Monday, June 30, 2014

Go Where The Trail Takes You

    Point A: Matt & Susan's cabin near Gunsight Mountain

The author-illustrator, Tomi Ungerer said, name your destiny's destination. We didn't have a specific Point B on our ride across the tundra on the backs of sturdy 4-wheelers; we just knew we were headed into the wild to imbibe the sky and tundra, and explore ancient fossil beds on unnamed creeks along the way. 

So we loaded up tools of the trade: rock picks and hammers, chisels, shovels, and a tool bag to carry our newfound samples. Sack lunches, water, a sense of humor (or two), wiley imaginations, and the willingness to embrace whatever stumbled across our path.

We were searching for prehistoric marine life that lay directly beneath our feet. Here, in the green-covered mountains, we were looking for ancient sea life, as it were.

We followed the trail up and down mountain passes, across rushing creek beds and into the wild, getting all muddied up in the process. Fortunately, we are creatures who take well to the mixing of earth and water and actually enjoy getting exceptionally dirty (as long as there is a shower or claw-foot tub at the end of the day).

    Forget the hair and nails; just take me to the mountains

From the top of Belanger Pass, we hopped off our wheelers, and spinning slowly in place we took in the view of  4 different mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna Range, the Wrangell-St. Elias Range and the familiar, in our backyard Chugach Mountain Range. 

You can lock your sight on one for a spell and get lost in a daydream of sorts. 

OK. Back to ground level now.

After some bumpy riding over boulders and fumbling with very small turn ratios, we hit the Mother Lode. In an unnamed tributary to Alfred Creek in the Talkeetna Mountains, we found, you might say, decorated stones, or embroidered rocks. Attractive and textured. 

Chip, chip, chop, chop (can you hear our hammers at work?)

Cross-sections of variegated shells, like scallops, mussels and clams unfolded before our eyes. In the base rock of sandstone, we were, quite literally, standing on the beach in our mud boots, in the rain, way the heck out in the green mountains in a place that used to be saltland. Oh, Saltlandia!

Here's what the geologists and other rock fools really die for. Ammonites...the spiral impressions of a prehistoric octopus-like animal in a shell. The only surviving and nearest relative of the ammonite today is the pearly nautilus. Everyone loves the nautilus shell, no?

I swear sometimes I feel like I'm in a science fiction movie.

Whatever your destination, keep your eyes on the path. Go where the trail takes you...

...and take notice of the flowers, though sometimes found in very hard places...

take notice and smell the flowers along the way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Red Flagged



She hugs her baby, pats his bottom
sets him on the floor, in the center, where
spectators form a ring and watch.

The "experts": social worker, physical therapist
speech pathologist ask his parents
10,000 questions they do not

understand how to answer or
they don’t see the point

of it all.

The experts make marks on reams of paper, scribble
their impressions in the margins, as if

he is a deficiency, weak in his limitations
a flaw of nature

they show him how to roll a ball, blow bubbles
clap his hands in imitation

but his blank eyes stare at a speck on the floor.

The experts gather their papers and toys and
instruments of instruction

the boy’s mother
gathers him in her arms

the stoic father speaks:

We love him like this, the way he is.
He is our bright star in the sky.

We only want he eat Eskimo food
so he can carry us and
bury us in our village when we grow old.

An expert hands the mother a baby food grinder.

This will grind the muktuk, so the whale
can make your baby strong.

Strong enough to carry you and
bury you in the village

when you grow old.

Monday, June 9, 2014

To Breathe and Bend

    M. Devine

(Be) Venerated

Breathe like a baby and soften

Bend in the wind and feather the ground

Become pliable as a young tree

                                          K. Devine

Breathe & recapture what was yours at


Breathe & buy back your one

Beloved life

Breathe: feel the rising & falling like a 

boat on gentle waves

Become a master, spacious & open. feel your

Breath as it is: a golden thread, your connection to life

Buddha would say distance yourself from thought & concentrate on your

Breath. the way you 

Breathe is the way you live.

Become the miracle of pranayama, taking in & giving back

Breathe with the belly like a sleeping baby

Bend in the wind without snapping &

(Be) reborn

                                                   J. Smith

Monday, June 2, 2014

My Army

You should see my favorite people,
You catch a glimpse of gold through their skins.

I walk on air whenever I'm with them,
They're where the happiness begins.

And I'm alright on my own, but with them I'm much better

They're like diamonds and diamonds are forever.

Meet my friend, Lucy, whom I have known for over 30 years. This weekend she threw a great party, Retiredstock, for friends who have retired from their jobs in 2014: teachers, engineers, and artists. At Retiredstock, each retiree crossed the stage when their name was called, and instead of a diploma, Lucy pinned a set of wings to their backs.

They stand taller than giants,        
They outshine all the stars

They are the love above the love
They're my army of fortune,

They win every war
They are the love above the love

After raising kids, and filling our days with meaningful work, here we are, still laughing and loving, open to new adventures and ideas, scheming on the next new hike or art project or interesting place to visit. 

I remember when we were in our twenties, rounding Schooner Bend on the Kenai River; Lucy and I in kayaks, furiously paddling and screaming like we were on an amusement park ride, exhilarated by the fast water. And the kayak trip to Kodiak, when we flew for the first time, in a Widgeon, a small amphibious aircraft that lands on water (without floats, mind you). On the take-down, the belly of the plane set down and bobbed like a cork while mini waves rolled and splashed the airplane's windows.  

Exploring the beautiful waters of the Kodiak archipelago was priceless.  

And no one eats a marshmallow cooked over an open fire quite like Lucy. She savors every morsel in the same way she savors life. With deep enthusiasm, reverence and gratitude for all that is.

Discussing books and politics, sharing stories, creating art, writing, hiking, singing, and playing music; through all the decades of our lives, good friends are the wind under our sails.  

They're a boat when I'm underwater
They tame the sharks and they calm the waves
When I choke they pat my back harder
My load is light, my secrets are safe
And I'm alright on my own but with them I'm much better
They're like diamonds and diamonds are forever

I wonder where I would be today without that handful of friends that have given me a heart full of joy.

They stand taller than giants,
They outshine all the stars
They are the love above the love
They're my army of fortune,
They win every war
They are the love above the love

Listen to "Army" by Boy. With our friends we're much better. They're like diamonds, and diamonds are forever.