November 2nd - Dipping below zero
it looks like winter has definitely arrived. While we haven't
had much snow - just a few flurries here and there - the thermometer
has plummeted to below zero. I discovered this the hard way on
Monday. I took Sedona out for her morning walk and was dressed
warmly: fleece vest, Steve's arctic jacket, wool socks, scarf
and gloves. However, I wasn't wearing any long underwear. Halfway
through our walk, I noticed my legs were really starting to tingle
with the cold. Then I glanced down at Sedona and she had stopped
and was looking up at me with plaintive eyes. Her front paw was
lifted from the snow. I knew then that it was colder than it had
When I got into the house, the first thing I did was look online
at Weather Underground (which is where I got the info above),
and I saw that it was -9F. Well, no wonder we were both
so cold! I pulled down my long underwear from the top of my closet
where it had been stored. I'll be getting a lot of use out of
it over the next several months.
||Rachael and I went back to the dog park on Monday.
(We were both dressed for it!) The place was deserted when
we got there, which was just perfect. Sedona and Stryker play
pretty well together. At least well enough that we don't worry
they're going to kill each other or rip each other from limb
Stryker's only a pup and has the energy of an entire pack of
dogs. Sedona, at almost 10, is one heck of a sprinter, but doesn't
keep up that energy level for too long. The two of them enjoyed
running lose around the park, chasing each other and playing.
Then, when I got home, Sedona slept for hours.
Today I had an appointment with a woman (also a friend) who hired
me to do a website for her business. It's a small job, but something
I enjoy doing. And earning some money freelancing is always nice
too. I'm still working on my photo gallery as I prepare to 'open
for business'. It's a lot of work, and I'm still indexing photos
that I'm going to offer for sale. I'm glad I'm not working outside
the home, as I spend a lot of time each day on it.
Communication with Steve is ongoing. While there are times when
I might not hear from him for a day or two, we're fortunate to
have fairly regular conversations and/or webcam opportunities.
It really helps to see his face, even if the quality of the picture
isn't the best. I can still see his face and his smile. And I
can still see his eyes shine with love when he talks to me. And
that's all that matters.
It's hard to believe it's November already. Where did the year
go? While I don't want to rush my life away, I do hope that the
next ten months pass quickly. I can't wait to hold my husband
in my arms again.
No sun no morn!
No morn! No noon
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!
~ Thomas Hood ~
November 4th - Northern Lights and the Flu Bug
Wednesday night, just after making my last update, I took Sedona
our for a short walk. Our walks will continue to get shorter and
shorter as it gets colder. I glanced up into the night sky and
was happy to see the stars twinkling above. It's amazing how clear
you can see the constellations. The Big Dipper is always visible
on a clear night, and it's huge - much bigger than what I remember
as a child.
A faint light caught my eye. Could it be? Were the lights out?
A pale green band of color waved across the sky. At first I thought
I was imagining things, and that the discoloration was only clouds
moving above. And then they gradually grew brighter. Of course
I rushed back into the house for my tripod and camera!
In the top photo, you can see the Big Dipper in the sky above
my yard. I love the way the waves of light span the entire sky.
It's always such an amazing thing to witness, and if not for the
fact that my fingertips were starting to burn, I would have stood
out there for the entire show.
What I like about the second photo, is that you can see the steam
rising out of my neighbors' homes from their dryer vents. Obviously,
tending to laundry in the evening is a common thing. The way the
steam curls over the houses is a nice contrast to the green streaks
in the night sky above.
The bottom photo is more of a close-up of the houses in my neighborhood.
I like to capture photos of lit up windows and dancing lights.
Someday, I'd like to be in a place where there is a lone cabin
or house, with lit up windows, under a colorful auroral sky.
