Spring Collage

In what was the swiftest transition from winter to spring I’ve yet witnessed across my four winters in ‘The Great Land’ we now find ourselves solidly into spring and starting into break-up.  Just a couple weeks back this area was experiencing daytime highs in the low to middle twenties and night time lows in the negative single digits along with a 32” (81.3 cm) snow pack; now we’re seeing daytime highs in the low to middle fifties and a heavy, dense snow pack of 10.7” (27.2 cm).  I’ve already killed many mosquitoes but to this point they’ve been those that ‘over-wintered’ apparently by hiding in decaying organic matter before the snow accumulated which generates enough heat for them to survive.  They are large, slow and noisy mosquitoes and hence easy to locate and kill.  As soon as we see much in the way of standing water within and around the periphery of the boreal forest these insects will lay eggs which will soon hatch into larvae that will become hoards of the much small, much quieter and far more ravenous mosquitoes I so abhor.  So it goes; this is south central Alaska…

As the snow dwindles and the temps rise so, too, does the daylight.  As of this writing (04/13/17) we’re already seeing 14 hours 41 minutes of direct light on our way to 19 hours and 55 minutes come the Summer Solstice on June 20th at 20:24.  Even without all these cues I’d know spring was upon us simply by observing the rather ‘flaky’ nature of my female Alaskan malamute (Anana); her behavioral changes are no doubt driven by hormonal shifts and while I’ve seen similar changes in other canines she really becomes wacky.  She is much more aggressive towards other animals – but she remains so loving of anything on two legs – and she is starting to ‘cock her leg’ when she pees.  She is also becoming even more headstrong than usual – I know of no other breed which is natively so headstrong – and she refuses to listen to me much at all.  Because of this I can only walk her at times when there are no other people with dogs out and about or I have to keep her on her lead.  I hate doing the latter as she spends much of our walking time sniffing out wildlife spoor and similar as well as running after Qanuk, my male GSD.  Assuming this spring is like all those previous this phase will last for maybe three to four weeks before she reverts to her generally mellow and regal self.

With the advent of spring I’ve taken to walking both dogs in the early morning hours when the air temp is still a bit below freezing and the ground frozen.  This area was once buried under glaciers and as the ice retreated it ground up inestimable rocks leaving behind a fine gray silt often called ‘glacial flour’.  This ‘almost dust’ clings to anything wet and the dogs are very skilled at getting their coats damp by breaking ice and wading in puddles.  The muddy result is almost impossible to remove with a wet towel; it has to dry and then slowly fall off their coats.  When walking them in the afternoon when the ground is soggy they are covered in dirt and I generally force them to spend 90+ minutes in the mud room after we finish.  This allows maybe 50% of said mud to fall off but that still leaves more than enough to make my floors ‘crunchy’!  Not that I needed the assistance but I can easily locate all of Anana’s favorite sleeping areas just by looking for the layers of gray silt she leaves behind.  This is life with two large canine companions in semi-rural south central Alaska.  It can be a pain but I wouldn’t do without my two family members just because of a bit of mud!

I’ll leave you with a collage of recent images and a few from previous springs as well; I hope you enjoy the beauty of Alaska’s spring!

EBD,Break Up & the Kidz

The dogs enjoy the beginnings of break up during a walk along East Barge Drive

Mud Room floor

There’s about three times as much ‘glacial flour’ on the mud room floor as seen in this image

Roof snow and ice on driveway

This is why Alaskans are careful about where they park their vehicles during the spring thaw!

Cloud Capped Denali Awaits Climbers

‘The High One’ – Denali – is capped with clouds and blowing snow as he awaits the crush of climbers due to begin in a few weeks

Matanuska Glacier

The toe of the mighty Matanuska Glacier as seen from the Glenn Highway in early April

Front Porch Colorful Sunrise

A beautiful Alaskan sunrise greets the rapidly disappearing snow pack

Finally…A ‘Real’ Alaskan Winter!

