2005 Susan L Stevenson
September 3 - A new month, spending time with friends, brief phone
Again, time has slipped away from me. There's really not much
to report. I've completed my first week of work, and the time
really flew by. I didn't hear from Steve again until early this
morning (1:30am Alaska Time - 1:30pm Iraq time). It's strange
to think that I'm fast asleep and it's the middle of the afternoon
for him. Needless to say, he's at his destination.
The soldier he is replacing is still there, so Steve doesn't
have a room yet. (He's not going to kick the guy out!) However,
from our conversation, I gather that Steve will have many of
the conveniences of home - except for his wife of course. *grin*
There is a small refrigerator in his room and a microwave. He's
buying the TV from the soldier, and the guy is also leaving
behind his VCR. All Steve has asked for at this point is a DVD
player and some movies. I'm going to wait a few weeks before
sending it out, so he's settled in his own room. According to
Steve, there is satellite TV and Internet in the rooms (at a
price - but no price is too high to insure communication). But,
up until then, communication will continue to be sporadic. He's
working extremely hard, and very long hours. I don't think he's
had a full night's sleep since he got there. It sounds like
they're all sleeping in cat naps. Of course, he always sounds
good when I talk to him - probably because he's as happy as
I am to be able to speak to one another. He said something to
me this morning and I giggled. It made me smile when he said,
"I've really missed your laugh." The call was cut
off unexpectedly, without an opportunity to say goodbye or "I
love you" another time. I'm glad we said it early on in
the phone call.
I've been spending a lot of time with Susan and Rachael on
the weekends. This weekend, Rachael hosted "Chick Flick
Night" at her house. Last night we watched Monster In
Law (with J-Lo), and tonight we watched an older movie (not
a chick flick) that I really liked - The Emperors Club
(with Kevin Kline). We're going to breakfast tomorrow morning;
the start of a weekly routine we'd like to continue while the
guys are gone. On Monday, since we're all off, we're planning
to drive down to Delta Junction and visit Rika's Roadhouse.
I hope it's a nice day and the range is out. It will probably
be the last time I head down the Richardson Hwy for awhile.
My class in Journalism starts Tuesday afternoon. I'll be juggling
my schedule at work to accommodate it. I'm really excited, but
nervous too. The class is a small one (only 12 or 14 students),
which I like, but I always get nervous before I start something
new. I'm not sure how I'll adapt to shooting photos of 'newsworthy'
subjects. It's definitely going to get me thinking and working
outside my box. Since it's about photography it can't be all
Like the rest of the world, I've been following the news about
the devastation in NOLA. I'm saddened about all that has been
happening there. Steve and I have always wanted to visit New
Orleans, but never made the time to do it. Now it might be too
late. My prayers go out to all of the people who are suffering
I don't have any recent photos to share with you all. Sorry
about that. I do expect to take some on Monday if the weather
is nice and we go for our drive. I wish Steve were going with
me... we've always loved our weekend drives.
There has been talk of seeing the Northern Lights in the night
sky. I haven't been lucky enough to see them yet. It doesn't
get really dark until the middle of the night and I'm fast asleep
by then. Last year, I got my first photographs of them in October.
As brutal as the winter is here, the Northern Lights make it
all worth while.
It's hard to believe that I've been in Fairbanks for more than
two years. The time has just flown by for me. This will be my
third winter. Some say the third winter is hard for a lot of
people. I hope that's not true, as this winter will be hard
for many reasons already.
O sweet September,
thy first breezes bring
The dry leaf's rustle and the squirrel's laughter,
The cool fresh air whence health and vigor spring
And promise of exceeding joy hereafter.
~ George Arnold, September Days ~
September 6 - Appreciating Autumn's Colors
Yesterday morning, I picked up Rachael and Susan and we headed
down the Richardson Highway to Rika's Roadhouse. It was a beautiful
drive, but we didn't see one single moose. That was definitely
not par for the course and I think we were all disappointed
by the lack of sightings.
The tundra is a magnificent patchwork of colors. There are
various shades of red - from bright poinsettia red to deep burgundy.