On another note... it seems I've caught the flu bug that's been
making the rounds in town. I have a few friends with sick children,
and I was exposed to them. I've been paying for it for the last
two days with a fever and sore throat. Today the fever has gone
down slightly, but I've practically lost my voice. I hope I shake
November 9th - Still shaking the flu bug, snowy scenes, and sun
What a miserable last couple of days I've had. Fortunately I
survived the fever, chills, and sore throat. But the lingering
effects - croupy cough, stuffed up nose, impaired sense of smell,
and raspy voice - don't seem to want to move on to someone else's
Despite feeling horrible, I had to tend to errands on Saturday,
so I got myself dressed, dosed up on some cold meds and antibiotics,
and headed out the door. My first stop was the post office to
get three care packages sent off to Steve. One box had a velour
blanket in it, and another had one of his sweatsuits in it. Steve
said the weather is getting cooler in Iraq now - especially at
night - and he needed a blanket. The one I chose is very soft
and comfortable. I know he'll love it.
The temperature here in Fairbanks dipped to well below zero -
MINUS 18F on Saturday. On the way back from the post office, I
stopped at the boat ramp behind Pioneer Park (where I photographed
the ducks) because I could see hoarfrost coating everything and
wanted to take some photos. It was brutally cold, and I wasn't
dressed appropriately since my plan was to go from the truck to
the post office and back again - and not to take a walk along
the river. I hurriedly snapped a few photos and then ran back
to the truck to warm my fingers. Even in gloves, my fingertips
were burning with the cold. Brrrrrr!
I stopped again behind the Carlson Center to take a photo of
the steaming Chena River. I think it's beautiful when it's so
cold that the river gives off wisps of steam and fog. The sun
was shining strong overhead, which made the scene even more beautiful.
As I got nearer to post, I noticed sun dogs flanking the sun.
Sun dogs (Parahelia), also called mock suns, are colored, luminous
spots caused by the refraction of light by ice crystals in the
atmosphere. These bright spots form in the solar halo at points
that are 22 degrees on either side of the sun and at the same
elevation as the sun. I read somewhere that Native Alaskans believe
that a sun dog is a good predictor of snow, and that snow will
fall within three days. We did have flurries the next day - but
we need a lot more snow to make this truly feel like winter.
Later on Saturday evening, I went out shopping with my friend
Rachael. We stopped at the Chena River bridge near our neighborhood
to take some photos of the river. Every hour it seems that the
visible river narrows more and more as ice claims the water. I
PHOTO of the Chena River on October 30th. This past
Saturday (the 5th), at sunset, I snapped the two photos to the
left. It always amazes me to see 'Old Man Winter' take hold of
my surroundings - and so quickly!
On Sunday, I went out to breakfast with the girls. Going to The
Cookie Jar for an omelet on Sunday morning has become one of my
favorite things to look forward to, and a way to celebrate getting
one week closer to being reunited with Steve. Unfortunately, I
couldn't enjoy breakfast, as I had totally lost my sense of smell.
Every bite had absolutely no taste. I only got halfway through
my meal before totally giving up.
After breakfast, we went to UAF to attend the holiday craft fair
being hosted there. One of the vendors had scented candles. I
couldn't smell a thing. She offered me a bag of peppermint potpourri
to see if that would clear my head. I still couldn't smell a thing.
It was very disconcerting and not something I'd like to have as
a permanent affliction. Fortunately, my sense of smell is returning.
It's not completely back yet, but I can at least smell my coffee
in the morning.
On Monday, I just needed to get out for a drive. I decided to
drive about 30 miles up Chena Hot Springs Rd. in search of moose.
I picked up my friend Nik and her daughter Neena (who fortunately
is no longer sick!) for company. Nik was in dire need of adult
conversation, and Neena needed the truck ride to be lulled to
sleep. While we didn't see any moose, I did stop at Rosehip Campground
and took a few photos of the river from one of the campsites.
I converted the photos to Black & White, because, frankly
- in winter - the landscape is devoid of color. When the
skies are gray, even more so
Yesterday was a lazy day for me. I didn't go to class because
my constant nose-blowing would have been a total distraction to
the rest of the students, and I'm still not feeling 100% myself.
