Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pt. 3--From Up Here You Can See

Water so cold it gave you frostbite
My second season on Kodiak was just as adventure-fraught as the first, although I knew a little more what I was in for.

We flew out to Uyak this time in the guts of a huge military chopper. Despite the earphones, I was nearly deaf by the time the helicopter landed on the beach, and the view was of the side of the chopper as there were no windows. But I loved every minute of it, except for the possibility of other people puking in the hold.

I landed with all my own luggage this time--a backpack and my guitar. I ran up to the bunkhouse hoping my friends from UW would be there, but almost none of the same girls were there. I was libera
Uyak from the mountain
lly bummed, but soon made friends with the newbies.

The cannery was under new leadership. The new owner was much harder to get along with. His wife was in quality control and was often grumpy. I'm not absolutely positive of the reason, but it might have been the frequency of the practical jokes we were always playing on every QC person who came through. We'd leave fish guts on their scale, or fish eyeballs, or heads. We had too much time to come up with endless iterations on the theme. Also, everyone who came through our
Lady QC
section got pelted liberally with the little ends of the fish (the section next to the tail). Come on, you can't have a bunch of teenagers doing a deadly boring job for 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week and escape their otherwise active imaginations.

This time there was plenty of work as the fishermen were no longer on strike. So it meant almost non-stop bludgeoningly hard work. I also volunteered for clean-up detail to make extra money. That meant that I dragged into the bunkhouse in the small hours of the night, exhausted, stinky, and totally soaked. My pictures from this year mostly involved people sleeping on the dock during fifteen minute breaks, or playing jump rope with boat ropes.

At first, the clean-up detail included my friend (and totally hot crush) Chris. We had a blast in more ways than one. Clean-up involved spraying down the cannery and all the machinery with fire hoses and then steamers. We figured out that if we aimed our hoses through the fish chutes on the slime line, the stream went down, hit the lower conveyor belt, and bounced back up through the chute on the opposite side of the slime line. We'd lay in wait until someone went past the chute, and then let them have it in the face. That's why I was never dry when I went to bed. It was a major water fight every night.

Loads of Filipinos worked there and were on clean-up detail. One of them, a guy named Baby (his real name), would sit up on top of the fish elevator and snipe with his hose. The rest of us tried our best to knock him off, but he never let loose. He was whip-fast with a knife too. The Filipinos would sharpen the rounded slime line knives into a point and keep them strapped to their legs with homemade sheaths. They'd pull them on us at the least provocation. Baby was no exception. We had to be very careful how much we teased him.

Chris ended up getting fish poisoning (It's a condition in which fish gurry gets into a cut or opening in the skin. It can be extremely painful and at times a deadly botulin.) and had to go back to the Lower Forty-eight. I was sad to see him go. We'd had a blast together. His replacement was a girl whose name escapes me because I disliked her immensely, both for replacing Chris and for being such a barf. She'd get livid if she got the least bit wet. Then she'd go tell on everybody so that soon clean-up detail was a joy-less chore.

(My fisherman friend from the Cross Sound, Bill Day, also got fish poisoning. His was a much worse case and he ended up having to go home to Maine, never to fish again. I missed his sunny smile.)

The steamer wand from clean-up detail came in handy for more than clean-up. Our fishermen would go out and get crabs and we'd steam them in the sink and go out on the dock and eat loads of those things in one sitting, tossing the shells in the water. It ruined me for the pitiful seafood we get down here in the Lower Forty-eight.

Aussie Clive on the slime line
The new owner noticed that when our line went down, I'd get to the machine to un-muck it faster than the machinist. "Cut it out,"he said "Since we pay the machinist a heck of a lot more than we paid you."
I told him "You should hire me because I'm faster at it. I'd love getting $50 an hour more."
The owner decided that instead of volunteering to go where we wanted, we had to go to the slime line and gut fish every time the line went down. It was decidedly less fun to be forced to gut fish instead of taking a nap, reading, talking to the cute can catchers, or talking to our friends in other parts of the cannery. It's not like he wasn't getting his money's worth out of us.

Clark the Machinist
Clark the Machinist (he took care of the chink machine--it put the lids onto the cans) was also trying to quit smoking. I gleefully told him I'd help him out. So Clark was always finding his cigarettes dipped in machine grease, fish guts, or water. He'd come past the table and see a fish head with one of his cigs in its mouth. I think the topper came not from me, but from a seagull.

One day when we were outside, Clark was smoking and a seagull pooped all over his head and cigarette. The look on his face was priceless!
"See. Not even the gulls want you to smoke those things," I told him.
He did end up quitting. The onslaught was simply too much for him.

