could testify> But I draw the line at vomiting of foam--that tells me the stomach is in distress.

I gave Twitch a quarter-tablet of Pepcid to settle his tummy but he brought it back up about an hour later.

So we went to the vet clinic for an exam and blood work. About $200 later, the most I learned was that his blood work was "text-book" perfect and there weren't any signs of plumbing obstructions. He was given some anti emetic injections and sub-cutaneous fluids before we came back home.

My mind was a bit relieved that his internal chemistry was looking normal and the shots stopped his vomiting. But he found himself a cozy den on the mezzanine and stayed there.

He came out this morning for a while, while I was feeding cats. I didn't see him eat but he stayed around the food dishes for a while. His eyes were watery and he was sneezing, so I am hoping he is just fighting off the cat flu. He was mouth-breathing this morning but aside from that wasn't showing any signs of discomfort. I gave him some fluids to help with his hydration and a little later, I found some feline antihistamines and gave him one. I hope it helps with his congestion.

Aside from that, it is just a matter of time. Twitch is young and healthy and if it is the flu, he should start feeling better in a day or so. All I can do is watch him and try to keep him comfortable.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Trip to Anchorage - Homebound Leg

A snow-storm blew in while we were at the funeral--waves of dry snow and a biting wind. We both worried about what conditions would be like in the mountains for our drive home. As we pulled out onto the Glenn Highway and headed south toward Anchorage, we couldn't help biut notice how thick traffic was in the outbound lanes.

In fact, as we watched, the flow of vehicles came to a stop. I glanced behind us--to the north--and saw several emergency responders flashing lights just past the entrance to the Fort over in the northbound lanes. We saw the results of several collisions in the opposing lanes as fast-moving traffic heading out of Anchorage ran into the snarl of traffic backing up from the accident. The snow and the slick road were contributing factors.

But the snow eased off as we entered Anchorage. The focus of the storm was north of the city. We crossd town to the Turnagain district to visit with my cousin--briefly--before we had to hit the warehouse stores and head for home.

The winds were picking up as we left Costco and by the time we hit Potters Marsh, snow was drifting across the highway. We were bracing ourselves for a tedious, slow drive along Turnagain Arm, but once we got on the Arm itself, it was calm and traffic was light. We hit a few snow flurries going through the Pass but there was--again--no traffic to speak of and once we got on the flats north of Soldotna, the weather was great and the road was bare.

It was hard to believe this was the same highway we drove that morning, squinting into the snow. Apparently folks retire early on the Lower Peninsula, because once we were south of Soldotna, we saw very little traffic.

It had been a long day and we feel into bed just before one in the morning. We slept soundly...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Honor Guard

To continue with our trip to Anchorage on Wednesday...


We arrived in the big city by mid-morning and spent about two hours running errands--pricing refrigerators, finding where we can buy DTV converter boxes and picking up fitting for our hot water boiler.

When I lived in Fairbanks, I never understood the fascination our bush-living friends had with shopping every time they got to town. After we had lived in Nome for a while, I understood. And now, even though I have access to the Internet and from Homer we are within a two-hour drive of decent stores, a trip to Anchorage always entails leaving town with a vehicle packed to the gills with staples and sundries and the hard-to-find objects of our obsessions.

But the primary reason for our trip was to attend the funeral of our neighbor, who passed away last week. So after noon, we worked our way north toward Fort Richardson for the services.



There was quite a nice area in the National Cemetery for the services. I haven't been to many military funerals so I was surprised by the honor guard standing watch and the trumpeter waiting by the gazebo. I imagine the setting is spectacular on a clear June day but the softly-falling snow and the silent, dark trees, wrapped in fresh snow, gave the moment a solemn dignity.



There was a delay in the arrival of the remains, but the honor guard stood by, respectfully waiting to honor the old veteran. I admired their patience and discipline. And these pictures were taken before the snow flurries moved in and the wind began to howl through the trees. Even in the gazebo, somewhat sheltered, our feet grew cold and our faces were lashed by blowing snow.

Still, it was a beautiful and moving ceremony as another of the Greatest Generation was laid to rest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Driving to Anchorage

We got home about a-quarter-to-midnight last night with a Suburban-load of cat food, kitty litter, and groceries. We got that all stowed, the wood stove fired up and the cats fed--then fell into bed and slept the sleep of the exhausted.

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

We had left Homer about six in the morning. A light snow was falling, which got heavier at times as we drove north in the dark. We passed scattered settlements and solitary homes--some with their holiday lights glowing brightly in the predawn darkness.

We stopped in Soldotna to grab a quick breakfast about seven-thirty. The western half of the Kenai Peninsula is a rather flat plateau cut by small drainages but as we continued north, the highway climbed into the tangle of mountains that tie the Peninsula to the mainland of Alaska. The first light of dawn began to show through rifts in the overcast as we followed the twisting road along the Kenai River and then the lake before joining the Seward Highway to climb toward Turnagain Pass.

Turnagain Pass

We stopped for a short break at Canyon Creek. While Denny hit the outhouse, I enjoyed the stillness of the winter morning breaking over the creek. The same pulse of moisture that brought us a couple of inches of snow on Monday apparently had dropped up to twenty inches in the mountains, and the freshly-fallen snow softened the contours of the terrain.

Canyon Creek

By the time the day had fully broke, we were through the mountains and back down to tide-water, following the highway along Turnagain Arm. I snapped this picture of the sunrise colors breaking through the clouds just a few miles south of Anchorage.

On Turnagain Arm

More photos are at Northern Life.

More of our trip to town tomorrow....