I have a portrait project due in that class, so I'll probably
go up to campus tomorrow and use the studio.
I got to IM (Instant Message) and webcam with Steve this morning.
He was in a really down mood. I hated seeing the sadness in his
eyes. My attempts at cheering him up didn't work, although I was
thrilled to see him smile slightly on two occasions. *sigh* It's
very difficult for us to be separated - particularly when one
of us is sick, or sad. The urge to hold each other is intense,
and not being able to do that is frustrating. We're 76 days into
this. Only about 290 to go. At least we're below 300 days now.
November 13th - Friends and Photos
It is the end of another week. This past week really has flown
by, as usual. It's so hard to believe that time can pass so quickly.
I'm not complaining, as every week that goes by is one week closer
to being reunited with Steve. However, the quick passage of time
also doesn't seem to give me much time to take care of the things
I need to do before Christmas comes. I still need to do my Christmas
newsletters for my family, and I have a bunch of cards I need
to send out to friends in all corners of the country and world.
Somehow I will get it all completed, but I will also be stressed
out until it gets done! Typical...
Thursday, I took a drive with Rachael to a local park on Chena
Pump Rd. I periodically visit this park to take photos of the
'house on the hill'. This house is perched high up on the side
of a cliff overlooking the river. I imagine the family who lives
in it must absolutely love the view from the deck. Who wouldn't?
I'm sure that sunsets and aurora displays are breathtaking from
such a vantage point. Rachael and I happened to arrive at the
park as the sun was heading down. The orange bands of light were
a perfect backdrop to the house in silhouette.
Yesterday morning, I met up with Rachael for an early morning
latte and then a trip to the newest stores in Fairbanks. While
I'm not a shopaholic, the grand opening of new shops always creates
a stir up here. There are those who get excited over the additional
choices for 'retail therapy', and just as many who hate to see
Fairbanks leave the old prospecting town feel behind and move
into the world of big business. I personally lean more toward
the latter. While I do enjoy a broader range of retail facilities,
if they were all to disappear someday, it wouldn't break my heart.
spending the morning lightening my wallet a little *grin*, I drove
to the local Denny's to meet up with some members of the Alaska
Living group. I hadn't seen most of them in a long time - perhaps
even a year or so. Way too much time has passed, and I hope that
we don't have to wait that long to see each other again. Jan (a
musher) was there. Georganne (a doula) also came, and brought
her daughter with her. Moe and Charles came, with their three
wonderful children. Carmen and Gip came - their first time meeting
the others. And Jean (a Celtic fiddler and music teacher) also
came, but unfortunately couldn't stay long because she had a class
to attend. I really hope we do this again soon, as there is so
much more I'd love to talk about. Next time, I'll have better
control of my raspy voice (the last side effect from my bout with
the flu) and it won't hurt so much to talk.
After meeting the group for lunch, I came home and picked up
Rachael and we drove up to UAF to attend military appreciation
day at the museum. While the traditional Alaska exhibits haven't
changed much, the building itself is absolutely beautiful and
quite modern. In addition, a special exhibition was in town called
"Light Motifs". American Impressionist paintings from
the Metropolitan Museum of Art were on display. I hope that these
special exhibits will continue to be hosted at the museum, as
they would certainly encourage more people to visit.
the way home from the museum, the sky was already growing dusky
as the sun fell below the horizon. A light pink band of color
hung below the cyan blue of late afternoon sky. The moon was bright
white and hung low. It was a beautiful composition of pastel color
and I wanted to capture it with my camera. Instead of heading
straight home, I continued to the golf course on post where I
could stop the truck and shoot the moon with trees in the foreground.
Moonlight and snow are a wonderful combination.
And then - to add even more magic to the evening - the northern
lights put on a beautiful show over my house. The didn't do much
'dancing', but instead formed a huge arc over the neighborhood.
It was an odd display as they weren't visible anywhere else in
the sky. I grabbed my camera, set it up quickly on the tripod,
threw on my coat, and took off for the yard. I stood out there
for about 30 minutes, shooting, before they began to fade.