I suppose I’m creating this piece as much to remind me of the winter to this point – one which I’ve thoroughly embraced as my first ‘real’ Alaskan winter – as to share with you some thoughts and images.  Without question this winter has been extreme and, no surprise, I’ve learned quite a bit more about typical Alaskan weather conditions in the winter months (November through mid-March).  As I write this piece I’m seeing overcast skies with an air temp of 34.7° F (1.5° C) after never dropping below 32.8° F (0.4° C) overnight.  Yesterday saw light morning snow become briefly heavy in the early afternoon before mixing with and finally changing over to freezing rain and then just rain.  For a while conditions were very severe in terms of visibility and traction on the Spur.

I’ve talked with long time locals who claim freezing rain used to be very uncommon and when it did occur it happened as fall slipped into winter and again when winter finally released its grip and acceded to spring.  Yet during my four winters up here I’ve seen the dreaded stuff every winter.  But I’m really not complaining as this has been a much more typical south central Alaska winter and in being so we’ve seen extremes.  Just three days back I saw -14° F (-25.6° C) in ‘downtown’ Talkeetna and the next morning my large circular bimetallic outdoor thermometer showed -19.5° F (-28.6° C) which was verified by my Davis Vantage Pro 2 wireless weather station.  But these temps pale next to the string of four days from January 17th through January 20th when we saw lows on January 18th of -32.1° F (-35.6° C) and on January 19th of -41.3° F (-40.7° C); the high on the 18th was -20.1° F (-28.9° C) and on the 19th we saw just -15.5° F (-26.4° C).  Our snow pack was a healthy 32.5″ (82.6 cm) before yesterday’s mess; even though we received 1.5″ (3.8 cm) of heavy, wet snow the warm temps and rain really did a number of the snow depth compressing it to 26.5″ (67.3 cm) which I reported to CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow network) this morning.  Looking out my office window I can see water dripping from the snow and ice atop the roof; given there’s no direct sunlight this is due only to the warm temps.

Here, then, is a collage of recent images reflecting my first ‘real’ Alaskan winter; hope you enjoy:

cool-downtown

A view of my Escape’s dash showing a fairly cool Saturday morning in ‘downtown’ Talkeetna

snowy-village

The Spur heading out of Talkeetna cloaked in heavy snow

20-sunrise

Cool sunrise at my place on Sunday, February 12th

anana-qanuk-in-heavy-snow

Anana and Qanuk enjoying a brief burst of heavy snow outside our place

anana-disappearing-into-snow

A very snowy afternoon on East Barge Drive with Anana (center of image) just disappearing into the snow

anana-by-thermometer

Anana by the thermometer which is reading much milder temps!

Equality for All..?

To this old fart it sure seems as though the world, in general, and this country in particular has suddenly and tightly embraced the concept that everyone should be ‘equal’ in terms of social, economic and cultural aspects of their lives.  And so many feel this is a ‘right’.  I’ll deal with the fallacy of this concept in a later blog piece.  While a noble idea I find the very concept a bit removed from everyday reality.  Indeed, it seems to me to be more of a ‘lofty goal’ than something we humans might aspire to within a generation let alone a presidential race.  But my difficulty with this theory is more than I just mentioned; to the best of my knowledge I cannot identify one single example of this theory within Nature.  And, for me, living in harmony with Nature is something I strive towards and so many in other generations claim to embrace as well.  But how can we create a country let alone a planet where all humans are equal when there is no ‘template’ or examples within the realm of the natural world?

Equality is a human concept born of the idea that we should all be the same regarding our lives, our places within society and our material wealth.  A most benevolent concept but something unimaginably difficult to even begin to reach especially in countries such as the US in which a sizeable portion of the population prize their differences from others.  In this context it seems more like a topic to be bandied about by the so called ‘ivory tower’ types yet there appears to be a ground swell of support for this goal.  The younger generations are particularly enamored of this concept; this is hardly unusual or unexpected.  But to my mind no group let alone a single person has really demonstrated how this would work at the ‘nuts and bolts’ level.  Far too often younger folks become so captivated by such an exulted goal they fail to recognize the difficulties involved in even beginning to make it happen.  But as anyone who has set out to make large scale changes is only too aware ‘the devil is in the details’.  And this is where individuals like our politicians – especially Sanders – have not really been forthright with the American people.  Sanders talks of destroying the banking system and hacking up large corporations but these are just ideas; even if he does become president he will lack the power to make this happen.  And with what would he replace said systems or corporations?  He has never shared such details mainly because he lacks them.