Going to the egg room
The Japanese dudes from the egg room would have parties to which they invited the egg room girls. I was usually on clean-up detail so I rarely got to go. But one day it worked out, so I went. Those guys were completely loony! They'd make these stews containing all kinds of crazy stuff I'd never like to eat again: roe, star fish, bull heads (ugly fish), any other fish they could catch, and the crowning disgusting bit--the male equivalent of roe. Those sacs usually went out to the bay with the rest of the chum, but those Japanese guys consumed them! I never again ate anything they cooked.

"Injun" in the skiff
Sometimes the Cross Sound guys (Injun in particular) would go hunting. The deer were little and sometimes Bill and Injun could rig it where they would roll right down the hill and into the boat. At least that's how they told it. All I know is that we'd have parties on one of the islands out in the bay and delicious venison was one featured part of the feast. Those parties were kind of fun, although they also featured all kinds of liquor and pot--none of which I ever imbibed in. There were times when I was the designated captain just by virtue of being the only non-wasted person there.

This was a questing time for me. I wanted to question everything I knew and make certain I knew it, not just my parents. I studied extensively on my infrequent off time, and had plenty of time to think about what I knew and how. It made me certain of who I was and why I was doing what I did. I realized that the experiences I was having there in Alaska would be much of what would keep me sane when I was wading through babies and dirty diapers. How prophetic!

A union organizer came to camp to unionize all the fishermen and cannery workers. I didn't want to unionize. Most people didn't. But we found out later that we probably wouldn't get to come back unless we did. I figured I'd rather find work down home than be told by a whole new bunch of guys what to do. I understand that the question was moot a year or two later, but the Exxon Valdez trashed the fishing fields and Uyak cannery went belly up.

They got a little plane to ship us out at the end of the season called a Goose. It's almost like a Harrier in that it only needed about fifteen feet of beach in which to take off. I was the only girl with nine guys (they had been drinking at the end-of-the-season party the night before), so the pilot designated me his co-pilot. I was over the moon happy about that! I sat there as we took off, the cannery growing small behind us.

View from the Goose
As I was reading the little plaques on the control panel, I noticed that one of them featured information about a bad engine.
I tugged on the pilot's shirt and asked, both curious and a little worried, "What's this about a bad engine?"
"Oh it just goes off mid-flight sometimes," the pilot announced cavalierly.
I don't know why I wasn't petrified, but I wasn't. The pilot was obviously used to it and capable. But something goblin-like got into me and I turned around and told the guys. One of them was African-American and turned a livid green and began puking all over the plane. I've never seen that color on a person before. That was it for the others. Barf flew everywhere. I was greatly glad to be up front where none of the chunks nor their stench reached.

We had to wait several hours for our plane to pull in to Kodiak airport, so we took a hike up the nearby river. The salmon were spawning and the guys nearly went nuts pelting the poor ragged fish with rocks. The river was thick with bits of flesh and skeins of eggs. The bears were out in cohorts, batting the salmon onto the bank or straight into their mouths. I wasn't about to get close enough for a good picture and I was out of film.

I was waiting near the baggage carrel at SeaTac Airport for my luggage to come down the chute, rightfully worried about my guitar. But when my pack came down, it was proceeded by all my underwear and other clothing from the main part of my pack. Thanks, baggage guys. I hope you wet your pants giggling. I waited until every other snickering person was gone before claiming my panties. There are no photos of this part...;o)

Me in Alaska
I loved that time in my life. It was difficult and petrifying and exhausting both in body and spirit, but it was also the greatest explosion of self-awareness and testimony in my life. I was free and the vistas of possibility spread out at my feet. I reveled in my strengths and worked on my flaws. I recommend all my children do something like this (or a mission) before they hunker down into adult life.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pt. 2--My Green Alaska

Home sweet cannery--Uyak Bay
I left you standing on the beach at Uyak Bay cannery. The waves are gently nudging the sea plane closer to the pebbled shore. On my first full day in Uyak we were having a fantastic time diving off the boat. I lost a contact and there was no way to find it in the icy, deep water. I had to go blind until my mom finally sent me another pair. The night I got my new set, I lost another contact, this time in a can of salmon. I was so bummed that I wouldn't be able to see well for the whole rest of the season. I should have taken a pair of glasses. Hindsight.

Queens of the cannery
I was in a bunkhouse with about nine girls. The odds for a college girl were fantastic as there were some ninety guys. Many of them were from the UW rowing crew, which means some pretty steamin' muscles, I tell you. They would spend breaks jumping rope on the dock for strength training. Ah the shows. Ah the drooling.

