Saturday, January 31, 2009

Small Alaskan Town



One on the major intersections in our town and the only one to sport a real traffic light. (You have to drive seventy-some miles north before you hit the next stop light.) You wouldn't believe the angst and drama that preceded its installation--fears that it would ruin the ambiance of the town. But it has made getting around a lot smoother, especially during the summer.

I snapped this last Wednesday as I was leaving the post office.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Restless Redoubt

Those in a position to know are predicting an eruption of Mount Redoubt, a 10-thousand-foot volcano on the western side of Cook Inlet. I snapped this picture of the mountain yesterday from the top of the Bluff Point rise on the Sterling highway--about a mile or so from our home. Although I take more pictures of our other two near-by volcanoes--Augustine and Iliamna--I am fond of Redoubt, and this familiar view I get on my way home.

The last major eruption back in 1989-90 dusted our area with a nice layer of volcanic ash.


It is well worth it to click on the photo and enlarge it.

Redoubt Activity


Mount Redoubt Rumbles: eruption possible


Alaska Volcano Observatory

Monday, January 26, 2009

Citrus



A mid-winter tradition, newly come by. My parents send us fresh oranges and grapefruit from their winter digs in Arizona. As January rolls around, we dig out our grapefruit knife and spoons for a feast of vitamin C.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Earthquake

It was just a modest little shaker but it scared the cats and enthralled us for a couple of minutes.

From the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami WarningCenterAt 9:10 AM Alaskan Standard Time on January 24, an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 5.7 occurred 50 miles/80 Km west of Homer, Alaska.


5.7 Quake rattles Southcentral

*~*~~*~*

Of course, the next thing I did was check on our local volcanos on the Alaska Volcano Observatory website. Aside from registering the earthquake itself, the seismic monitors on the near-by peaks showed normal background activity.

Except i noticed that Mt. Redoubt has been restless recently--which is good to know. We will be keeping an eye on that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lazy Days



All three of our black cats made a constellation on the bed. We are sharing their lazy winter days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mid-Winter Break

Ma Nature has given us a nice break these past few days as our weather has slowly returned to winter-normal.

There seems to be about an hour more of light in the evenings than there was a month ago. The days still seem short. Our sleep-cycle has adjusted so that we sleep until dawn--an event which will get pushed into the earlier hours as the year spools up for summer.

We are still in the doldrums of the year, a time of sluggish currents and languid tides. To be able to surrender to this lull is a luxury of retirement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Owl

After our long day on Monday, Denny and I were standing in the entryway, getting ready to head upstairs to bed, when we hear a strange scratching sound coming from just outside the window.




After checking with our bird books, I think it is a Northern Saw-Whet owl.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Augeries...

What a remarkable day.

During fifty-seven years, I have lived through a little history, but I can't recall another day that stirred in me a sense of import and destiny. I never thought I would see this day and I am restored by its coming.



The morning twilight was softened--muffled--by low clouds and fog. Yet a light shone through the gloom, reminding us that despite the desolation of the scene--we weren't alone. An hours or so later, the morning gloom had passed away and the sun rose into clearing skies. A promise that there is light on the other side of whatever befogs us now.



That seems a good enough augery for me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On The Beach - Nome 1986

There were rare days of fine weather during our summers in Nome. On this particular day, we took our Zodiac boat and motored up the coast a bit from Nome.

If you enlarge the picture, you can just make out the actual Cape Nome very faint and low on the horizon. I believe the buildings are those of a gold camp or mining dredge west of town at that time.




Down on the sun-warmed sand, out of the breeze, we could get pretty comfortable.



A hundred-and-ten years ago, you would never have seen so much driftwood sitting on the beach of Nome. The huge influx of gold-seekers cleaned the beaches of any useable or burnable wood. On the trees lands of northern and western Alaska, wood is a valued commodity.



The powerline behind me goes out along an access road to the gold camp west of Nome.



This was much closer to town than the previous location. I drove the Suburban along the beach from town. You can see the construction of the causeway in the background.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Moon and Daybreak



We were outside before sunrise this morning--not as early as it sounds this time of year. The skies were clear except for scattered wisps of low stratus. The half-moon was in the southwestern sky.

After we went back inside, Denny called my attention to an eagle perched in the backyard. If you click to enlarge the photo, look on the left. Perhaps the eagle was waiting for daybreak, too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

After The Thaw



With an afternoon temperature in the high forties and the ground beginning to thaw, today would have made a nice day in April--not January.

The red saxifrage in the back yard was green and waiting. Hard to believe it was below zero this time last week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Looking Back - Nome, 1986

One of the things that makes Nome an attractive choice for Bush living is the road system. In most Alaskan villages, you are there in the town and that's it. Miles and miles of unbroken tundra or forests stretch out around you. The only pathways are the rivers or coastlines.