But I go back to my discomfort with such concepts because there is no known model for this ‘universal equality’.  Certainly there is no such system among organisms like bacteria, viruses or even insects.  In their worlds they struggle to survive by eating, producing waste and breeding.  In fact, insects are just about a polar opposite as many species have highly regimented societies in which one is born to be a worker, a solider, a drone or a queen.  Such an order seems to permeate most groupings of organisms.  There are those who do the work of locating food such that others can harvest it and share it with the community.  But within said community there are others that serve the queen, protect the colony and service the queen’s needs.  Often even the size of organisms within such a collective varies based upon their ‘birth right’.  Moving higher up the evolutionary scale there are some examples of communities whereby there are more degrees of equality.  Take a wolf pack; in a broad sense most of the pack is close to equals with just the alpha and beta males and females holding a ‘higher’ status.  This affords them the ‘right’ to bear young whom the entire pack helps nurture and raise.  But the alpha and beta pairs have a higher status which is notable not just in terms of breeding but also at the site of a kill.

It seems as though the ‘right’ to breed within a community is something earned and then protected via ongoing vigilance.  Nature has determined this is her method for insuring the long term existence of a wolf pack.  Allowing every member to breed would not only ‘equalize’ the gene pool – something Nature seems to forswear – but would also make it almost impossible to sustain the pack for more than a few generations.  The need to pass one’s genes on in the ‘dance of life’ is one thing all organisms on this planet share.

Since I’ve used a canine analogy and I live near a village that truly fancies dogs, not mention I own a pair of wonderful canine companions, I’d like to expand upon canines and undertake a thought experiment.  Let’s look at the totality of the domesticated canine population.  First off there’s the size and breed differences; it is such diversity that makes the domesticated canine a successful race.  There are large, powerful canines like Newfoundland’s, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Pyrenees, Alaskan Malamutes and similar; these breeds adapted to their lifestyles of being predators well up the food chain.  Then there canines noted for their intelligence and joy of working with humans like German Shepherd Dogs, Standard Poodles, Doberman Pinschers and Australian Sheep Dogs.  Humans appear to have singled out their early ancestors probably because they did exhibit innate intelligence; over time humans bred them so the genes for intelligence were favored.  There are breeds particularly acclimated to water like retrievers and labs as well as those able to cope with dry extremes like Basenjis and similar.

Now let’s imagine the canine world decided to make all members equal in status.  The smaller breeds would need to grow larger just as the large breeds would need to shrink in size so eventually all canines were of a similar size.  Size plays a large part in dominance and if all are equal ‘dominance’ shouldn’t exist.  Any ‘stand out’ traits would need to be muted unless they could be shared by all canines.  More intelligent breeds would have to be ‘dumbed down’ while those of less intelligence would have to be bred to be smarter.  Dogs with survival abilities like the Malamute would need to dramatically decrease such attributes while small, toy breeds would have to become more able to survive on their own.  The list goes on and on but I believe I’ve elucidated my point.  Nature had a huge part in creating the plethora of canine breeds and so most breeds became specialists.  By this very progression the idea that all canines could be equal becomes a fallacy.  All organisms on this planet are shaped by their surroundings – and, of course, their genes – so it is painfully obvious given the diversity of ecologies said organisms will be different and ‘unequal’.  Unlike the human generated concept of ‘equality’ Mother Nature has no such intent; indeed, she appears to drive diversity as a means to protect and embellish organisms and races.

Does this mean as a race we shouldn’t strive towards caring for our poor, sick and/or crippled?  Definitely NOT!  But we can accept all human beings are created equal but very soon develop along different paths yielding ‘unequal’ people.  Not everyone can be a nuclear physicist, a butcher, an author or an explorer because we are all inherently different with differing skills, intellects and aspirations.  We should revel in our differences and recognize that diversity makes our race stronger and better able to adapt and survive.