The cannery ran thusly: First the fish were unloaded from the boats and then went by elevators to huge holding tanks and then to a machine which slit the fish down the middle and cut the head, fins, and tail off. Then the fish went by conveyor belt down the gut line, where people took over when the machine failed (often). They removed the blood line and fins still attached, emptied out the guts, and sent the eggs or male equivalent to baskets which went to the egg room.
Egg room Sue

Once all the viscera was removed, the fish went into a hopper which fed to another conveyor belt (important for later). That belt led to the elevator which led to the can machine where it was crammed into cans.

Next came the patch line (my bailiwick) where those cans not full enough were filled with ground fish. We cut protruding bones, inspected cans for dents or cuts, and re-filled them if they were too full. All of this at the rate of three cans per second, about fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.
The can line--next, the ovens

Then the cans went into the lidder to get lids and get sealed, then they went to the can catchers to be put into big metal trays, and then into the giant ovens to be cooked.

The view from the patch line
After that, the beach gang came and picked up the stacks of steaming can trays and forklifted them to a stack in the warehouse.

Katy and I in our gear
We had to wear full rain gear in there as there
were guts and water everywhere. The cannery stank of fish at first. After our noses overloaded the stench got bearable. And after a while we stopped wearing all the gear, except on days when it was storming or snowing. Then the cannery was icy and despite two pairs of gloves, our fingers ached with cold.

Gearing up
There was a grumpy girl named Jenny on the patch line who always insisted on wearing the full gear, despite it not being fashionable. I have to admit that fish guts often appeared as if by magic on the back of her coat. I suppose if I were wearing a full load of fish guts on my coat, I'd b
e grumpy too. I can still smell the stench of the gurry.

Mug-up (break) on the dock
At first I took every chance for a break. Often the lidder got bunged up when we missed a bad can. The machinist had to come un-muck it and we'd get a welcome reprieve. I was reading Philip Jose Farmer's book To Your Scattered Bodies Go (a book someone had left in my room at the boarding house), which provided me with hours of speculation.
Jumping with the rowing crew

I also read scriptures. But when my book ran out, I started going down to gut fish (five in a minute was my average) or fixing the machine. I got so I could un-muck the machine before the machinist even got out of his little room.

Sunday on the dock
As the long lines of cans snaked past my eyes, I went on trips in my head, sang all the songs I knew the words to, or made up silly operas and sang them at the top of my lungs. No one could hear me, after all. They'd look up and see me laughing my head off at my own dorky opera and wonder why I was cracking up.

The Cross Sound's skiff I painted
View from "Cannery Mtn"
That first year we didn't have much to can. The fishermen were on strike until late in the season. I worked to find anything at all to do extra. I re-painted the shopping carts for the store. I painted and fiberglassed the skiff of my favorite fishing boat. I wanted to get on the beach gang because they always had work, but they only allowed guys on there.
So there was plenty of spare time that season.

Waiting for mail
Kevin, my climbing buddy
I went climbing in the mountains in back of the cannery. One of those stories is here. We also went out on the fishing boats sometimes, when they were staying close. When the fishing is on, they stay out for sometimes three months at a time and only drop fish to a tender boat like the Mitrofania. Sometimes, though, something would break and they'd come to Uyak for parts. Or to see girls. Or to walk on dry land. Or to eat in our fantastic mess hall. Or to see a doctor for fish poisoning.

The Cross Sound and Bill
My favorite trips out were fishing trips. One time we went exploring islands. We found one out in the bay and decided to land. I was digging around on the beach and found a whole bank of clams. We were hungry, so we decided to eat some. We had nothing to cook the clams in until someone suggested the battery casing from the skiff. I can't believe how good those clams tasted just cooked in sea water.

Lobster traps
As we were sitting there moaning about being full as ticks, we started hearing a crashing sound in the brush. One of the guys grabbed the battery casing with his shirt and we took off down the beach for the boat. I looked back and saw a large Kodiak bear coming down the beach for us. We scrambled out to where we'd left the boat and realized it was now afloat several yards from shore since the tide had come in. We all dove in and swam for the boat. I don't think we could have gotten the casing back on the battery any faster. Luckily the bear turned back to go check out our fire and the litter of clam shells.
View of the mtn from Uyak Cannery

