“Fairbanks is kind of an A&&hole.”


Nothing quite like waking up to -30 near the end of March. One might think that I would be used to it by now, having lived here more than a few years… and really I am, but that is beside the point. The quote above was provided me by a friend in response to my posting this photo on the facebook yesterday…

Some days I am inclined to agree. Stuff it Fairbanks, your little jokes are not funny.

They say it is supposed to be in the high 30s…above zero… this coming weekend. These sorts of shenanigans are enough to make one feel even more bipolar and/or schizophrenic than we already do living in this place. But then, perhaps that is why some of us choose to live here…it is easier to hide one’s little flaws when there is crazy all around.

Anyways, it is trying to be spring and given the mercurial highjinks of the past couple of weeks it seems a good time to pay homage to winter… which I really do love…to a point. I would be a fool to keep on living here if I did not have some type of love for our most pronounced season. Passive-aggressive love that it may be. This troubled love affair was very well described through an extended series of facebook posts written by the same friend responsible for the title quote of this post. Ranging from passionate, steamy love notes to vile, venomous, accusatory rebukes, to – as I recall – a final, nail in the coffin, “Dear John” letter; these posts personified the difficulties one has relating to such an unforgivingly complicated entity as “Old Man Winter”. They were perfect, each and every one of them. They generally mirrored my very thoughts and made me laugh out loud each and every time. This came to pass last winter I believe.

tanana ski

A fine winter’s day on the Tanana

Point is, having chosen to live here (and choosing to continue doing so), we do not have much room to complain about the weather. We all know what it is. We all know what it will do. We will all exalt in the glorious days (however we might determine individually how those look or act). We all throw up our collective hands in exasperation when the unpredictability of the weather rears its ugly head. We all get testy and jumpy after weeks of -30 and colder. Yet, we choose to stay on. We embrace the crazy and break out the t-shirts and shorts and beach blankets and mojitos the first time it hits 40 degrees above and the sun is shining and the snow is melting off the roof.

“I see you shiver with antici……….pation”

It was -20 when I left the house this morning and we have pumpkins growing in our bedroom. There is not a cloud in the sky and if you dress in all black, find a place out if the wind and in direct sun, you can feel warmth from on high. Having cleared the bulk of the winter snow off of the deck on that one day weeks ago when March was playing games, I frantically clear any new fallen snow away in the hopes that it will be the last. Collectively we border on giving ourselves whiplash trying to decide between skis, running shoes, bikes, or deck chairs when trying to determine the best outdoor activity. The light hat, gloves, and coat are at the ready but we know that we will just freeze our collective arses if we wear them…yet.

We are waiting. We are anxious. Break-up is near and the crazy is swirling around us, like a thousand voiced choir building up to a cacophonous crescendo. And then we walk around the corner of a building to get a full face of winter wind; our eyes squint, our fists ball up, we bare our teeth and curse our sociopathic climatic lover. Damn you winter…we won’t get fooled again.

*** addendum: For another fun take on being cold and distant, check out a fellow bloggers posts here. http://inksnow.blogspot.com


A trail marker to guide your way through the White Mountains wilderness…


“Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches.”


Etivlik Lake, northern foothills of the Brooks Range 2006

Or, pondering the efficacy of figurative ablutions…

It all started with a computation. Or maybe it actually all culminated in the pondering of said computation. A statistic was stated and I had an immediate reaction. One that caused ripples through my mind for the next several days. Last night it brought me to this, the dawning of a new day… the acceptance thereof, and the seed of a new idea sprouted.

18 gallons of water, per person, per day. A fairly simple computation. An average, reflecting the amount of water used in the house between water deliveries. Really, not that interesting of an observation… though I suspect some of you might wonder a bit at the concept of a “water delivery”. And really, that is a big part of what I am facing right now. The reality of water.