The Power of a Smile

With age I’ve come to appreciate so many of the simpler things in life such as sitting on my front porch and observing Nature in all her mystery and grace, that first sip of hot coffee on a cold early morning or the joy exuded by Qanuk – my male GSD – as he races through the boreal forest on the trail of some scent.  When one is open to such observations there seems to be no end to them and I relish identifying and experiencing all I can.  I’ve often noted the simpler these actions or situations the more pleasing they can become.  But most seem to stem from the world around me which is fine but also left me wondering why I am not the source of at least a few of my own ‘simple yet pleasing’ creations..?

Turns out I am capable of adding to the simple joy around me and by far the most powerful source for me is something I never thought twice about over the previous decades – my smile.  Since I can remember people have always commented on my smile, generally noting its ‘intensity’ and its apparently pleasing nature.  Sadly I did not smile much from my teens through my early thirties while in the grip of what I now understand was clinical depression.  Only when some internal biochemical shift occurred in my early to middle thirties did the heavy, dark cloud of this depression begin to lift and with that I became a ‘lighter’ and more outgoing optimist.  Of course my smile had always been with me but now it really did have a chance to blossom.

Across the past thirty years I’ve become more and more aware that my smile did set me a bit apart in some people’s minds and for the most part was seen as a positive.  It has allowed me to ‘break the ice’ with many a stranger and sometimes these occurrences have developed into friendships or more.  As with all such gifts it is a dual edged sword; often insecure people or those who feel ostracized or left out feel comfortable approaching me and starting conversations.  At first I was a bit unnerved by these events but with time I came to understand their basis and just went with the flow.  In so doing I learned to talk to almost anyone; developing this skill went hand in hand with my strong tendencies to verbosity in speech and writing.

As I reflect more and more on my smile I realize I have a history of using it to my advantage.  Yes, it was often a good ‘ice breaker’ but it also served to put others at ease and seemed to communicate I was a friendly and open person.  I now recognize I can readily employ my smile, along with humor, to put others at ease and this served me well when dealing with people from whom I needed something.  With the proper employment of said smile I could often ‘encourage’ someone to assist me or go that extra mile for me.  Without question this is a form of manipulation and in this context it doesn’t feel so ‘appreciated’.  However, we humans are social beings and there are schools of thought that espouse the idea all our communications generally proceed from a ‘power base’ in which one person is dominant and the other submissive.  If this is true then I’m sure I’ve employed my smile when acting from a ‘submissive’ position to help me modify the communication basis and ‘elevate’ myself.  While it is manipulation it does seem to be of a lesser degree than, say, verbally or through body language implying threats or similar.

Only across the past fifteen years have I come to understand that my smile – and, for that matter, most people’s smiles – can be a real force for good.  Smiles seem almost universally understood by humans and even many animals as a sign of peace, friendliness and openness as well as an invitation to communicate.  I’ve seen very young children, watching me from their Mom’s shopping cart in a grocery store, light up when I smile at them.  While volunteering in an Alzheimer’s facility there were many residents who showed a definite preference for being around me; the staff finally decided it was because of my beaming smile.  Sometimes when just walking in the village or other locations I will smile at a stranger and almost invariably they return my smile.  Many socialized dogs understand my smile to say I like them and mean no harm; this ultimately benefits us both as I love animals in general and canines in particular and I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t enjoy having their ears scratched.  In hindsight I’m pleased to note I’ve left a lot of happiness and comfort around me and 99% of it has come from just my smile.

Smiling is such a simple thing and an action we humans take for granted yet this response does possess a real power of its own.  But I’ve also noticed I get the best responses to my smile when it is genuine.  Sometimes I will just ‘force’ it when I’m preoccupied or not feeling particularly positive; almost always the results are much less impactful.  I much prefer to feel upbeat and positive when I unleash my smile so I’ve worked at insuring when I smile I mean it.  Doing this means I need to engender a generally positive and cheery outlook in my daily existence.  And this encourages a real ‘win-win’ situation for me; as I work to insure I maintain a generally buoyant and positive outlook I feel so much better and that’s reflected in the intensity and sincerity of my smile.