Another day (the day after we fiberglassed the skiff) my friend Bill Day (a fisherman from the boa
t I liked) and I took the skiff out to test it. I had his rod and had caught a cod I was proud of. Bill said, "That's not a fish. Give me that." And he hacked my gorgeous cod in half and threaded it onto the largest dang hook I'd ever seen, called a jig hook, which was attached to a rope.
"What the heck are we going to catch with that?" I asked, worried suddenly.
Bill just smiled and said, "You'll see."
We rowed to a set of pilings some hundred yards out in the bay. "Throw the hook over," Bill said as he tied the boat to the pilings. Just as he was tying the rope to the hook off on the boat, I felt a mighty jerk on the rope. "Here we go," Bill said like he was getting ready to jolt down the log ride at Disneyland.
Before halibut--after, too busy
Actually the next few minutes were very like that log ride. The little skiff plunged and bucked as the halibut fought to free itself. That flat monster was as big as the whole skiff! I could see it was only hooked in the lip. "Let me bang it on the head with an oar!" I screamed, knowing it was about to swamp the boat.
"No. It'll wear itself out and we can haul it in."
I wasn't nearly as sanguine about Bill's sanity when, after we'd finally hauled that sucker into the boat and slit its throat, it was still flipping blood all over half an hour later.

We had to row clear back against the current with a flapping huge fish only lightly tied to the boat, which was rocking like the gondola on a ferris wheel. I was really glad I could swim well, though I knew the water was snow melt and utterly frigid and a swim clear back to the boat wouldn't be anything I'd like to try for long. I tell you what, though, that halibut tasted like manna from Heaven! That night we had halibut, venison, clams, lobster, baked potatoes, and salad. It was all I could do to roll my chuggy body off that boat and back to the bunkhouse.

There was a tiny sauna there at the cannery. I suppose it allowed us to sweat out the stench of fish some. I didn't use it much because the fishermen would often go in there buck naked. On occasion we girls would clear the naked ones out and go in. After getting pink-hot, we'd go dive off the dock into the bay. No pictures of naked fishermen here...:o)

One time I'd dove deeper in than I'd gone before. As I was coming up, I saw a shadow as big as a large canoe. I thought it looked funny for a canoe and we didn't have one. Then it tipped a little and I saw its dorsal fin. It was about a fifteen foot shark! I was out of that water fa
ster than I went in! Everybody on the dock laughed at me, saying it was a salmon shark. They only eat salmon.
"Right," I said. "What's to stop it from thinking my arm's a salmon?" I never swam around the dock area again. Too much chum--fish guts and junk--goes into the water there. After that I only snorkeled and dove off the boats or from the islands in the bay.

I had never understood how full the Alaskan water is of marine life. It teemed with fish. We'd buy a little spool of line and a hook and tie a rock on it and just toss the line into the bay. Before the hook had hit the bottom, there was usually something on it. Often it was only an ugly old bullhead, but sometimes there was something else. The snorkeling was great. I'd stay in there almost long enough to get hypothermia looking at wildlife.

There were clear jelly fish by the tons. They were the bane of the fishermen's lives. The guys would try everything they could think of to stop the stings from getting them. Every time they winched up a catch, the nematocysts rained down, stinging everywhere they touched. I helped with
a couple of loads and it was distinctly unpleasant. We had to wear full rain gear, a ski mask, goggles, and Vaseline on every other exposed spot. One time when we were snorkeling, I wasn't watching well enough and my heel came in contact with a jelly. My heel was numb for three months!

About a month into my stay at Uyak, I got a much-forwarded letter from my mom asking where the heck I was. Luckily, I sent my reply along with a can of hickory-smoked red salmon. The smoker out back of the cannery got a good workout. I opened one of those cans of smoked salmon the night I got engaged to my ex and shared it with a couple of friends from Alaska. Good stuff, Maynard!

Egg room kings
The cannery's real money-making venture were the boxes of salmon roe. A 3 1/2 x 8 x 16 box of prime roe brought in about $350 from the Japanese at that time, and we had stacks and stacks of them. The girls in the egg room would take the roe out of its 100% salt solution bath after twenty minutes, pack it between layers of salt, and nail on the lid, all to the harrying of the Japanese egg room bosses. "Too full! Too full!" or "Not enough salt!" or "Go faster!" I was really glad not to be in the egg room, although there you didn't have to wear earplugs.

Sakura Maru--fetching the eggs
The day the ship Sakura Maru came to get the egg boxes was a big day. The massive ship snugged its bulk into the dock, where it towered above the gawkers. The beach gang worked like ants to bring the stacks of boxes wrapped in cellophane out to the dock to be loaded. We could hear nothing but the drone of the forklifts and the yelling of the Japanese crewmen as the flats lifted into the air.

