Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You know you live in a small town when...

... you dial a wrong number, and someone you know answers.

... people spot you from a distance and recognize you by your jacket.

... you can't go anywhere without being spotted and having it be mentioned later.

... everyone in town is within two degrees of separation, not six.

Oh ALSO... we are above 0F this morning for the first time in nearly a month!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Sammypants at Thanksgiving:

My friends' kitten, Leo:

My girls waiting patiently while I fix my pole strap, which broke while skijoring. Aren't they so sweetly patient?

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Republic of Bunnistan:

Best. Thanksgiving. Evar. Sixteen pies!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And the weather gods exhale...

Warming temps break Interior Alaska cold snap

The temperature at Fairbanks International Airport climbed above 20 degrees below zero for the first time in seven days on Tuesday as a record-setting, early season cold snap slowly began to loosen its grip on the Interior...

It marked the first time in six days that Fairbanks did not set a new low temperature record at the airport and it was the first day since Nov. 15 that Fairbanks’ low temperature wasn’t at least 35 below...

The average temperature for the week of Nov. 15 through the 21 was 30.1 degrees below zero, making it the coldest week during the month of November since 1930, according to the National Weather Service...

Unh-huh. Whatevs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alaskan Pseudo-Hermits

My rural area has quite a few guys who live alone and talk like this:

I like living out here by myself, on my own land, and I'm all alone in my solitude, and no-one comes to bug me, and--Here, sit down--I just like to be by myself. Here, have a beer. I just get so tired of people, I really like my solitude. Are you done with that beer? Here, have another. Yeah, I don't need anyone else. Just me, myself, and I. I'm practically a hermit. Where are you going? Sit back down. Have another beer...


Temperatures are slowly rising. It was -30F/-34C this morning, and I went for a run instead of a walk for the first time in almost a week. It felt good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Misc Photos

And this is why I worked from home last week. I neeeeeeeded to stay within 3 feet of the wood stove:

Brrr, baby, brrrrrr!

Autumn sez, "Nice slippers, mama. I'll borrow one for an elbow rest."

Three! Three fuzzies in my cabin! Ah, ah, ah!

This nose-cicle grew on my scarf over my nose after a morning's skijor:

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, is very cute:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brrrr! And... the reality of aging huskies

We've been buckled down under a cold snap... the coldest temp I'd ever seen at my current home: -45F! But anyway, I had another post up my sleeve regarding Autumn's time on them lam, so here it is...

Autumn and Linden, the World's Most Perfect Dogs, have only two flaws. One is that they have horrible leash manners, and the other is that from time to time they run off. They are traffic smart and direction smart, and in our rural area, there are relatively few hazards, and most people like dogs and would not harm a loose one that's just passing by. Nevertheless, I worry when they run off, and wring my hands for the half hour to several hours it takes for them to get bored with their adventure and come on home. This generally happens about three times a year. Considering that they escort me everywhere, it's a relatively low rate, and each time, it's still a surprise. I'll be working in the yard, or whatever, and suddenly--FOOM!--they are bolting across our land and onto the trail.

Last Wednesday evening, they did it when they went out to escort me to put something on the porch for recycling. I, horrified, hollered after them. Linden came back; Autumn did not. Again, I didn't think anything of it; just figured I'd have to wait it out per usual.

She wasn't back by the end of the night. I went out at one point, and saw her in the yard. What a relief! I called her, and she looked at me and--get this--dashed away like a feral dog. WTF? I would have sworn she didn't recognize me.

The next morning, she still hadn't returned. V was over, and we had spent the night on the couch, so we could listen for her paws hitting the porch, as the girls' do when they come home. Nothing.

By this time I was beside myself, and decided to take Linden for our regular run, hopping that Autumn would see us and join us. Again, nothing. Later that day, neighbors began calling, as they spotted her here and there. Snow fell lightly that whole day, so it was easy to track where she had gone and when... I finally deduced that she wasn't leaving the immediate area; she just wasn't coming home! V's sister, F, who lives across the street, spotted her as she got off the school bus that afternoon. V's sister is a regular dog whisperer, and she is probably Autumn's second favorite person, behind me. Autumn also behaved as if she didn't know her, and she was frightened of her. She ran off! I spotted her again that night, but again, she ran off.

My dogs have a family history of seizures. Their mom, their grandma, and one of their sisters got them when they got old. When they came back from their seizures, they didn't recognize their people or their surroundings for maybe an hour. As best I can figure, Autumn must have seen or done something that triggered a seizure, and didn't recognize F or V or me.

Finally, her dinnertime came around, and it was my great hope. By this time, it was Thursday evening, she had been on the lam for close to 24 hours, and I didn't know if she'd ever be mine again, or she'd turn into some feral dog. Knowing how food-motivated she is, I put her dinner on the porch, figuring that when she jumped up for it, I'd hear her and open the door, and she'd come in. No such luck. She crept onto the porch in silence--I didn't know she was there until I heard her crunching her kibble. When I opened the door, she again ran away!