Please do not just take my word for the power of a smile; do your own research.  But here’s an interesting article from the website longevity.about.com which lists ten reasons to smile:

  1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive
  2. Smiling Relieves Stress
  3. Smiling Elevates Our Mood
  4. Smiling Is Contagious
  5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
  6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
  7. Smiling Makes Us Feel Good
  8. Smiling Makes You Look Younger
  9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
  10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive.

 Maybe now you will join with me in spreading smiles far and wide?  It’s so very simple yet it can, and does, have profound and far reaching impacts!

One Year Livin’ ‘Alaska Style’..!

Wednesday, August 6th marked the one year anniversary of my relocation to Alaska and because I have a definite tendency to reflect upon major events in my existence – don’t we all – I thought I’d capture some of these ‘reflections’ along with key learnings across the period.  Understand this is based upon my sixty years of urban existence in the lower 48 which I gladly traded for a semi-rural lifestyle within the outskirts of Talkeetna.  As such my perspectives have shifted quite a bit – in some cases I’d say ‘radically’ – and I’m still integrating many aspects of my new albeit much loved lifestyle.  At this point perhaps some Q & A would be in order; some of these were highlighted in my previous posting:

  • What do I most love about my rural Talkeetna lifestyle? Very tough call…I’d say it’s a tie between the immense silence that can be so deep as to actually have a presence and the ever-present wildlife.  I regularly see moose on my property and all over the area; I’ve seen a few grizzlies at great distance which is how I like to view them but there are regular signs of their passing in this immediate area in the forms of digging, tree marking and scat.  The close proximity of the mighty Alaska Range makes for breath-taking views of North America’s highest peak (Denali or ‘Mt McKinley’ to the uninitiated at 20,287 feet) along with Mt Hunter (around 14,400 feet) and Mt Foraker (a bit over 17,000 feet).  And I also love the mindset of the local folks; it’s part of what initially drew me to Alaska.  Alaskans tend to be down to earth, tolerant, friendly and self-sufficient.  In the more rural areas everyone looks out for their neighbors; it’s a given.  Just yesterday my neighbor to the south who has a place on Question Lake stopped by to ask me if I’d check up on her place across the next five days as she’ll be heading north around Denali to do some hunting.  Of course I immediately agreed; I’m out at least once a day with the dogs anyway so just swinging by her property is no problem.  I will also make a quick survey before turning in for the night.  We hardly know each other yet I was honored she would ask me; I know I cut a somewhat large profile because of my almost daily walks with my two large dogs but still I was pleased she would think to ask me.  This is classic Alaska and part of what I truly love about the people of ‘The Great Land’!
  • What do I dislike the most about living in rural Talkeetna? Another tie: I abhor the mosquitoes and I am sick to death of the lack of real darkness across the past three months!  The summer influx of tourists into Talkeetna ranks a very close second..!  I am learning to deal with the mosquitoes and also have learned the necessity of completely sealing up my bedroom windows against light.  Knowing what a negative the continual daylight has been for me across the past three months I’m hopeful I will be a bit better prepared come next spring.  There’s little to be done regarding the tourists; like so many locals I limit my trips into the village as much as possible from middle May through middle September.  After that point the village once again becomes the sleepy albeit comfortable place all us locals so love.
  • What do I most miss from my lower 48 life? Actually almost nothing although since I asked once again it’s a tie, this time between personal interaction with so many friends I left behind and the absence of really severe weather up here in the form of thunderstorms and super-cell activity.  We do see a few thunderstorms but they are mainly along the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains; the strongest of these storms is but a pale shadow to the vibrant storms I enjoyed in the Cincinnati area and in SE Michigan.
  • What do I miss least about living in the lower 48? This is impossible to answer with even five items although two major things that immediately came to mind were the high population density which contributed to so much congestion and the noise pollution.  Right behind would be 80+ F air temps, 70+ F dew points and light pollution.  Thus far we’ve seen just three days with temps at or above 80 F and since May we’ve been averaging around two and a half days a week with temps in the 70’s; otherwise the highs are in the 60’s.