Sealand Barge
The other big excitement was the day the Sealand barge came. It contained 100 semi-shells, which we filled with the pallets of canned salmon. That thing was even more massive than the Sakura Maru. The beach gang worked like crazy trying to load the semis quickly. At one point the two forklifts had a giant CRASH, throwing dented cans of salmon all over the warehouse. The cannery boss yelled so loudly we could hear it clear out on the dock. I was glad at that time I wasn't in the beach gang, although the guys on there were too hot to believe.

The end of the season party is a huge blow-out. The cannery boss buys enough cans of beer to fill two huge hoppers. I begged him for a few cans of root beer and in his customary warped sense of humor, he put four of those cans of soda somewhere in the hoppers of beer. After hunting for well over an hour, I finally gave up and went off to find out if I could get a ride to town.

I was hoping to get work on a fishing boat for the herring season, so I didn't want to wait during the stormy season for a questionable plane trip back to town. I finally got a ride on the Mitrofania, a tender. Just as we were about to leave port, four other girls decided to ship out too. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to sleep with my knife, but the girls were all completely snockered.
Mitrofania--a tender

That night we had waves as tall as one-story houses. The other girls, after the initial wave from the boat side, went straight to bed after barfing several times each. I, on the other hand, was booze-free and jonesing for excitement. I went out to the bow and it was just like riding the Ghostrider roller coaster at Knottsberry Farm. We rode up on the tip, then plunged down into the trough, with a roll to the side tossed in. I was covered in spray and loving it. One of the crew fetched me inside after a while, though. He told me the crew were all worried I'd fall off the boat. Chickens. We didn't stop pitching until late that night when we stopped at Larsen Bay. By morning the water was glassy and calm.

I never did find a boat willing to take a girl on, although I was strong, used to fishing, a fair cook, and great with a knife. Back then there was still some superstition about women on boats. I ended up going back down to the Lower Forty Eight and home.

I didn't tell my parents when I was coming home; I just walked in the door. They all yelled because they didn't recognize the smelly girl with the wild hair still wearing muck boots and a Kodiak hoody. It took me a few minutes to convince them it was me, not a hippy off the street. I suppose I deserved that.
The mountain from the cannery--how I miss it

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pt. 1--My Jumping Off Point

Have you ever taken a journey to somewhere you never planned to be in the first place? I have. That first step can be at once terrifying and exhilarating.

I was living in Oregon with my parents when I got a call from friends who were moving down to Utah. I was eighteen, a high school graduate, and after a semester of college I was ready for a change. I needed some excitement in my life--a taste of the Great Beyond.

So I called up my mom at work and told her I was moving to Utah to live with my grandparents for a bit. She calmly asked me, "When?"
"Oh...noon," I said, oblivious to the heart attack I'd just engendered in my poor mother.

And before she could pick herself up off the ground, I was off.

At first stare living with one's grandparents doesn't seem to fit the bill of an exciting experience--especially mine. My curmudgeonly grandfather refused to let grandma drive or spend money or even speak loudly. They never went far from home and living there was frankly a snooze-fest. 

However, my cousins (roughly my age) lived down the street, so I spent much of my time at their house or in their car or going dancing at the Star Palace. The other bit I spent working in an Italian restaurant, washing dishes. Clearly living the high life.

One day my cousin Tracy started talking about how she'd gone up to Alaska to work the year before. Her glowing accounts of fish and green magical tree-shaded hillsides and glinting bay waters caught my fancy. "Let's go work there," I said, clearly insane. But I was drunk on independence and jonesing for more adventure than my poor old grandparents could possibly scare up.

Climbing in the mtns behind Kodiak
So we did. I took my meager savings from the restaurant and we bought tickets to Kodiak via Seattle. When we got off the plane in Kodiak, we found ourselves in a tiny terminal containing the biggest bear I have ever clapped eyes on. That thing could have its own small state!

Flowers along one of two roads in Kodiak
We hitchhiked into town, (Where's a kidnapper going to take you? There are only two streets.) where, after much hunting we found the boarding house we planned to stay in. Our luggage, by the way, had gone to North Carolina or some other forsaken place not in our vicinity, and containing our money. I know. Criminal stupidity. But we did luck out.

boardinghouse mates: striped shirt--me, middle--Tracy

The boarding house was full of interesting creatures. A guy named Mike and I went climbing in the mountains above Kodiak all night. It was my first brush with the midnight sun. We'd forgotten water bottles and had to drink from a baggy we dipped into a run-off stream. I've never had such delicious water! It was so cold it gave me brain-freeze.