I was happy with the clarity of these photos,
and especially the visual shade of purple beneath the band
of green. I can't wait until the lights decide to come out
for a longer performance - and I'm awake to witness it.
I'd really love to drive somewhere that's higher in elevation
to get photographs. Ideally, Esther Dome - but I'd settle
for Birch Hill.
got an email from Steve this morning with some photos attached.
He had the opportunity to visit one of the other FOBs (Forward
Operating Base) where my friends' husbands are based. He got to
see Rachael's husband James and chat for about 15 minutes, as
well as LuAnn's husband Ken. I love it when emails come with photographs.
It is so wonderful to see Steve's face, even though the photos
make me miss him even more.
I know it was a real morale booster for him to talk to the others.
I can tell by the smile on his face that he was enjoying himself.
November 16th - Mars & the Moon, Booties & Frost, and finally
On Monday, I ran errands all day with Rachael. We finished our
husbands' Christmas stockings on Sunday night and needed some
last minute trips to Walmart to pick up some candy and other goodies
before we could ship them off. Not only did I put some 'gourmet'
Kisses in his stocking (mint and cherry cordial), but I also bought
some smoked salmon and gourmet crackers to go with the salmon.
He loves to eat salmon on crackers and I hope that he's happy
with his gift. I also bought a few more DVDs out of the Walmart
discount bin to keep him entertained.
is the stocking that I made for Steve for Christmas. (Click
on image at left for enlargement) I thought that the camouflage
fleece, with moose silhouettes was an appropriate choice -
*cute*, but manly. I hope that when Steve hangs it up in his
room, he'll look at it and think of me. The finishing touch
on the stocking was a label (at right) that said perfectly
how I felt while I was sewing the stocking. It's just a small
piece of home, but in addition to candy and gifts - it is
filled with love.
frigid weather continues, and it has finally reached the point
where Sedona has to wear her booties if I take her on walks. Letting
her run out in the yard quickly is one thing, but the minute we
go more than a block away, she starts lifting her feet from the
snow and looking up at me with plaintive eyes. Poor baby! Her
paw pads are starting to get a little rough too, and soon I'll
be putting moisturizer on her feet every couple of days to keep
them from chapping and splitting. I managed to find her booties
from last year, so she doesn't need a new set. That's a surprise,
as she is notorious for losing one over the course of the winter
(or eating one as a display of rebellion!). I have no clue why
she thinks fleece is good to eat, but she's ingested three booties
since we got here in 2003.
a recent walk, the temperature was -15F, but windchill put it
at -25F. Despite my long underwear, my legs were burning with
cold by the time I got home. I wore a scarf wrapped around my
lower face, to not only protect my nose and mouth, but to warm
the air before I sucked it into my lungs. Breathing frigid air
always causes me to have an asthma attack. Not a pleasant thing.
The warmth of my breath caused condensation on my hair, which
then proceeded to frost over. I just had to take a photo share
with Steve. When I sent it to him, he actually told me he missed
the Alaska winter. Silly man. *grin* Actually, I know he was really
referring to the beautiful white landscape of winter and not necessarily
temperatures in the negatives.
||On another note... if you follow space news, you know that
Mars has been visible in the night sky. I saw the bright light
of the planet on the way back from shopping two nights ago.
At first I thought it was a plane, but then I realized the
light wasn't moving. In fact, the light was staying in the
same position in the sky (relative to the nearly full moon).
So I set up tripod, put my 100-400mm zoom lens on and tried
to capture the sight. I would have loved to have had a telescope!
I did manage to catch the bright star-like quality of the
planet, but nothing more than that. While I was out there,
I decided to shoot the moon too.
have been lamenting about the fact that there has been very little
snow here in Fairbanks. I am looking forward to hitting the tubing
hill when it opens. If it would snow the way it's *supposed* to,
the hill would have opened a week or so ago. What a delight to
see thick, huge flakes falling from the sky tonight. It's warmed
up a bit too (necessary for snow), so I went out in the backyard
with Sedona to play (and take photos). I love the way the snow
looks when it coats the world with a layer of white. If it's not
too slippery tomorrow, I'd like to go out for a drive and get
some more pictures.