There are purples, yellows, greens and every shade of these
colors. It's absolutely breathtaking and photos don't do it
justice. The most stunning contrast of colors occurs where the
brilliant gold of the birch tree groves fade off to the blue
of the mountains in the Alaska Range. It's certainly awe-inspiring.
When we arrived at Rika's we took our time exploring the grounds
and the gift shop. Heading upstairs to the fur shop, we enjoyed
running our hands against the soft fur of the scarves, coats,
and gloves in the shop. Beaver and fox garments surrounded us,
and Susan made sure to try on the purple fur coat that still
hasn't been sold. (Purple is her favorite color)
I finally bought myself a pair of fur-lined gloves trimmed
in silver fox. I've been wanting a pair of gloves with fur for
some time, and I know that Steve would have encouraged the purchase.
They were reasonably priced and feel wonderful on my hands.
Since he's so worried about me forgetting my gloves in the winter,
I felt it best that I buy a pair so sumptuous that I'd WANT
to remember them. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. *grin*
After enjoying Rika's for about an hour, we continued southeast
toward Donnelly Dome. Both Rachael and Susan were very good
about yelling out "Stop!" when a beautiful photo op
presented itself. I had no problem pulling over and jumping
out of the truck for photos. The view through the windshield
was amazing... gold birch and aspen punctuated with the dark
green (almost black) color of the spruce. What a gorgeous combination
We had lunch at the Buffalo Diner in Delta Junction, and got
up from the table exploding. I ate way too much and all that
food in my stomach made me crave a nap. We headed home, stopping
at the Salcha River Marina to get photos of our hubby dolls.
(Yes, they went with us on our adventure)
And now - photos from the trip. Click for enlargements:
September 8 - Happy Birthday Mom! The Soldier Show!
Yesterday was my mother's birthday. I called her and left her
a birthday message, but she must have been out celebrating.
I also mailed off a card, but because the mail goes by dogsled
here (hehehe), it will get to her late. Actually, I will admit
I'm a procrastinator and forgot that Labor Day would hold up
the mail even more. Sorry, Mommy!!! You know I love you!!!
Last night, Susan, Rachael and I, attended the "Soldier
Show" at the Herring Auditorium (Lathrop
HS). It was FREE to the public and one of the best shows I've
seen in a long time. The entire group of performers are soldiers,
and they are AMAZING! Here's a blurb from the website (linked
WHAT IS IT? The U.S. Army Soldier Show is a high-energy
MTV-style 90-minute live musical review showcasing the talents
of active duty soldiers who are selected by audition from
throughout the Army. They are amateur artists who have a passion
for music, dance and performing. They come from infantry,
artillery, transportation, military police, medical, intelligence,
armor, aviation, signal and other tactical units. The show
is put together in six weeks, and then tours for six months.
The music they chose for this performance spanned a large range:
modern enough to make the 'teeny-bopper' crowd wiggle in their
seats and sing along, and also classic enough to keep the *boomers*
in the audience interested. There were many times that I wanted
to get up and dance in the aisles. There were also other moments
when I had to control my emotions to keep from sobbing. Susan
passed tissues down the row to us, and I shredded mine with
tears. We weren't the only ones.... we were surrounded by other
women and children who were missing their loved ones too. Just
seeing the performers in uniform for some of the numbers was
enough to make me miss Steve.
I took my camera and shot many photos. I'm hoping to use a
few of them for one of the assignments in my photojournalism
class. Speaking of my class - I'm sure I'm really going to enjoy
it! The class is small - only 14 of us - and I think I'm the
oldest (what else is new?). It's a fabulous mix of students;
some with experience on school or local newspapers, and some
with no experience whatsoever. The instructor seems really cool
(and he's VERY talented), and I hope to learn a lot from him.
He's been published in Life Magazine, as well as other publications.
I'm there to expand my horizons, and I'm definitely going to
do that. I will really need to 'step outside my box' as photojournalism
involves PEOPLE and candid shots - and I will have to learn
to be comfortable approaching people and asking if I can take
their photo. Definitely not the landscape/wildlife niche I'm
comfortable in. I'm excited.