  • What has most surprised me about my new lifestyle? So many things!  Despite my previous Alaskan experiences and all my planning I’d have to say my ill-preparedness for living semi-rural in south central Alaska.  And I’ve had invaluable help and advice from Holly (my good friend and realtor) along with so many other local folks.  I knew I’d have a huge learning curve but even so I grossly underestimated my lack of experience and knowledge.  Rural living in and of itself has been an eye-opening experience from learning the schedule of mail so I can maximize my trips to the PO (I have no local delivery) to understanding that folks just do not use lot/house numbers for describing their location.  Although my place is technically ‘15158 East Barge Drive’ no one recognizes this descriptor; I found it much better to simply say I live in ‘Dan and Erica Valentine’s old place’.  It seems most of the locals knew these people as the Valentine family has strong roots in the Talkeetna area and Dan Valentine is an Alaska State Trooper currently living on Kodiak Island with his family.  I also still marvel at the lengths of the mornings and evenings; it often seems as though it will never get dark even in the winter and the morning light can stretch on as well.  This, obviously, is a function of living in the higher latitudes and is the opposite of what is observed near the equator when mornings just seem to spring into existence and nights seem to just happen almost instantaneously.
  • What challenges have been most predominant? Probably the single biggest challenge involves getting myself integrated into the community.  I want to be a ‘giver’ in the sense of volunteering hence my efforts in supporting KTNA and the Upper Susitna Food Pantry.  But I also want to develop more personal relationships with the local folks and perhaps put more of my experience and talents (i.e. 18 years in food manufacturing, 12 years in corporate IT field support, etc.) to use.  There has been a whole range of things I’ve learned and I have many, many times that amount yet to comprehend and make part of my lifestyle.  Being ‘bear aware’ is a good example; from early May through early November the bears are out and about so it’s vital to always keep one’s awareness of the immediate surroundings in mind.  I have a small sunflower seed bird feeder just off the north end of my front porch.  It’s not recommended one feed birds during ‘bear season’ as the feeders can become dinner plates but I decided I would try to continue feeding my feather friends as I have a large collection of Chickadees (both Black Capped and Boreal), Juncos, hairy woodpeckers, Red Breasted Nuthatches and similar.  Thus far I’ve seen no issues but I always look out my front door before I open it just to make sure there’s not a bear at the feeder.  There is no trash pickup and hence all garbage must be either burned or hauled to the local refuse collection point.  I do try to save money by burning most flammable objects but if they involved food in any manner I must store them inside the house until I can get them out to the burn barrel and completely incinerated.  During the winter I tend to get a bit sloppy and will leave trash out on the front porch but I have to remind myself that once it begins to warm up I have to resume my ‘bear awareness’.

But there have been a myriad of changes within myself which also translate to how I view my new lifestyle and those around me.  I really do now exist on ‘Talkeetna Time’ and I’m more than okay with this concept.  I get the important stuff handled in a timely manner but I no longer sweat the small stuff or allow extraneous exterior influences to impact my lifestyle in a major manner.  My cell phone is fine for basic communication but I still prefer to talk to people at the Talkeetna Post Office, Cubby’s or the staff and volunteers at KTNA and the Pantry.  I do lean heavily on email and Skype because I have some family and many good friends still living in the lower 48 but I find myself shying away from ‘technological’ forms of communication.  I’ve found my awareness of all things ‘Nature’ has increased enormously; I do so enjoy charting the local weather, star gazing on cold winter nights and just watching Mother Nature’s abundance unfold around my little piece of serenity on East Barge Drive.  I learned the amazing trees that make up the boreal forest do much to mitigate the effects of wind at ground level just as they drive the much higher humidity because of their transpiration.  In keeping with the ‘natural side’ I’ve come to really enjoy and value my two canine companions (Anana – my female Alaskan Malamute and Qanuk – my male German Shepherd Dog); when walking with them they almost become extensions of my own senses as I watch them sample air currents for the tiniest traces of nearby wildlife.  They love living in Alaska and it was a true pleasure to be able to introduce my Anana to the home of her breed.