That time was fraught with several trips back out to the airport to try and claim our luggage, slogs down cannery row endeavoring to find work, Dan Fogelman music, and the tangy smell of pizza sauce from Captain's Keg, a pizza joint which featured Charlie Chaplin movies where we finally found a job.

I went climbing in the mountains behind Kodiak with my friend Mike. We climbed until the sun went down, waited for half an hour until the sun came back up, and continued to climb. The wildflowers were spectacular and the water tasted outstanding, even in a baggy.
Flowers and Mikey with our spectacular cup

There was a fisherman's strike going on, so other better-paying work was difficult to find. Someone had suggested Tony's, but on further inspection, it turned out to be a strip joint. Not our cup of milk, that. Tracy didn't want to go out to Uyak because the work was long, boring, grueling, and long. Did I mention long?

At that time Tracy's boyfriend kept calling her and begging her to come home. He even asked her to marry him. She didn't really want to go and leave me on my own, so I was greatly chagrined to find that she had decided to go after all. I didn't have enough money to go back with her. The wonderful boyfriend (who turned out to be a real piece of work) would only foot the bill for his Sweety. So I was left to fend for myself in the wilds of Alaska.
The main chunk of Kodiak from the mtns.
At first I was petrified. Guys wear beards and beanies and flannel and carry weapons up there (not that that's bad, but they're definitely a rougher bunch than I was used to). I was no shrinking princess, but this was BIG. We'd gotten to slightly know three girls from upstairs, who were going to the University I planned to attend in the fall. Slightly.

That speck is me--mtns behind Kodiak
About that time the girls told me they were moving out to the coastguard base to live with a church friend and offered me a place. I had to get myself back and forth to town and pay for my own food. It was a lucky thing that I worked in a place which allowed me free grazing of anything we sold. Ah buckets of shrimp!

I spent the Fourth of July watching fireworks blossom over the bay. Beautiful but lonely. The girls really kept to themselves and made unilateral decisions which didn't include me. I was definitely homesick.

Then I got a call from the company hiring for Uyak. I really had no ties to the "city", and Uyak offered room, board, and work, so I went.

The seaplane ride out was breathtaking. We flew over ranks and ranks of snow-capped mountains and great expanses of steely water dotted with tiny fishing boats. At one point we even spotted a pod of whales.

Uyak Cannery
After an hour of bouncing around in the capricious currents we skidded into the water and rode a wave into a black-pebbled beach. We were in Uyak. My luggage, unbeknown to me, carried Tracy's tag, so everybody was asking where she was and I couldn't get them to give me my bag. It took a whole afternoon to untangle the snafu.

Fishing boats in the mist
Uyak is a fish camp/cannery perched on the side of Uyak bay against a mountain backdrop. There is the cannery itself, a boys' bunkhouse and a girls' bunkhouse, the general store/post office, the mess hall, the cannery boss's house, the storehouse, and a few outbuildings, plus docks. There were no roads, no cars, no TVs, no other stores. We had a shopping cart and two forklifts.
Uyak Cannery from the mtn.

Across the bay there are some pretty big bear camps (hunting purposes) and a few islands we eventually explored with our fisherman friends. The climbing was spectacular; the water, delicious; the air, bracing; the views, peerless. We had whales, sharks, and fish in our front yard, bears in our backyard, and eagles above.
Where the cannery got its water

I'll finish the rest of this story in subsequent postings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Life had gotten a bit more complicated, suddenly. Isn't it interesting how you go down one road and feel you can see the end of it? You very well may. But often we don't see every turn we need to take to get there. It's quite like the maze in the movie, "Labyrinth". We think we know where we are, but some crazy little creature is going behind us or in front, changing all the road signs and switching the doorways.

I just spent some time at camp this last week. I went because it was a duty expected of me, and because girl's camp is FUN. I greatly looked forward to helping the girls certify, to making friends with them, and to pick them up when they fell down. My own concerns I had planned to leave at the bottom of the mountain.

But along came that strange little goblin switching things around =>  <= and soon I found myself learning a few unexpected principles. I learned: 
1. Let it go. There are things much more important than personal pride.
2. Sometimes you've just got to obey despite your feelings.
3. (Something I experience over and over.) God takes care of His servants.

Often we hash over the hurts and annoyances someone does to us, picking at the scabs until they re-bleed. All this does is keep our energy forever uselessly flowing away from us. Let it go. Let the aggravation bleed away instead of the peace. I learned this while looking out over the misty valley one morning. The world was quiet except for a few birds and a cricket somewhere. God told me to empty my hands of burdens so that he could fill them with peace. It felt so good to lay those bundles of annoyance away. I breathed the pine-y breeze in, and my soul was full.