I've completed my second full week of work already. Time has
really flown, and for that I am thankful. I had the opportunity
to talk to Steve by Instant Messenger (IM) once since I wrote
last. He got online as I was getting ready for work. He's such
a slow typist, I was able to get dressed while he was responding
to my sentences. There's a delay as well, which gave me even
more time. I didn't care - it was so thrilling to talk to him
in 'real time', even though he's 12 hours ahead of us here in
Alaska. I was getting ready for work, and he was getting ready
for his final meeting of the day. He wished me a good day at
work, and I wished him a restful sleep. Weird...
I'm hosting Chick Flick Night at my house this weekend (Saturday).
I'm making noodles and dumplings for the girls. Marcella is
going to join us, and she's bringing chicken for the soup. :)
I have no clue what we'll watch this weekend, but it will be
good to hang out. And now... on with the photos:
September 12th - Chena Hot Springs Rd Drive and The Lights Come
Again, several days have passed without finding a spare moment
to update. I suppose it's good that I'm so busy. I was feeling
pretty lousy on Friday. It must have been a 24-hour stomach
virus, because by Friday evening I was feeling much better.
Thank goodness! I hate being sick.
Sunday morning, I went to breakfast with Susan and Rachael.
Afterward, Susan went off to a scrapbooking meeting, and Rachael
and I took a drive up Chena Hot Springs Road (CHSR). CHSR is
absolutely stunning all year around, but in the autumn the colors
in the trees are absolutely brilliant. The road winds through
open countryside, climbs over hills and dips into valleys, and
travels through acres of forest. It is a wonderful drive for
moose sightings too. Unfortunately for us, we only glimpsed
one - and she was hidden far enough in the trees to avoid having
her photo taken. Nevertheless, the colors and textures of autumn
in Alaska surrounded us. The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue,
and the sun was shining. We couldn't have asked for a better
day to take a drive.
We stopped many times along the way to take photos of the river,
the foliage, and the landscape. There are several campgrounds
along CHSR, and each offers its own unique beauty. Rosehip Campground
is on the banks of the river and thick with tall birch and aspen
trees. The leaves were deep where they had floated to rest on
empty picnic tables. A soft carpet of gold and yellow lined
the narrow paved road that winds through the campground. The
sunlight filtering through the trees reflected off the leaves
and cast an orange glow over everything. It was just stunning.
Another campground - Twin Bears Camp - is on a small, secluded
lake in a rustic, woodland setting within the Chena River State
Recreation Area. There are cabins, a dining hall, and a recreation
hall. It is usually rented by small groups and organizations
(scouting, etc.). The reflection of the cabins in the lake was
Two other campgrounds that we stopped at also took us to the
river's edge and afforded us wonderful views of foliage, water,
Beaver Pond - CHSR
Twin Bears Camp Panoramic (800px)
Beaver Pond Panoramic (800px)
I thought that my drive up Chena Hot Springs Rd. would be the
highlight of my Sunday - and it certainly was an amazing afternoon.
But the wonder didn't stop there. Later last evening, the northern
lights made their appearance in the night sky. I grabbed my
camera, my tripod, and my shoes and ran into the back yard to
capture them. Since it was my first time photographing the aurora
with my 20D camera, I don't have the settings figured out yet
for optimum results. However, a few of the photos I took turned
out well enough to share. The lights weren't as vibrant as I
know they will be in months to come, but any sight of them is
enough to thrill me.
When you look at the first photo, do you see a face? I do.
It looks as if the face is looking down at earth. Half of the
face is in shadow and the ridge of the nose is visible, along
with one eye. Seeing the face was very surreal for me - especially
because I was in a bit of a funk over the significance of the
date, and my memories of September 11th.
The last photo was an experiment in long exposures and capturing
a car's headlights as it drove down the street.
September 16th - Sunrises, Evening frost, and Phonecalls
My week at work passed quickly, which is always good because
it means that the time that Steve and I are separated is also
passing quickly. It's hard to believe it's been three weeks
already. Only 49 to go.
I had my second photojournalism class on Tuesday night and
the instructor passed out the camera kits to the students. Because
I have my own camera, I didn't need a kit. The camera included
is the Digital Rebel - the camera I bought before my 20D, and
my backup camera. He went over the different controls and buttons,
and I actually learned some stuff I wasn't aware of. (The 20D
and the Rebel are very similar) We have a project due on September
27th, but I really need to knock it out now, while we still
have autumn foliage on the trees. Especially since it's called
a 'Fall Feature'. I'm going to see about shooting some hunters
if I stumble upon them. It's moose season.