I have mentioned before that this spring will mark the twentieth anniversary of my initial arrival in Alaska. It took a couple tries for me to fully take the plunge and “move” here… as in to relocate and begin to claim residency. When faced the other day with the idea that, in the past month, I have been responsible for using – on average – 18 gallons of water a day I balked. I have been living in dry cabins for so long that this seemed a slightly outrageous amount. For you see, not that long ago I would use roughly 20 gallons a week… at home. It was quickly pointed out however, that this usage did not factor in shower and laundry related water use as those took place outside of the home. Then of course there is the reality of the outhouse.

So, there you have it. Life has changed. But I have commented on this, so really no big news here. So, why the sudden presumption (or at least proclamation) of illumination? Hell, I don’t know… something about the fact that I am living in a more or less proper home, in an extremely comfortable relationship, planning a wedding, a marriage… The idea of a whole new future has suddenly sunk in.

The pondering of the calculation, and the subsequent reflections,  got me thinking about writing about what life in Alaska has been for me. I have addressed this to some degree in past posts, certainly, but of late I have gotten lost in a different copse of woods… so to speak.

So then last night I was thinking about photography and my attempts to capture the world, as I see it, through the lens. Several months ago I added a photo album to my corner of the facebook with this idea in mind. It is a collection of photos that I have taken all over the state and felt that they were a fair representation of my experience in Alaska, which thankfully has been reasonably extensive, and even more thankfully, is ongoing. So, in pondering this I got the idea to wrestle this blog onto a different path… Besides, my last post was number 42. I would like to think that that is an appropriate milestone and turning point.

So, while I will not guarantee that I will not – at times – wander back into the aforementioned woods, I intend to spend some time using this digital space to share some of the past twenty years; through words and photos. I do not expect there to be any particular rhyme or reason to this, other than to have images be the grounding element. So I will leave you with the photo that originally gave me the idea…

the real alaska

A holy sign… Steese Highway wayside 2012


…and I bet some of you thought I was going to say something about baptism didn’t you…

“-ism’s in my opinion are not good.”

“A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.” So said the sage Ferris Bueller way back in 1986. I was a sophomore in high school in the Chicago area when this movie came out, so naturally I was highly influenced by it. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the movie (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), stop what you are doing immediately and go watch it.


St. Ferris…a prelude to the Dude.

Then, a couple of years later the movie Pump Up the Volume was released. I was living in Northern Maine at the time and this one resonated with me as well… “You see, there’s nothing to do anymore. Everything decent’s been done. All the great themes have been used up. Turned into theme parks.” Again, if you are not familiar, stop what you are doing… well you know the drill.

During an amusing interaction on the interwebs a few days ago, I commented to a friend of mine that I was proclaiming myself a Surrealist Dudeist. Now that was almost wholly tongue in cheek, but I went on to say that I would likely write a new blog post about it. So I looked up surrealism… another –ism. Turns out the sound of the word is more appealing to me than the meaning. Dudeism is a little different; this particular –ism resonates a bit more with me, but it is still an –ism and as Ferris has taught us, these are not good.

So then there is all this business about a new pope; “We have a new pope.” is a statement I heard more than once yesterday. “We?” We who? I don’t have a pope. What would I want one of those for? Not even sure what one does with one. Sooooo, of course this all has got me thinking. Thinking about formality and structure and, well –isms.

If one were to look up “ism” on the interwebs, one might find this, “In Late Latin, the -ismus suffix became the ordinary ending for names of religions and ecclesiastical or philosophical systems or schools of thought…”, followed not far behind by this, “The narrowed sense of forming terms for ideologies based on the belief of superiority…” ultimately it is a suffix, one that “forms abstract nouns of action, state, condition, doctrine”… by the way all this and more can be found here: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ism

To quote Ferris again, “I quote John Lennon ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.’ A good point there.” And so I ask myself, “Do I believe in me?” followed almost immediately by, “What the HELL does that mean?” It all makes me feel slightly schizophrenic… and subsequently reminds me of another movie quote, “How am I not myself?”

What I am beginning to realize is that, where some people will look to –isms, of one sort or another for guidance – philosophical edicts, bible verses, etc. – I tend to pull my guidance from thoughts about (and perhaps ideals formed by or at least based on) movies… does that make me a cinemist? Good grief…

Extra points if you got that last “quote”…