There are times in my life when I've held onto a grudge for way too long. He told me to lay those grudges next to the other bundles. I'm still trying to do that, but I made a start.
#5438009 Hiker Resting

The last principle is something God teaches me constantly--that of His care for me. I'd been running up and down the hill to the lodge from my camp at the bottom. Each time I was reminded how very out of shape I am. I gasped like a dying fish as girls raced past me. I wondered how in the world I'd make it on the third year hike. We would be hiking down to Mud Springs. 

As mileage goes, it was a laughably tiny hike. Anybody could do that six-mile romp. Heck, my husband can run that trail down and back up. I, on the other hand, was highly doubtful that I'd make it before the next ice age. My knees both have torn PCL's and I have a bum left foot. I'd gone from ballet dancer to half-crippled old bat in the blink of an eyelash. (Discouraging)

So the night before, I loaded up on water (causing an unbelievable three races to the privy across a stony baseball field, through a copse of trees, and down a treacherous hill with a dimming flashlight), and I began to pray. I knew I'd never make it without prayer. I was determined to go on the hike, but I didn't want to be "THAT" woman who foolishly has to be retrieved by more fit people.

The next day I was inspired to get a couple of Ibuprofens and a stick (which I named Hector and later replaced with Heffe when Hector gave its life retrieving another stick named Bob for one of the girls). The Ibuprofens made it so my legs didn't really hurt at all. The sticks saved my life about seven times. My only other problem was a touch of exercise-induced asthma, which kept me always gasping for air at the back of the pack on the uphills.

At first I was extremely annoyed at now being the slowpoke everybody tried to chivvy into a faster pace. But finally I told them to leave me alone--I needed to breathe. One of the girls made it her project to stay with me and kept a running patter the whole way up. Together Savannah and I saw four horned toads, talked about heart-shaped rocks, music, books and how far we'd gone. She was glad of a slower pace, and I was overjoyed to have a climbing partner.

One of the fit younger leaders needlessly came back for me, tried to take my pack, and in the end tried to offer me a ride from the trail head into camp. No dice. I was coming in under my own steam and carrying my own pack. Actually, the Lord was carrying me, and my pack was much lighter without all that water. Still a dig to my pride, but I was not "THAT" woman. At least I redeemed myself rappelling.

So instead of being the wise and all-knowing leader of girls, the Lord led me. Funny how that happens.   <=        =>

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Loving Austen


Being a lover of Jane Austen's work has energized me into going places I never would have visited without her lamp to light the way. I have read works penned by obscure authors, and gone sleuthing down lanes through which I'd never ventured before. One of those places is a weblist of scholars focusing on Jane's life, times, works, and the people of her time.

There are a wide variety of people on said list, most extremely intelligent and some utterly gifted as sleuths. They have opened a whole underworld to my view full of treasures of word and history. I keep their posts to study later in the hopes of knowing the ins and outs of my favorite author.

Some scholars, however, seem to me to be that type of person who looks at a painting and is absolutely certain that they know everything which ever skittered through the brain of the artist in conjunction with said painting. They loudly proclaim their opinions as fact and refuse to listen to arguments from opposing viewpoints, however knowledgeable.

This phenomenon is not relegated merely to students of art or the written word. There are archaeologists who take such stances, postulating hypotheses which they tout as absolute truth, although those hypotheses would not stand up in court due to their circumstantial nature.

In my humble opinion, it is folly to take a stance based on little or no actual evidence simply because of extant evidence or a postulation built on practices of the time period.

Here is one example: Recently I saw a program called Secrets of the Dead. In this particular program they were examining the bones of a man found at Stonehenge. Because of a hole in his head near the top and back, they conjectured that the man had to have been a criminal as it was most certainly a punishment wound.
Photograph by Richard Nowitz

I have been a reenactor of medieval warfare for some twenty five years. I fight in heavy armor in varied scenarios ranging from castle battles to field battles to bridge battles and all sorts of other sorties. I have "fallen dead" many times due to tripping or being pushed over "corpses" or weapons. It is extremely easy to come by such a wound as the Stonehenge Man was sporting.

We can certainly make hypotheses, but canonizing such conjectures as fact is absurd. Even carbon dating has been proven in some cases to be faulty. DNA can be polluted. Hair samples can be unstable (just ask Hermione of the Harry Potter books). Tree rings can lie. Any number of suppositions can be boundless and false. 

