It is a sunny, crisp, chilled day here on the Kodiak. Snow has melted from the ground in town leaving an exhilertating chill to the air. Mountains around jut up in broken, snow covered flint. The boats are moving.
We live here. Gidget and I call this home and when one lives in a stunning place, even a walk for groceries becomes a life moment.
This morning, I slipped into my favorite caribou brown hoodie (embroidered with a wolf and “Kotzebue – Alaska”), pulled on a grey daypack, and headed out for some food. Steve repeatedly asks me how I am getting some of the specialty foods I purchase. He asks me if they are expensive here. He is accustomed to my tales of Arctic living. Truth is, I cannot believe my Kodiak good fortune. I can live where mountain meets shore, where snow storm meets waves crashing on mossy crag, where boats move all winter long. I can also purchase bleu cheese, sweet bosc pears, organic vanilla soy milk, cinnamon chocolate, crunchy red bell peppers and perfect bananas. Oh yes, loquats. LIfe doesn’t get much better than that! I live in the best of both worlds.
Gidget also finds an upside to living south of the Arctic Circle. When I return from a “hunt” I bring her a treat or two. Here there is a much wider variety of dog treats. Today, I found a truely Alaskan small dog treat: “Yummy Chummies.” The label reads “With Wild Alaska Salmon” and they do smell like fish. These are the original soft n’ chewy variety to accommodate Gidget’s small dulled teeth.
Funny to see her reaction to a non-beef, non-chicken, non-turkey, non-greenie based treat. Gidget let the 1″x 1″ chewie fall to the ground and took a long sniff as she stepped back. I turned to put the rest of my groceries away and when I looked back, the chewy was gone. She asked for another. I gave her one more. She sat patiently waiting for me to set it at her feet. Again, I looked away and once again, it was gone. Now, since then, Gidget has run about the house a couple of times. I wonder if she really ate them.
We will find out. Then again, maybe we won’t. Suffice it to say, it is a wonderful world where I can share my life with a dog, albeit a very small dog, and know that we each have enough of our Salmon Chummies or cinnamon chocolate to have now or to save for later and after a walk.
Each of us reading this post leads a blessed life, whether it seems up or down in this very moment. In this very moment, may each of you have what you need and a little bit more. That is my wish for you and yours.
Chummies all ’round! Have a wonderful, warm and safe weekend.
Gidget and Jennifer.
“And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And God called the firmament Heaven.” Genesis I:6-7
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
As Hurricane Gustav prepares to set foot on United States soil this week, I am painfully reminded (as are we all) of the devastation and heartbreak left behind by Hurricane Katrina only three years ago. In the early days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Katrita), my work on the ground was focused on helping those of the human species whose lives were spared but devastated.
Humans were not the only beings to suffer tragic and enormous loss however. Many pets were left behind in what were considered safe places, their families expecting to be able to return within a day or two. Other animals were simply left behind with the hope they could fend better for themselves if released. As time progressed however, areas behind the National Guard lines remained uninhabitable to man or beast. Not only were there floodwaters and the dangers of unstable debris, but also there were hip deep and throat burning toxic muds. With no clean water, no food, burning chemicals, and serious injuries, these beloved family pets slowly began to die. No one came home, and still, they waited faithfully and loyally to the end.
I felt so devastated by the animal tragedies all around me that I found myself avoiding calls home to my own dear pet and devoted friend Gidget. I felt it necessary to avoid thoughts and feelings about animals and pets.
I cannot begin to tell you the heartbreaking encounters, the pleading eyes from beloved animals too far behind the poisonous lake of muck, and so close to death, I dared not whisper. I cannot begin to tell you about the evidence of violent, not always immediate death by storm. I cannot begin to tell you how gentle and good your animals were during their last moments of life, how hungry they were for food, water, pain relief, love and reassurance. I can only hope that your pet was among one of the many who WERE rescued and is now home safely with you or perhaps lives with a family elsewhere, happy, healthy and well fed.
Our pets do become family; they rely upon us for their safety and well-being. We remove them from their own species and habitats where we become their entire worlds. Gidget tells me about the relationship between man and beast each time she greets me with maddening tail wagging or bows to invite me to play. Our pets deserve all of the safety we can provide them.
FACT: Over 60% of American households include a family pet.
Never again! Let’s prevent the animal tragedies of Hurricane Katrina from ever occurring again. Wherever you live with your pet, consider developing a pet disaster response and evacuation plan.
FACT: Of humans who are safely evacuated, return prematurely to a devastated area and die as a result, the majority went back in to rescue a family pet.
Let’s take them with us! Several organizations have excellent suggestions for disaster planning, pet evacuation, pet safety and ways to stay connected to your pet if you do become separated. No matter where you live, evacuation for some sort of disaster… hurricane, flood, tsunami, fire, toxic spill… may become necessary. Plan ahead. Learn pet first aid. Practice evacuation whenever you bring your pet to the veterinarian.
During times of national disaster, you can help by volunteering or donating to a reputable and effective response effort. At any time, disaster or not, consider becoming a volunteer and donating to your local animal rescue efforts.
The Arctic Chihuahua and I selected some pet safety links posted here for you. Perhaps you will find them useful:
The above links are for starters. If you find another powerful animal disaster safety website, please leave a comment. It’s urgent!
Gidget and Jennifer “>