I figured at this point that chasing her was no good, so I called around to ask where I could borrow a live trap. For future reference, the local animal shelter loans them out. But the next day was a holiday, then a weekend followed, and I was quite anxious to catch Autumn before Monday, four days later! I also called everyone else who knew and loved her--her former family, Dan, who now lives in Wyoming, M, C--to see if they had any input. While I was on the phone with Dan, I heard a familiar thud on the porch. Then a familiar scratching at the door with a paw. I opened the door, and there was Autumn, having walked right past what was left of her supper and acting like the previous 26 hours hadn't happened.

I'm utterly baffled, but I was so happy I started crying. Dan, overhearing this, must think I am insane and must be very happy indeed to be rid of me! :)

Anyway, the conclusion of all of this is that the girls are now 12, and since they are super-athletic huskies, I do know that their minds will go before their bodies do. I cannot emotionally afford another incident like this, so the girls will not be allowed off-leash outside any more. I won't even ski with them loose. From now on, it's skijoring all the way. I'm sad that I will never again witness this sort of joyous abandon from them, but them's the breaks.

Autumn is acting completely like her old self again, but even if she loses her mind and can't look after me the way she used to, it's okay. It's sad, but it's okay. She's taken care of me for four years, through multiple homes and relationships, happiness and heartbreak. I can take care of her for what time she has left, however that time may be.

Monday, November 14, 2011



Also: North Pole family rescues rats. Pretty sweet, eh?

Okay, I'm really beat. On Friday night, I did a second run to enjoy the full moon. Saturday and Sunday morning, the girls and I skijored about 5 miles. Saturday night, another run. Sunday afternoon, a mushing loop--V's dogs' first time out this year. I'm beat! However, the dogs are *very* happy. :)

Also, also: my run this morning, my shirt came untucked, and my belly went numb. Aaaaaaiiyouch!

Here are photos of the beasties...

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, sez: "Gimme that apple!"

The girls: "Who's at the door?"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Conversation with the kama'aina

(Or whatever Alaskans call their equivalent of kama'aina)

Last week's Saturday ski, the first of the season, was a little rough. My legs were not in skiing shape, and I was uncoordinated and overheating. My arms ached, my thighs ached. I understood then why people roller ski in the summers. To recover my battered self esteem, I decided later to shovel the driveway and walkways. V, who was reading on the couch, assessed the situation and decided that it was unacceptable. He came outside and intercepted me along the path to the shed.

"I can do that."

Yes, I'm sure you can. So can I. (insert big cheesy grin here)

"I'll do it for you."

You think I'm going to let myself go soft just because you're here?



(a few minutes later, during which both of our big, competitively cheesy grins start to make our cheeks ache, and our lips are dehydrating and cracking from being frozen into place, and spittle is literally freezing on our exposed teeth...)

"Do you have another shovel?"


"I'll rock-paper-scissors you for it."


I won. :)

He went back inside and lasted maybe ten minutes. Then he came back out and started making kindling. No argument there. I detest making kindling!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today we give thanks

In the past few weeks, I three times seriously feared or came close to losing someone I loved--V, M, and Autumn. All three of them are still with me in body and mind, and today I give thanks and once again feel like the luckiest person on earth.

It's funny that this peculiar form of pessimism (always worrying...) leads to such great joy and thankfulness. It's is really quite amazing. People of more supposedly optimistic temperament don't furrow their eyebrows and wring their hands imagining their friends in car crashes, or their dogs dead in ditches, but they also don't know the exquisite joy of imagining their friends in car crashes, and then seeing them alive!

Today I feel so thankful to be alive and whole and loved, and no-one without my neuroses will ever know how that feels, at least not to that extent!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


1) Last night there was a luahoano, a rainbow around the moon. My camera does not love such things, but I still got a few cool photos of the waxing gibbous moon from my yard:

2) There is a crazy "perfect storm" lashing against the Bering sea right now. NOAA is calling it "ONE OF THE MOST SEVERE BERING SEA STORMS ON RECORD" (caps theirs). Here is a report about the effects in Nome. Please keep a thought in your hearts for our friends in Nome, Kotzebue, and other communities in that area.

3) I haven't taken photos of the girls napping in a while, so here you go:

4) We cuddle:

5) Last night, the moon was so bright (bright enough to read a book in the front yard if I had so chosen) that I figured an evening run was in order. However, after I had bundled all up and put on all of our reflective stuff, I stepped outside and realized that under the trees, it was still dark enough to require a headlamp. Bummer! Hopefully, by the next full moon, the Tanana will have frozen up, and we can do a moonlit run or ski there, where it is open enough to utilize the moonlight!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finally skiing! Yay!

Look! I am back on my skis!


Here is the sunrise Saturday as we headed out onto the trail from behind the cabin:

The girls were running around acting like loons:

I love it when we are the first to make tracks on new-fallen snow!

Me and my goober:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Top o' the Minor News Today

Lone goose remains at Creamer’s Field, appears healthy. The article includes a slide show with five portraits of the goose.

I think Minor News reporting has reached a new level of minor. And that's why I love it and read it daily!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Sun...

Photo by Mariska Wright, a local artist

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe Me."

Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

--Hafiz, from The Gift

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How I Run

I have been a runner for my entire adult life. I have been a slow, bumbling runner, but what I have lacked in grace and speed, I have made up for in enthusiasm and consistency. I have completed the Honolulu Marathon, the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego, and--my favorite--the stupendously beautiful, tree-lined Avenue of the Giants. Each time, I placed at the bottom 5th percentile for my age group. That's the slowest 5%, mind you. :)

I have never been serious about running. My training fuels are not Power Bars nor gels nor GUs, but rather peanut butter on Pilot Bread, bananas, yogurt, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I do not keep track of my pacing at all, especially due to running with dogs. When they want to stop and sniff something, or scope out just the perfect spot to take a crap, I stop and grant them that. (I figure a lifetime of running for a sled team earns a creature the right to indulging distractions in retirement.) When they want to sprint for a bit, I speed right up and grant them that. Huskies are such wonderful embodiments of joyful running that I am not about to mess with their formula and make it conform to mine!

I'm not sure exactly why I run. In my family, weight control has never been an issue. I'm never going to be an Olympian. All I know is, running makes me feel happy and strong and cheerfully sane. I'm not vain, but I do enjoy knowing that my stamina is both a practical skill and a survival skill. If I am late for a meeting across campus, I can run to it without breaking a sweat, with my heart barely registering a tiny up-shift. That makes me feel capable and powerful. It is, after all, our ancestral form of locomotion, predating cars, bikes, and even the taming of the horse or dog. For me, running is a joyful act, and to run is nothing less than to claim our heritage, not as the physically weakest animal species, that survives by brain power at the cost of all physical abilities, but as hunters who have and still do run down game animals to exhaustion. Who, in chasing herds of wild animals, managed to populate every remotely habitable region of the planet, from valleys to mountains. On foot. Carrying babies.

Anyway, I am just finishing up an inspirational book called Born to Run. The author, a formerly bumbling, awkward runner like myself, was not getting satisfactory answers from the sports medicine community about why he had a persistent pain in his foot. He researched the history and frequency of running injuries in modern America, contrasted us against an isolated tribe in Mexico who run multiple-marathon distances on a regular basis, both for transportation and the sheer joy of it, and reached some interesting conclusions. This is neither a running nor a sports blog, so I won't go into the details, but the idea is that our heritage and our literal connection (contact) with the earth have been severed by overzealous (though perhaps well-intentioned) running shoe manufacturers who keep adding more and more cushioning and shock-absorption features to running shoes, at the tremendous cost of the natural bio-feedback mechanisms that would force us into a healthy, natural, sustainable gait. Overly cushioned running shoes, he argues, encourage and allow a runner to run with poor form, thus the rise in running-related injuries correlating with the rise in fanciness of running shoes.

I had used to run in cheap, minimally-padded shoes, and always ran with a mid-foot strike. However, when I joined the AIDS marathon team (whom I must point out that I adore, poor influence in running gait notwithstanding), almost all of my teammates ran with a heel-strike, and wore fancy, expensive shoes sanctioned by Runner's World magazine. Having never been a "real runner" before, I imitated them, to my loss. About a third of the way through the training program, my knees began to ache. However, by the end of the six-month program, the pain had subsided, so I conveniently forgot about it and carried on. I now believe that the pain was an early warning sign from my body, which I stupidly ignored in favor of my observations of what I perceived to be the experts. I was young (24) and able to overcome and readjust to the poor gait. But being young also means that you are naive and lack the confidence to trust your own body and instincts before what anybody else says or does.

This book has made me think about this. And a light bulb went off in my head.

Now I am readjusting my gait to the way I ran when I was a teenager, and I feel as strong as I did then, too. I am also reaffirming why I run in the first place. It's easy to explain to people that I do it just to exercise my dogs (you get a lot of brownie points for being such a devoted dog owner that way!), but then I conveniently neglect to point out that I ran before I had dogs, too. The truth is, I run for the joy of it, and it's fantastic to have joyful dogs who are just like me! And now I feel doubly empowered, reclaiming the gait that nature gave me!

Maybe we were indeed all born to run! I highly recommend the book.

Warning: Please do not take my little non-professional post as medical advice. This article sums up the pros and cons of the different shoe styles rather nicely. In it, the author says:

As Asics's [international research coordinator] Bartold puts it, "Elite runners can get away with a whole lot less shoe. But for someone who gets out of the office chair after 10 years and decides he wants to get fit, I think to go to a less-structured shoe has got disaster written all over it."

Note: Sorry about the time warpage on this post. My hand barfed and I clicked something I hadn't meant to, etc, etc...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pretty decent aurora last night

After we sent our two--count 'em, two--groups of trick or treaters on their way, we were treated to an awesome aurora. Peeing out of doors gives you so many more opportunities to enjoy the night sky! Bonus aurora for those with tiny bladders, such as myself!

Saw some friends over the weekend who had just gotten back from a trip to Colorado. They had brought back another cheese stash for me! Yay! And this is how you know that your friends know you pretty well--when two friends who don't know each other each give you a cheese-and-chocolate stash for your birthday!

Also, also! I must report that this morning I woke up to -14F/-25C. Ayee!

Edited to add: OMG a behbehelephant!