The further from the point of interest one goes, the easier it is to be wildly wrong about that original point. What's to say these wild conjectures about Jane Austen's propensity for labyrinthine word puzzles strung together throughout all her works and letters is necessarily all true? I doubt she pondered and festered over every single word she ever wrote, trying to weave it into such deeply Stygian cyphers that those cyphers rarely saw the light of day.

Sometimes a grocery list is actually just a grocery list.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This Magnificent Freedom

taken from patriciarossi.com

My heart is full on this Independence Day. I love this country which nurtured freedom in all its messy splendor. I love the Constitution of the United States which bound in place the rights we have enjoyed and taken so for granted. I love the way I feel when I see our flag in all its majesty, waving and snapping in the breeze. I love the hospitality and generosity we have enjoyed and given.

We are the brassy Americans. We expect too much. We're loud and obnoxious. We put up with too much and not enough. Sometimes we're embarrassed. Sometimes we wish our fellow citizens had more heart, less brass, and more understanding.

I wonder if this Fourth will be the last we'll see in this country? Will there be fireworks next year--the good kind? Or will we have lapsed into chaos and tyranny? Will the next July 4ths be spent within the ribbon wire of camps?

With every passing day there are more indications that we are in for a difficult ride. I don't mean a dip in the economy. For the most part, we are a hardy and hard working people. We try to do what's right. We pay our taxes. We raise our children to be strong, upstanding people. We have weathered dips in the past. No. This will be much worse--a perfect, anticipated, and man-made storm.

We work hard, but we also leave problems to others. We hide in the bathroom while our leaders sell us down the river for their own personal gain. There is only one outcome for that. There will be a world of "have-nots", and a few very powerful, very evil "haves". We won't be "haves". That's a not-so-distant future fact. We will not be driving our own destinies.

There'll be people who read this and call me a freak and a kook. So be it. I have eyes to look and have seen the signs. I cannot ignore them any longer, though I wish it were not so. I think sometimes people forget about what happened to the Jews in Germany or to the Katangans or the Chinese or millions of Russians. That wasn't so long ago. It was real. It came about because the people did nothing or not enough and too late. We blindly think we're safe. Not so. It can and will happen here.
The Prayer at Valley Forge by artist Arnold Friberg

We think we are immune from such incredible misfortunes. Not so. When we allow the underpinnings of our rights to be pulled away one by one (or now by the boatloads), we ensure that the rats can get in and chew away at our protection. Well, my friends, the rats are IN. We've sold our rights for trifles.
taken from toddstocker.wordpress.com

Instead of mourning our uncertain future, I'll celebrate what we have had in the past. Sure there were problems. There are in ALL countries because they are lived in, ruled, and run by humans with human failings. But our country was special. We offered asylum from oppression. We have a giant statue in our harbor which reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

We buckled on our work boots, tied on our bonnets, and went out to wring a living from the soil. We learned the language, built our towns and our cities. We forged a country. Our universities pumped out incredible amounts of talent and skill. We rose to the top few countries in technology, medicine, and science. We have gifted authors, artists, actors, and musicians. We have wrought beauty so achingly magnificent it nearly stops the heart.

We have gone to the aid of others with military, and with humanitarian aid. We have dug wells in Africa, given food to earthquake victims in Chile, succored the homeless tsunami victims in Indonesia. Our soldiers fought two World Wars and many smaller conflicts in the aid of other countries, against oppression.

As with everything, there were always people who disagreed with both domestic and foreign policy. I won't pretend that even most of the decisions have been good ones, especially in the recent past. The beauty of it is that we could disagree and know that we would still come home to our families and homes afterwards, without fear of being shipped off to a gulag somewhere. We could vote for the person who we felt best represented our interests. We could even be that representative.

All of this was set into being by some very dedicated men and women who loved freedom and knew what tyranny was. They wanted to limit the possibilities for dictatorship by an unfeeling government. They worked hard and gave everything (sometimes including their lives and all their money) to ensure the safety of this budding country. They bound the government with ropes at every juncture of which they could conceive.

taken from wilsoninfo.com
What have we done with it?

We need to wake up. We need to go back to work instead of expecting someone to hand us everything free on a platter. We need to see the demons for who they are and expose their infamy. We need to put good men in the leadership positions in this country, instead of merely putting men in who have been bought. We must appreciate the many blessings and rights and opportunities we have. We need to stop berating those who open their mouths in warning. We cannot continue to shoot every messenger who brings us unpleasant news. We do, after all, supposedly have the freedom to speak. 

And we need to pray. If we stand with God, God stands with us.