I went walking with Rachael yesterday after work and again
this morning. With my work schedule I can't do it in the morning
as often, and I've missed the exercise. I have no idea what
we're going to do when winter hits. I still take Sedona out,
but not for 5 mile walks. We're lucky if we make it a half block
and back when the temperature is hovering at minus 45F.
One of the things I love most about this time of year is sunrise
and sunset. During the summer months, we don't see sunrises
and sunsets. We don't see stars in the sky. We rarely see the
moon - and when we do, it's a white orb in a light blue sky.
To see the sky change from dark gray to orange and yellow and
pink is a fantastic way to start a new day. And watching the
reverse happen is the perfect way to say goodbye to another
Yesterday morning, I took my camera with me when I took Sedona
out for her walk. A glance out the window showed pink uplit
clouds and an orange glow over the neighborhood. Ahhh.... a
beautiful sunrise! I have been starved for them.
Streaks of clouds crossed the sky for as far as the eye could
see. And each streak of cloud was bottom lit with the orange
and yellow glow of the sun. On the opposite side of the sky,
the trees poked up into a pale pink horizon, which faded into
the blueness of a new day.
On the way to work, I pulled off at the rec center and drove
down to the boat launch. My short glimpses of the river along
the way showed fog hovering over the water. I wanted to try
to capture a photograph of it. By the time I parked and went
down to the river, the fog had dissipated a lot. The photo wasn't
the sharpest either, but you can see the mist on top of the
Steve called me this morning! It was such a pleasure to hear
his voice. We got to talk for about 20 minutes, and got disconnected
once. When he called me back, the call was much clearer and
didn't have that terrible delay that is common. I talked him
through receiving and sending photos through email. One of the
servers they use over there is top security and strips photographs
from emails. This was causing him all kinds of frustration,
as I was sending him photos of the autumn foliage and the northern
lights and he couldn't open them. We finally worked out a solution
that seems to work. We'll see how it goes.
I mailed off his third & fourth care packages today. In
one, there's a DVD player to hook up to his TV. (Now he wants
me to copy some movies to send to him). In the other is all
of his comfort foods - beef jerky, kippers and crackers (EWWWW!),
Ramen noodles. He needed powdered creamer too, since he now
has a coffee pot in his room and can at least wake up to nice
hot cup of java in the morning. I made copies of quite a few
of our music CDs and sent them off to him too. I also included
some large photos of me for his wall. His walls are bare and
he wants nothing more than my face decorating them. Awwwwww....
I think I'm gonna keep this guy. *grin* Hopefully we'll be able
to talk more often - or at least exchange emails. The days are
flying by for both of us, but the nights are hard. We're both
sleeping OK, but would sleep a whole lot better if we could
cuddle with each other. The house is certainly empty without
him. I'll be glad when this is over.
I'm on my way to Rachael's house to watch a movie with her
and Susan. She's cooking for us - something quick and easy.
We don't go all out when it comes to movies and dinner. And
that's just the way we like it. I'm so thankful for my friends.
September 17 - Full Moon
like a queen comes forth the lonely Moon
From the slow opening curtains of the clouds
Walking in beauty to her midnight throne!
~ George Croly, Diana ~
September 19th - The start of another week
Where you used to be,
there is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,
and falling in at night.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay~
I can't believe that it's already been 25 days since Steve
left. There are moments when the time has flown by and I'm thrilled
to be almost a month into this separation. And then there are
moments when Steve's absence is so deeply felt, that I wonder
how I will get through another eleven of these chunks of time.
Communication has gotten increasingly better. I still haven't
had the luxury of seeing his face via webcam, which depresses
me, but I have had the opportunity to hear his voice via telephone
a few times over the last few weeks. I've also gotten fairly
regular emails from him. Some are long and detailed, while others
are short notes telling me he loves and misses me. I am thrilled
for any bit of communication from him, and save each message
in a special folder.
Today I was ecstatic to find a 'real' letter in my mailbox!