November 22nd - Another Casualty, Snow, Ice Towers, & Broken
Hello all. Yes, I know it's been a while. The latest 'drama'
in my life is having my laptop go belly up on me. Which is why
you haven't heard from me. I can't get past the opening Windows
XP window, but fortunately the network still recognizes it, so
I was able to move photos and files from it to the PC hard drive
(To include this website's files) A very time-consuming job and
one I'm still not finished with. I want to make sure I get everything
I need before I attempt a reformat and reinstall of the operating
system. If that doesn't work, it looks like I'll be shopping for
a new laptop. Oh joy...
There has been more sad news on the Stryker Brigade front. We
lost another soldier on Saturday. This is our fourth casualty
in five weeks. This death hit me a lot harder - not because I
knew him personally - but because he was about the same age as
my son. I can't even imagine what his mother is going through
right now. All those fears and worries I had when Brandon was
over there came flooding back. I am so thankful my son came home
|Soldier killed in Mosul ambush
The Associated Press
Published: November 20, 2005
Last Modified: November 20, 2005 at 04:18 PM
VILLA PARK, Ill. (AP) - A 21-year-old man
who proposed to his high school sweetheart while on leave
from the Army earlier this month has been killed in Iraq.
Pvt. Christopher Alcozer of the 172nd Stryker
Brigade Combat Team was killed Saturday when his patrol
was ambushed by insurgents using small arms and hand grenades
in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, according to the Army.
Alcozer, a 2003 graduate of Willowbrook
High School in Villa Park, became engaged to his girlfriend
of nearly three years while he was visiting her at Northern
Illinois University during a recent trip home, his mother,
Kathleen Alcozer, said Sunday.
"He proposed out there - badly from
what she said," Alcozer said. "He was just nervous
I guess. He was 21, what do you expect?"
Christopher Alcozer joined the Army in January.
He was stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and shipped
out to Iraq in August, his mother said. Alcozer was part
of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment.
Alcozer was in the school orchestra and
on the wrestling team all four years during high school,
his mother said. He played the viola and hoped to return
to college after his time in the Army to study education
and music, possibly to become a music teacher, she said.
Alcozer joined the Army because "he
said it would make him a man" and felt strongly about
serving his country, his mother said. Kathleen Alcozer said
she is opposed to the war, which led to "lively discussions"
with her son.
"But I was always ready to support
my child. And now I have to bury my child," she said.
"There's just no words."
Twelve soldiers were injured in Saturday's
attack, four of them seriously, according to the Army. Alcozer
is the fourth member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat
Team to die in Iraq over the past five weeks.
The snow has been falling steadily and I've had to shovel more
than a few times over the last week. I picked up some arctic ice
melt from the Self Help store here on post and that's been helping
to keep the driveway free of ice. When the driveway ices up, I
have the hardest time getting the truck into the garage. Just
the slightest incline causes me to slip and slide, despite using
4WD. Fortunately, it's working well. Once it gets really cold,
the snow will stop falling. But we've got a long way to go, if
this winter is going to be like the last few. There's hardly any
accumulation out there.
like to take Sedona on walks in the snow. The world is so quiet
and the snow makes a marvelous crunching sound under my boots.
When the sun is shining, there is 'fairy dust' on the snow - glittering
sparkles that make the scene look even more magical. I do love
the winter here, despite the brutal temperatures and monochromatic
colors. The photo at left is of the bike path which runs behind
my house and goes through little bits of woodline before continuing
to other parts of the neighborhood. This little stretch of treeline
has been a favorite place of mine to take photos - in every season.
Even though the houses are close, I can imagine I'm in the middle
of a great woods when I'm on this stretch of path.