‘Talkeetna Time’ has really helped me retreat from the rather harried and unnecessarily complex lifestyle I endured in the lower 48; in so doing its also given me a lot of time to reflect and be introspective.  Living surrounded by so much Nature has definitely made me so much more aware of natural processes and has fostered a real need to be more ecologically wise.  I so wish Alaska recycled but apparently the economics of doing so have made the practice prohibitively expensive.  I am no fan of burning so much but trying to haul all of this to the refuse station would be extremely expensive and in some cases just isn’t possible.  At least appliances and electronics are recycled although this requires hauling such items to the Best Buy which is in Anchorage and hence 110 miles south.  It’s difficult to live immersed in so much undisturbed forest and not begin to resonate with the natural rhythms of the land.  Although I‘ve always been a sky watcher since moving here I am even more observant of both the day and night skies.  I’m slowly learning the most unusual weather patterns of my new home; most of my observationally acquired knowledge from the lower 48 is useless up here as meteorology in the higher latitudes is indeed very different.  I’m slowly learning about the local fauna; to my surprise there are a myriad of herbs and plants that are edible and some that are downright healthy.

Born and raised in Michigan and living mainly in the Midwest I grew up a ‘flat lander’ with the only area I lived in which exhibited real ‘character’ in terms of ups and downs being SW Ohio.  Since moving up here I’m slowly getting used to the idea that very little is flat and the land even in river valleys has no shortage of hills and dales.  In addition this area is prone to clouds and precipitation in varying amounts and types.  Like folks living in the NW of the lower 48 I’m learning to not allow rain to interfere with my outdoor activities; dressing for wet conditions is important but the mindset that a bit of rain isn’t going to prevent me from walking the dogs is even more vital.  The same is even more important in winter; up here having proper winter clothing can be a matter of life and death.  I’ve discovered I can handle -20 F air temps in comfort with the proper gear and I suspect I could weather -30 F and lower temps without much discomfort.  It’s important I acknowledge that I moved to Alaska to see real cold and snow; for whatever reason I’m built for the cold and know of no one more able to endure cold temps in good cheer.  The flip side of this is I abhor warm temps especially combined with high humidity.  I will gladly wear shorts with a tee shirt and sandals in air temps right down to freezing but as soon as the air temp crosses the middle 70’s I’m uncomfortable.  Combine such air temps with dew points in the upper 60’s and I’m just plain hot and unhappy.  So it’s no surprise I enjoy Talkeetna’s winter; I did learn that as soon as the air temp drops below -15 F I need to cover bare skin if there’s even just a 5 mph breeze.  My canine companions enjoy the cold as well although Qanuk suffered from paw issues when we’d spend 45 minutes outside in -12 F or colder air temps.  He so loves being outdoors he wouldn’t let me know when his paws were hurting; only after coming inside would I see him begin to limp around and whine.  Because of this I’ve learned I must regulate his exposure to the snow and ice once air temps drop below 10 F.  Anana, on the other hand, loves the cold and is fine outdoors even at -22 F.  I was surprised to see her grow long white fur from between her paw pads; it finally dawned on me this was a Mal adaptation to cold exposure and helped insulate the areas between her pads which is where Qanuk suffered his problems.  Nature is indeed amazing..!  I’m prepared for this winter with booties for Qanuk and even a two pair for Anana just in case.

Without question I’m living a dream with my retirement to rural south central Alaska and there is hardly a day that passes without some aspect of my new home amazing me.  Knowing I have so much yet to learn isn’t daunting or a negative but rather a challenge I relish.  Without question I’ve discovered a lifestyle that wouldn’t appeal to most folks but suits me just fine.  I cannot imagine ever living in the lower 48 again and I surely will never live in any manner but rural.  It may have taken me sixty years to finally find my place but I’m okay with this as many folks never do make such a journey.  And my one predominate wish is simply that I have many more years to revel in the majesty and freedom of my beloved Alaska.