Steve penned the letter as he flew from Kuwait to Iraq. It's
a long letter - and old news at this point - but the sight of
his handwriting made me smile from ear to ear as I read his
words. Holding sheets of paper that he had physically touched,
was the closest thing to holding his hand that I've had in almost
a month. I could easily envision his hands and his fingers.
I miss the way our fingers lace as we walk together. Or the
way his palm gently presses against the small of my back as
he guides me to a seat in a restaurant. I miss everything about
I mailed out two more care packages to Steve. This makes four
boxes over the last four days. I finally sent off a bunch of
DVD movies. I hope he enjoys them.
I'm happy to report that I'm spending Christmas in Madison,
WI with my sons and my daughter-in-law! I bought my airline
tickets last week. I'll be spending two weeks with them, and
I am thrilled! I haven't celebrated Christmas with both my boys
together since 1999. And I haven't seen Brandon since Christmas,
2002 - just before he deployed to Iraq. Now that he and Becky
are out of the Marines, I hope to have the opportunity to spend
more time with them. I'd love to have them both up to Alaska
next summer, since they didn't get the opportunity last summer,
when Chris came for a visit..
I made reservations to board Sedona at a local kennel. I'm
going to leave Airborne unattended, however my friend Dianne
will be stopping in every few days to check on her, fill her
food bowl, etc. Thankfully, Airborne is a cat that grazes. I'm
really going to miss my 'furkids' while I'm gone. But I'll get
to love and hug on my human kids, and that makes up for it.
Susan is flying out the same day I am - and on the same flights
I'm on - all the way to Minneapolis. Hopefully we'll be able
to swap seats with someone else and sit together. It would be
great to have the company. As it is now, I think we're sitting
one behind the other.
Rachael, Susan and I are planning to drive to Denali this weekend.
The weather doesn't look very promising, but the road into the
park should be open to private vehicles to mile 29.5. Maybe
we'll get lucky and the mountain will be out. I'd love to see
some bears as well. The highlight of our trip (besides the awesome
scenery) will be stopping at the Monderosa. No trip to Denali
is complete without a stop for a delicious burger on the way
It's hard to believe that autumn is nearly over. The leaves
are falling off the trees in record numbers. The trees are starting
to look forlorn and brown. Soon, I'll be wishing for the first
sparkling frost of winter to come and turn the landscape into
C.S. Lewis' Narnia.
September 23 - Mourning the loss of a Friend
2002, I joined a group on Yahoo called "Alaska
Living". I did this when Steve and I found out
that the army was moving us from Jacksonville to Fairbanks. The
owner of the group was a woman named Pamela
Joy. She also hosted another group called Northern
Composure - which helped
people cope with depression and S.A.D. - common problems when
living in places with long, dark, winters.
For nearly a year, I posted questions to the group. What kind
of clothes did I need? What did we have to do to our vehicles
to prepare for winter in AK? What kind of community was Fairbanks?
What activities were there? Pamela, and the other members were
a godsend in preparing Steve and I for this huge move. As the
months passed, the members of this group became friends, and
I looked forward to moving up here and meeting them in real
Not long after we arrived, arrangements were being made to
have a 'meet-up' of the Alaska Living group. My first
meeting with the group was held at a local diner. While Pamela
couldn't make that meeting, I was thrilled to meet some of the
lovely people I had come to know in cyberspace.
A few months later, we had another meet-up. We met at Denny's
and Pamela was able to attend. Her husband, Keith came
with her. We took up a long table and chatted for hours. Pamela
and I discussed cameras and travel. I loved hearing her stories
about "the winters it got to -60F" and "the big
9.2 earthquake in 1964" - which occured when she was living
in Anchorage. She loved Alaska - and particularly Fairbanks,
with its close knit community and small town charm.
Last summer, we had an Alaska Living BBQ at Pioneer
wrote about it in my May 2004 Journal) We rented
a pavilion and everyone brought something to share. Food and
good cheer were abundant. I got to meet several more families
in real life - people who had come to Alaska to fulfill a dream;
not just because the military had sent them here. Families who
loved living here as much as I do. People who saw and appreciated
the wonder of Alaska - even interior Alaska, without its tall
mountains and glaciers. I made wonderful friends through Alaska
Living, and I continue to make new friends through the group.