I've been staying really busy as I prepare for my trip to Wisconsin
to see my kids. I'm so excited about spending time with them.
It will be good for me to get away from Fairbanks for a couple
of weeks and be with family for Christmas. While I'll be missing
Steve with every ounce of my being at this time of year, being
with my boys (and my beautiful daughter in law) will bring lots
of good cheer. I'm looking forward to spoiling them (and I bet
they are too), eating in some of my favorite restaurants - restaurants
you won't find in Fairbanks - and doing a little shopping too.
I'd like to see if I can find a gown while I'm there. I'm almost
certain we'll have a Redeployment Ball when the guys get home
next August and I'll need something to wear. There aren't many
places here to buy a formal, and the ones that are here are just
way too expensive.
I'll be boarding Sedona, but she'll be in a run right next to
Stryker (Rachael's lab). We joke and say they are *boyfriend and
girlfriend*, but I think that both of them will be a little calmer
with a familiar fuzzy face next to them. At least I'm hoping so.
My furry feline, Airborne, will be left in the house alone, but
my friend Dianne is going to stop by periodically and check on
her. Airborne has been left alone before and survives. Well, except
for the way that she snubs us for a few days to show her displeasure
at us leaving her.
photojournalism class is winding down now. I still have several
projects to turn in before the end. I have a portfolio and a photo
essay due, as well as a winter feature and my studio portrait.
A lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. I have an
idea for my photo essay: "The impact of new restaurants on
Fairbanks' original eateries". I also have a back-up photo
essay idea - simple, but at least will qualify: "The Kid's
Workshop at Home Depot". Marcella runs that and said I could
come by and take photos.
I went out driving with Rachael a few nights ago. I wanted to
get photos of the lights on Birch Hill. It looks so pretty with
the dark sky above it and the lit up houses in front of it. I'm
trying to teach Rachael how to use the different features on her
camera. The night we shot Birch Hill, neither of us had our tripods
- not a good thing for night shooting. I can boost my ISO settings
enough to get an OK shot without a tripod, but she didn't have
any luck. On the way home from the hill, we noticed amazing light
pillars shooting up into the sky.
Columns of light apparently beaming directly upwards from
unshielded (and wastefully polluting) lights are sometimes visible
during very cold weather. Plate shaped ice crystals, normally
only present in high clouds, float in the air close to the ground
and their horizontal facets reflect light back downwards. The
pillars are not physically over the lights or anywhere else in
space for that matter ~ like all halos they are purely the collected
light beams from all the millions of crystals which just happen
to be reflecting light towards your eyes or camera.
Yesterday, Rachael and I had a craving for an omelet at 3pm in
the afternoon, so off we went to "The Cookie Jar". But
I decided to detour up the Steese Highway to take a few photos
of the new Ice Wall. The Ice Wall has been constructed each winter
since 2003-2004 by the Alaskan Alpine Club. My photojournalism
instructor told us that this year, two towers are being constructed
and I wanted to see them as they grow. You
can read more about this year's towers here.
to enlarge image to 800pixels wide) It will be interesting to
watch the progress of these 'sculptures' over the next few months
- especially as we fall into temperatures which are much more
*normal* for this time of year.
Before I end this entry, I wanted to wish all of my American
readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be spending my Thanksgiving
with my friend Nik and her children, as well as my friends Susan
and Marcella (and Butch - Susan's FIL) at Nik's house. With the
guys gone, we all thought it would be nice to eat with each other
and try to have some semblance of 'family' around us. Nik is graciously
hosting the dinner (and doing most of the work), while the rest
of us are bringing a side dish and appetites. I'm looking forward
to it and will surely have photos to share later.
November 24th - Happy Thanksgiving!
hope you all had a marvelous day today, surrounded by those you
love, a huge bounty of food, and good cheer.
Dinner at Nik's house was delicious and filling. She really worked
hard to prepare a nice meal for all of us. On the menu was a turkey
(of course!), mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and cheese,
dinner rolls, salad, corn, and deviled eggs. She also made a huge
crock pot of apple cider with cinnamon. It was delicious and really
took the chill out of my bones.
