Archive for September, 2008
Sunday morning and it was drizzling outside. This Fall weather was a lovely day to stay indoors to catch up on my happy domestic life. I made a list of chores and a list of supplies on hand, running the logistics in my head. Alas, as is often the case, the lists did not quite match. A walk to one of the local grocery stores (a choice between the Alaska Commercial Company or “AC Store” and Rotman’s) appeared to be in order. I chose to walk to the AC Store because it is close, is on my walking route to and from work each day, and I tend toward the familiar.
This living small on the far edge may seem an unfamiliar adventure in many ways, yet in a few ways very routine. Culture is not limited entirely to the expressive arts, language or spirituality. Culture extends into the small acts and daily tasks belonging to each of us; it permeates everything we do. Culture for example includes expectations about laundry, it’s associated rituals and comforts. For me, there is something soothing about clean whites and in my culture (having been raised on 1950’s and 1060’s American television commercials), a pile of still-warm terri bath towels with that slight eau d’bleach scent is next to…
“Oh! Thirteen dollars a gallon!”
Let me repeat that: “$13 dolllars a gallon!”
Ouch! I double checked the price, and remembering that $13 dollars was a small price to pay for Nirvana, I brought a bottle to the cashier. Only $13 for the pleasure of a hot bath with candles, a clean white towel, a clean white robe…and later, a set of crisp, clean sheets! That is the culture passed along to me by my grandmother and her grandmother and her grandmother before her… clean laundry.
Days like today are lovely and simple within in all of that complexity of daily human ritual or chore. Tonight I will slip into bed, raise my arm up to create a small cave for Gidget, and as soon as she curls close to my belly, small and warm, we will nestle into our feather bed. Cradled into piles of lavender, sea green and white slipped pillows Gidget will smile as she sleeps, her little three pounds of snore almost inaudible, yet comforting. Life is good! I am very fortunate to share this luxury with such a devoted, loyal and hedonistic beast. It is almost something I take for granted, clean laundry… this abundance of water, potable and plentiful.
There are areas on this planet where mothers die from contaminated, untreated water, and where the hard bare ground might be all for their children’s beds. For those of you who can effect change, please do. And for everyone else, whatever your circumstances, where ever you may be, whatever your pleasures or hardships in cleaning or maintaining life, may your need for clean water and abundance of it always match up. In your dreams, if not in reality, where ever and however you rest your head, may you and your children, from time to time sleep in a clean, soft feather bed.
Jennifer and The Arctic Chihuahua
We in The Arctic Chihuahua family offer our hearts and prayers for all of those affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike: residents of Galveston, Houston and every small and large community we do not hear about in the news, each family, each person, each animal, responders and volunteers who are giving of themselves, responder families who provide support behind the scenes…to the families who have lost loved ones.
For our readers: As your Prayers, Hearts and Well Wishing pour out, please do not forget that help comes in many forms: food, water, shelter, a safe place, medical care, a caring ear…
Here are some links to those who are there to help with those basic needs thanks to your donations:
This evening, while cleaning out computer files, I encountered a particularly charming collection of letters. Some of these little snippets are more intimate than the average blog, so may seem more tender and sentimental. Others are simply descriptions of living small in the Arctic. Some are pages of journals, letters never mailed. I will post these notes one by one as the spirit moves and as circumstances seem appropriate.
Because the heart has no limit in space or time, use of the word “Letters” refers to those moments of ‘here and now’ observed and sent like birds on the wing. “Home” refers to that circle we draw around my feet here in Kotzebue, and around that place where you rest and read.
In this selection, use of the signature “Railways” is in reference to Oleta Adam’s R&B “Get Here” and ‘being there’ for a friend.
May 21, 2008
Regarding the Anne Lamott shipment, thank you again! I told you I’d never read any of her work, but it eventually dawned on me that I’d been reading one of her books immediately prior to moving back to OTZ. “Bird By Bird” was thoughtfully packed and stored by one of the North Hall gang, didn’t make the journey, so was never finished. Have you read it?
At any rate, you may or may not recall, Ms. Lamott was writing about a small flock of birds sitting on a telephone wire. She was overwhelmed with a writer’s block, not knowing where to begin. She sought the advice of her father, also apparently a writer, who suggested she describe them bird by bird, hence the title. An enchanting story.
The birds ‘who’ sit outside of my bedroom window each morning reminded me of that anecdote, and ushered in a completely new sense of Spring renewal.
Let’s shed some of those old winter feathers too and sing on the wire as long as we can!
Since returning from Portland, I’ve been collecting animal sightings to share with you. Of course, there are the birds returning. Seagulls return first, as soon as there is open water at the edge of the sea ice, between OTZ and Siberia (as a region, Siberia covers approximately 77% of all Russian territory, including the smaller political Russian Federal District).
As soon as the paired Ravens disperse to their respective and hidden nesting sites, the Robins begin to appear. Yes, Robins! I sighted my first Robin of the year just last week. Small sparrows comprise the flock that sings outside my windows each morning. The stripes on their heads are larger than sparrows more familiar to me. Their song is slightly different, an Arctic Sparrow dialect of some sort (more about subtle variations and Darwin’s finches another time). Since spotting the Robin, I’ve also encountered a Loon, Tundra Swans, and ducks of all sorts.
Last week, while walking, I heard the rustle of leaves at the base of a tree and spotted a small vole. Leaves do not dampen and disintegrate beneath the snow here; the snow is so “dry” and like powder blows about. The leaves were still a soft cocoa beige (the color of caribou), dry and dusty. The vole stood out a bit, having a slightly warmer colored coat. In size, shape, texture and color, it reminded me of Gidget as a young pup and of course, I felt the wave of affection for this particular little vole.
Birds are special creatures. They fly; have feathers and scales, ancient coverings. They are vertebrates just like us, yet we cannot fly. How fascinating is THAT to the human psyche? Have you been able to sit and enjoy more of the birds in your yard? How do you think of birds, in the sense of understanding them, observing them, taking them in bird by bird? How is your comical little Roadrunner?
This evening there is a Park Service bird walking tour of Kotzebue. It will begin about 7ish, so as I birdwatch, you may already be sleeping. Love you lots.
Gidget and I, as is sometimes the case, take a jaunt down to the shore to meander among the pebbles and driftwood. We step gingerly over the occasional jellyfish washed to shore and I collect interesting stones.
This morning as we approached the water, I could see the surface was already smooth and mirror like. The Kotzebue Sound becomes very still just before a freeze. This morning it is not at all about to freeze. Though just a few short days ago the biting air told us it was trying or wanting to snow, today it is almost barefoot weather, with slight breeze to the skin. These are indeed the last days of summer.
Soaking it in, my sleeves rolled up on this no-jacket-kinda-morning, Gidget and I listened as the water lapped quietly. Herring jumped and flowed with the current, slapping and flashing a fin or two. At times, a cluster of herring hit the surface frenetically and as a group splashed and shimmered like a silvery puddle in heavy rain.
Further off, a seal or two, or five or six could be spotted, their dark conical heads riding smoothly just above the waters surface. The seals are beginning to migrate south for the winter. Some signal up north, the chill or the movement of the fish, whispers to the seals…”it’s time to be heading off.”
And so it is…
Cheerios and Love Life!
Jennifer and the Arctic Chihuahua