In Nome--we had roads. We could drive out from town in three directions--usually further than you'd want to go on a tank of gas. We took advantage of this fact to get away from town and see some of the surrounding country.



Well, in the winter, the roads didn't go quite as far. Here we are where the Nome-Teller Road came to an end on winter, just a few miles out of town. Travel past this point was by sled or snow machine until Spring.

The treeless hills in the background give a sense of the landscape of the Seward Peninsula.



And this give a sense of the edge of town, looking south toward Norton Sound and Nome's main street--Front Street--that parallels the coast. The long, flat horizon is actually the frozen surface of Norton Sound.



And what Nome is famous for. I took this (in March of 1986, obviously) in the middle of the night on Front Street as the bars emptied to greet a newly-arriving musher and team.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mid-Winter Thaw

If you caught my post for yesterday yesterday, you would have seen just photos. I didn't get a chance to write the captions until this morning.

The reason? Our big thaw finally arrived.



Warmer temperatures, accompanied by wind and rain, were firmly established by yesterday morning. The Anchorage area experienced the heat wave in the form of freezing rain, which partially paralyzed the city. And you know when the weather is so bad that Alaskans cancel school--that's serious weather.

Here in the Homer area, the rain didn't freeze. But since it was falling on packed ice in some areas and a foot of snow in others, the result was quite a mess. Side roads were sheets of wet ice. Fortunately, the highway and major roads through town were bare. But due to the rapid rise in temperatures on top of the intense cold of last week, the storm drains were frozen and the streets were awash by afternoon.

Just before sundown, a fresh wave of rain blew in on gale-force winds, polishing the ice to a lethal slickness. We got involved with trying to rescue a friend who was in a ditch on the other side of our block and came home a hour later tired and soaked to the skin. I uploaded a few photos quickly then the lights began to flicker and we knew we needed to shut the computers down.

So my entry for yesterday didn't get captions until this morning...

Oh--and our phone service went out last night.

So neither bright or early this morning, I went into town to make sure ACS knew we had no phone service. Turns out I wasn't the only one waiting at the phone company's store to complain about lack of service. We were assured that the problem was being worked on.



This is our little side road from the highway heading home. Notice how much of the snow is gone.




Notice how the meltwater is flowing over the road...

Yeah--real pleasant weather. I actually prefer it twenty degrees colder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking Back - Nome FAA Housing

Because we were FAA employees during our time in Nome, we lived in government-provided housing while there. The majority of us living there were working for the FAA, so it was referred to in town as "FAA Housing"--even though we shared our little hill with folks working for the National Weather Service as well.



The housing consisted of several four-plexes built on a small rise between two ends of the "X"-shaped runway about a mile from town proper. Here is a photo of our two cats--Kisa and Licorice--exploring the porch of our unit. We shared front and back entrances with another unit. Our front door is on the left.



Another view of our housing unit--this time seen in mid-winter. The gray crew-cab pickup is ours, parked in front of our living room window. Note the snow drift that has built up in the lee of the truck. Pretty common during the winter months.



And this is inside our living room, looking out on a fine winter afternoon. I thought that is Kisa in the foreground--Denny thinks it is Licky.

The structure that dominated our view is an abandoned gold dredge. They dot the gold-bearing regions of Alaska--though less now than in those days. This one was burned down by vandals after we left Nome.

I remember before we moved out to Nome, Denny proudly telling me that we got the housing unit with the view of the dredge. "WTF?" I thought. "What's so special about that?" After we moved into our unit, I appreciated the view--most other units had a view of their neighbors' front windows. We had a bit more privacy. Something to be cherished when you live in a compound.



Interior shot of the view coming home through the back door--Kisa waiting for me in the kitchen. The living room is in the background to the left.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Looking Back - Nome 1985

In July, 1985, we moved from Fairbanks to Nome.

The town is located on a series of raised beaches on the northern shore of Norton Sound. Here is Denny, looking out over the Sound from the vantage point of Anvil Mountain.



Anvil Mountain was noted at the time for the aging relics of the White Alice site on the peak. Here I pose with the antennas in the background.



Denny looking south toward town and the Sound.



The weathered rocks that underlie much of the landscape--and faint in the distance the low mass of Sledge Island.



We arrived in Nome at the beginning of a heat wave--high temperatures were in the seventies and even low eighties--but we could still find pockets of unmelted snow on the northern faces of the slopes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January, Looking Back - 1998

Not a lot going on this time of year. Short days and temperatures that keep us inside.

At least the temperatures continue to slowly moderate, marking an end to the penetrating cold. We got a light dusting of snow but not more than a half-inch. There is about ten inches of snow pack right now. It seems like there should be more, but we haven't hit our heaviest snow months yet.