There was a slight change of plans. Marcella canceled this morning.
She wasn't feeling up to company, as she was in a downer of a
mood. I hope she's feeling better now.
I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Nina and her two
boys in attendance. That was a last minute thing too, but it all
worked out well. The kids entertained themselves playing after
we ate, while the adults sat and chatted. I took a few photos,
but wasn't really in the mood to play photographer. All of us
were missing the one thing that would make us truly thankful on
Thanksgiving - our husbands.
I got to talk to Steve this morning for about 30 minutes. He
didn't get online until nearly 10pm his time and was exhausted.
I was feeling a little under the weather - not because of a virus,
but because I indulged in a few gin and tonics at a comedy show
we attended here on Post last night. I know now why I don't drink
cheap alcohol. It tasted horrible, and I was so sick when I got
up this morning, that I thought I was going to miss out on Thanksgiving
dinner. Fortunately, I was able to get down a mug of chicken bouillon
and I immediately felt better. Thank goodness!
Steve had a Thanksgiving meal today too. He said there was a
huge spread of food, including ham and turkey, as well as all
the side dishes and desserts. The soldiers were each assigned
a time to dine, and had 45 minutes to fill up their plates and
eat. He complained about how full he was, and I jokingly asked
to see his belly (we were webcamming). You better believe he had
overeaten! I'm happy to know that Steve is eating well, even though
he wishes he could take off a few pounds. It doesn't matter to
me. I like him just the way he is.
I woke this morning and looked out the window - the first thing
I do every morning - I saw that we'd gotten several more
inches of snow. The day was gray, but the snow looked brilliant
and pure and clean. I wasn't happy about the fact that I had to
shovel again. But thankfully the snow is dry and light. Shoveling
5 inches of powder isn't hard at all. The challenge is figuring
out where to put it. I only have a small plot of grass between
the two driveways, and that's getting pretty tall already. Last
winter, it was about 5 feet high! For those of you who don't live
in Alaska - or in a place with weather like Alaska, the snow doesn't
go away. It comes in October or November and stays until April
or early May. It does settle a bit as you pile more snow on top
of it, but generally you better find a place to put the snow you're
shoveling or you're going to surround yourself with huge walls.
When the snowplows come down the street, they move all the snow
to the 'guest parking pad' right next to our house. The piles
get so high, the littler kids use it as a sledding hill. I certainly
miss Steve a lot when I'm out there moving snow, that's for sure.
when the sky is clear, has been amazing lately. On Tuesday, after
leaving class, I was greeted with an awesome display of orange
and reds just above the horizon. I decided to drive the longer
way home and stop off at Creamers Field to see if I could get
photos of the sunset with interesting foreground. I drove down
to the farmhouse and as I was making my U-turn to come back out
to the road, I came upon this scene. The photograph doesn't do
it justice. I could have stood there forever watching the sky
change colors. But my fingertips were freezing and I wasn't dressed
to be outdoors for too long.
Before I end this entry, I just want to tell everyone how lucky
I am to have made the friends I have here in Alaska. I have never
felt more at home in a community, than I do here. I have never
felt so much warmth and caring extended toward me in any other
place I've lived. I have had some very emotional days over the
last three months, and I don't think I would have gotten through
them so quickly without my friends here. And not just my military
friends either. I have made some fabulous friends outside the
military community too. My friends here are like family to me.
I wouldn't be able to get through this deployment without their
support. I can't imagine being anywhere else but here - especially
during this time in my life. On this Thanksgiving Day, even though
my heart is sad because the love of my life is far away, it is
also full of joy because of my friends. I am truly blessed.
November 29th - Frozen Tundra, Wet Hair, Beautiful Sunrises
Winter has definitely arrived here in Fairbanks - and the plummeting
temperatures are positively invigorating! Yesterday we went as
low as -35F. That's the kind of air that sears your lungs when
you take your first breath. And freezes wet hair within minutes.