Still, I remember the winter of 1998-99, when we were hit by a series of snow storms in late December and early January that left the snow packed up to the eaves. (There were more trees around us then, too...)



In truth, a lot of the snow came off the roof, but still--our eaves are eleven or twelve feet above the ground. That's a lot of snow. I tunneled along the side of the house to ease the pressure on the windows. We haven't had that much snow since.

1998 was the year we finally upgraded to Pentium II computers and Win98. The year we first hooked up to the Internet. The year that a tiny white kitten that we named Pickle Boy came to live with us. he would keep me company in the evenings when I was on-line or playing Tomb Raider.



Strange to think it has been over ten years already. I miss our little Pickle, who was with us for only nine years--too brief a time. But I am so grateful for the time we had, time to build a love that stays with me, keeps him close in my heart.

*~*~*~*

Since Janus, the Roman god for whom this month is named is depicted as having two faces--one to look ahead and one to look back, I will indulge on some looking back this month.

Stick around--you may learn something new about us...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January Games

I have been getting back to computer gaming--trying to run some adventure-type games I bought several years ago and hadn't gotten around to playing yet. Considering that I owe several dear friends emails or letters, I should be ashamed to be spending time playing games but I feel drained and tapped-out by the holidays--I don't have much to offer in way of correspondence. Gaming has been a way for my to refresh and recharge since I first stumbled on to Myst. This feels like a good time of year to retreat to the worlds of imagination.

I loaded Alida last week, after hitting a glitch in Forever Worlds that stopped my forward progress. (I am pretty sure that I can download a patch to recover my FM game but haven't bothered yet...) I enjoy the game-world of Alida--probably because it is so reminiscent of the Myst--but I have found the puzzles to be require more concentration than I feel like investing right now. I am about a third of the way through the game but decided to pause for a while--looking for something that is a bit less obtuse.

Right now, I am beginning both Rhem 3 and Aura. The first is quickly getting to be a bit dense for me but Aura seems like it may entertain without taxing me too much.

We shall see.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Moon Dance

A change in the weather--it was eight degrees above zero this morning and a very fine snow was falling.

While I was looking out the back window to see what the thermometer was reading, I caught sight of an orange ball low in the northwest--the moon slipping below the cloud layer just before setting.



Just a few minutes ago, I stepped out on the deck to take this picture of the full moon. The light is from our neighbor's porch. Although the sky is clear enough to see the moon through thin clouds, the air is moderate--about ten degrees.

So it seems our cold snap had moderated.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Waiting For Warmth

We had a brief moment of hope yesterday afternoon. I looked out the upstairs patio window about four-thirty and noticed what I wasn't seeing--sunset. Instead of the slow dusk of winter, all we could see to our south was a band of gray clouds. Dared we hope for snow?

Alas, the big storm passed through the Gulf of Alaska, hitting Kodiak Island with blizzard conditions but missing the Kenai Peninsula. By midnight, the moon shone down from a star-pocked sky; reflected light from the snow cover coloring the night midnight blue.

There are rumors of snow by the end of the weekend but we have heard such things before.

Our temperatures have hovered around zero since December 27th, when the temperatures fell as the pressure rose. Under a heavy, clear dome of arctic air, we wait for some stirring in the atmosphere.

The only thing that makes it bearable is knowing that it is -45F in Fairbanks. That makes three below sound downright balmy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Remembering Summer...

Just to remind myself that in six months, we will be surrounded by green and vibrant life again, here are some photos from last July.






Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Downtown



It has been clear and cold now for twelve days. Such cold snaps aren't uncommon. January and February are known to be our coldest months and under a dome of cold, clear air, there is little motion to our weather. With the jet stream passing well to our south, we could face another week or so of such weather.

It was twelve degrees below zero this morning at our house. Denny noted the temperature when he went outside at nine to plug in the Suburban. Those of you who live in northern latitudes know what that means. Those in balmier climes need to know that we outfit our vehicles with subsidiary heating elements that will warm the oil, the battery and/or the engine before we start (or attempt to start) the vehicle.

The town of Homer is situated mostly along the shoreline of Kachemak Bay at an average elevation of fifty feet or so. We live up on the bluff at about the eight- or nine-hundred foot level. Homer is warmed by its proximity to the open water, so town is warmer in the winter--and cooler in the summer--than we are at our location.

I have seens the temperature at the credit union colder than this only once or twice. And when it is this cold at mid-day, you know we are having a cold snap.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Finish Line

The last day of Holidailies for 2008.

I feel like I gave a half-hearted effort this year. I hadn't anticipated that somehow after retirement I would have *less* time to spend on-line, not more. Now that I am at home all the time, every day life intrudes more readily and I haven't developed the discipline to make blogging a larger aspect of my life.