Yes, I tested that theory the other day.
hair was freshly washed and Sedona started whining to go out for
her morning walk. Since it was so cold, I knew our walk would
be a short one. I put on her booties, threw on a coat and gloves,
etc... but not my hat. It was about -25F out when we headed outside.
By this time, the front of my hair was basically dry, but long
strands at the back of my head were still damp. As we were walking
down the path, I reached up to move my hair back over my shoulder.
It was frozen! It felt like broom straw and each strand was stiff
as could be. When I held it up, it stood straight out. As soon
as I got home, I got my camera ready and took a photo of it. (You
can see Sedona sitting in the background guarding the house) Some
people have told me that hair will break off when it freezes,
but I remember reading on line somewhere that it's a fallacy.
However, since I don't want to lose big chunks of my hair, I didn't
stay out in the cold too long. Once I got inside, it thawed out
comes much later now. The astronomy charts say that officially
sunrise is somewhere around 10:15am, but the sun takes its time
coming over the horizon and rising into the sky. On a clear day,
the sky will turn many beautiful shades of yellow, red, pink,
and orange for a fairly long period of time as the sun moves up
over the horizon. The same is true for sunset, when the sun slowly
dips below the horizon, but leaves a wake of color in its path.
Winter does have its precious moments, and the beginning and end
of day are two of them.
Two mornings ago, as I chatted with Steve online, I watched
the sky turn from various shades of gray to gorgeous stripes of
red and yellow as the sun rose over the neighborhood. First the
sky brightened with the light itself, lending a bluish-gray cast
to the snow. The moon was still visible above the treeline, a
crescent shape reflecting the light of a new day.
And then the sky began to change colors. The orange ball of the
sun, threw light up over the horizon. It seemed to part the gray
and blue clouds, pushing them aside and making way for a new day.
I stood mesmerized in my upstairs window, shooting a few frames
here and there - wanting to capture the beauty. It was 11:30am.
Nearly noon and yet the world was just 'waking up'. Mind you,
the residents of Fairbanks are "up and at 'em" just
like the rest of the world - but we do our waking up in the dark
when it's winter. There's something quite amazing about enjoying
lunch and watching a brilliant sunrise. I could never grow tired
Once the sun is fully above the horizon, the sky glows brilliantly
beneath the cloud cover. If it's going to be an overcast day,
the lovely colors will gradually dissipate as the sun climbs higher,
until finally we are wrapped in blue and gray again. But the memory
of sunrise keeps me warm throughout the day.
Yesterday, I had the most amazing day. I made plans to meet my
friends Gip and Carmen (Hello, my friends!) at The Diner
so that I could take some photos for the Photo Essay I have due
in my photojournalism class. While there, Gip got to talking to
one of the waitresses (Sue) and asked her some questions about
the history of the diner. She didn't have all of the answers,
but she knew someone who could help us out. John (Jack) Townshend
was seated at the counter enjoying his coffee with cocoa and cream
(his own special drink, and one that the servers prepare for him
as soon as he comes into the restaurant). Sue asked him if he'd
come over and talk to us. He slid into the booth next to me and
told us stories about himself, Fairbanks, the other 'regulars'
at The Diner, the "pioneers", and much more. This man
is brilliant! And so inspirational too! He has achieved so much
in his life, and his outlook on life is absolutely amazing. You
can't have too many positive, uplifting people in your life, and
I'm so thankful that we crossed paths.
last evening, I received an email from Jack telling me that he
was pleased to have met all of us. He complimented me on my photography
too - which really meant a lot to me. He also attached a short
bio that was written about him. If
you'd like to read about this amazing man, click here! It's a
.doc file (51k). It was truly a wonderful experience
to meet Jack, and I got quite a few photos and the storyline to
go along with my photos.
I also left with a music CD that Jack recorded. He invited us
out to The Pump House to hear him sing on Karaoke night. That
sounds like a lot of fun, and we're definitely going to have to
do that sometime.