I guess I'll come to terms with that as I continue with Blog 365.

My regrets/disappointments are two-fold.

First, I feel I have let down the people kind enough to stop by and read my ramblings. Many of my entries this past month have been cursory. I have given very little of myself away, revealed none of my inner life. Details of daily life are brushed over, without insight or interpretation. Thank you for your patience but I've given you a poor effort.

But my larger regret is that I haven't visited many of the other participants. What I enjoyed so much last year--finding new blogs of interest--I denied myself this time around. The experience was poorer because of that.

At least the portal and links will remain active, so I can go back and browse. Don't be shocked if I drop a badly-out-dated comment or two.

And if you are a new reader, I hope you may check back on me from time to time. I'll be continuing on.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Still Frozen



An even lazier day--if possible--than yesterday. I slept in until ten this morning. It felt good. I only got up because I had to add water to the vaporizer and care for the cats--feed and medicate them. Cats are creatures of routine and any divergence from their expectations upsets them.

To varying degrees, of course. To some of our clowder, the prospect of someone staying in bed all day is sheer bliss. I don't think Frannie gets off the bed more than three times during the day and one of the comforting memories I have from my last nasty bout with the flu is cuddling under the covers with Dinky.

But once I got up and properly caffeinated, I got a few things done.

There aren't a lot of cats to medicate, now that Mr. Twitch is feeling good again. Just Toby John's twice-daily insulin, sub-cutaneous fluids for Punkin and Charcoal's thyroid meds, if I can catch her. So today, it was mostly topping off the food bowls and water dishes and making sure everyone is doing okay.

We got a trace of snow last night--fine crystals that glitter in the low-angled sun but don't add much to our snow pack. It had warmed up to near-zero this morning and probably got on the good side of zero in the heat of the brief afternoon but it isn't the break in the weather we are waiting for. That looks to be a couple days out yet.

I am starting to put the Christmas things away. Normally I want to hang on to the holiday season forever but for some reason this year I am ready to clean things up and get on with it. The house moves through the palette of seasonal moods--the festive red-and-green of mid-winter giving way to gold, silver and white for the New Year. Now I pack away the glitter and leave the house pale and open.

To me, the season after Christmas, those several months sloping up to the Spring Equinox, is the sparse time of the year, a season of moderation, meditation, a clearing of cluttered spaces. I like this season and look forward to it. I have been decompressing since June but I am still learning how to be retired.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Frosted

At some point last week, the weather forecasters were claiming that our cold snap would moderate over the weekend. So--understandably--I did a double take when I saw the temperture after it got light this morning. A good day to stay inside, for sure.



Not that we were all afire today. It was a lazy day at our house. A neighbor had come over a couple days ago with a cold and now both Denny and I are having sinus troubles. When the air is as cold as it is now, it doesn't hold much moisture, so we woke up with sinus headaches. I got up long enough to set up the vaporizers this morning upstairs, then crawled back into bed for a few hours. Sometimes that's the best sleep of all.



During the cold months, we keep a heated water dish outside. For the creatures living outside, water is often harder to find in the winter than food, so we try to provide. The water stays warm enough to form feathers of ice around the rim.

In this cruel cold, I am happy every night to hold Bart or Twitch or Mimi and hope they have forgotten cold nights and winter days they spent outside before they came to live with us.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Midwinter Doldrums

Looking west

The days have taken on the monotony of winter, now that the major festivals are behind us.

There is a sameness to the slow tick of time; even our weather seems to be stuck in the same bone-chilling groove. Pre-dawn temperatures dip to below zero. As the sun struggles to a low zenith over the mountains to the south, the air may warm to the plus side of zero. Whatever clouds that form are either low on the horizon or thin wisps high in the frigid sky. This time of year, shadows are long and the sun is always in your eyes.

We have been drifting through the days, mostly puttering around the house. I am trying to find a computer game to play, one I can immerse myself into, exploring imaginary worlds to combat the scary cold outside and to lift me from the hum-drum of the daily routine.

After sunset and the long twilight, the night falls solidly outside, the cold pressing in through the windows, the stars unwavering in the dense, cold air.

You can feel it, the fallow-time of the earth, a time of resting and re-charging, a time of reflection and renewal.

After the hectic days that lead up to the holiday season, I actually welcome this quiet time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bishop's Beach - Homer, Alaska



Sunshine on the beach. A walk on cruncy gravel. Makes you think of lazy summer days, huh?

Wrong...

It was so cold when I took this picture--about noon--that the sea was smoky. If you enlarge the photo, you will see the wind whipping snow off the four-thousand-foot peak across the bay and how well-bundled the couple on the beach are.

A day at the beach, Alaskan style.