This morning, a message was posted in the group from Pamela's
dad in southern Indiana:
Last night, Thurs September 22, 2005, I talked
to Keith who is staying in the West Mark Inn, Fairbanks, AK.
His cell phone is [number deleted]. This is a condensed version
of what he told me: Wed Sep 21, 2005, he went back to work at
Golden Valley to help them out. (He retired at the end of July
from there). It is not unusual for Pamela to work on her sites
all night long and sleep during the day. Keith came home from
work and found the house full of acrid smoke and found that
the wood stove in the basement had malfunctioned. He ran upstairs
to check on Pamela and found her collapsed on the floor in the
hallway. He pulled her outside onto the deck, gave mouth to
mouth and called 911. They arrived and was unable to revive
her. She has been sent to Anchorage for an autopsy. No arrangements
have been finalized. George in Southern Indiana. 9/23/2005
It is hard to believe that she is gone. She was the driving
force in bringing together people from all over the world who
shared the same dream - Alaska. I will never forget her.
Thank you, Pamela for welcoming me to Fairbanks. Thank you
for your encouragement, your kind words, your wonderful stories,
and your positive attitude. My prayers are with your family
and the hundreds of people whose lives you have touched over
the years. You will be sadly missed.
"Death is the
opening of a more subtle life.
In the flower, it sets free the perfume;
in the chrysalis, the butterfly;
in man, the soul."
~ Juliette Adam ~
September 24th - Visiting Denali before Winter Comes
|This morning, my alarm went off at 6:30am and I
hit the snooze button. I would have liked to have slept a few
hours later. I jumped in the shower at 6:45am and five minutes
later - as shampoo was running down my face - the phone rang.
I knew it was Steve and answered it... dripping water all over
the floor and trying to keep the shampoo out of my eyes. After
exchanging "I love you"'s, Steve told me he'd call me
back in 15 minutes, when I was through with my shower. He never
called back... (I hate when that happens!)
At 8am, Rachael came for me and we headed off to Denali. But
before we left, I sent Steve an email explaining where I was
going. I was so bummed out! It didn't help that rain was falling.
We picked up Susan, headed to Starbucks, and hit the Parks Hwy.
The rain got even worse and the wind was really strong. A few
times, Rachael had to fight to keep her SUV on the road! We
also hit road construction which delayed things. Add to all
of this a temperature in the mid 30s, and we were all feeling
a bit cold and miserable. But we made an agreement to go to
Denali - no matter what - as this would be our last opportunity
before snow and ice comes. And so we trudged on.
There were literally no views as we made our way down the highway.
Fog lay low and shrouded the mountains. The rain pelted the
car and visibility was horrible. We stopped once, just outside
of Nenana, for a bathroom break. By this time the rain had become
only a drizzle. The closer we got to Healy, the lighter the
rain. The temperature was still hovering in the mid-upper 30s
and we all felt damp and cold. I am so glad that I grabbed Steve's
army arctic fleece, his fleece gloves, and my scarf - which
had a post-it note stuck to it that said "I love you, Babydoll".
(What a wonderful surprise!) I was wearing a silk undershirt,
a fleece vest, and a fleece jacket and I still had the chills!
The wind was biting.
The shops and hotels outside the park are boarded up for winter.
It's a ghost town once again. The buildings have plywood nailed
over their windows and doors. It almost looks as if a hurricane
was expected and everyone evacuated.
We turned into the park and the rain stopped. (YAY!) The clouds
were still gray and dismal and hanging low, and the wind was
still shrieking - but it was dry. The three of us were silent
for a while, our attention on the scenery stretched out around
us. Denali National Park is breathtaking no matter what the
season or the weather. I am always humbled. We knew that Mt.
McKinley wouldn't be out. It was the first time in two years
that my visit to Denali Park didn't include a view of the majestic
mountain. It was only a fleeting disappointment, as my eyes
took in the splendor surrounding us.
we are with our 'hubby dolls' sitting on the bridge at Savage
River in Denali National Park. It was so cold (notice the
gloves). I just wanted to bury myself in the fleece jacket
I was wearing. Winter is definitely just around the corner!
(Click to enlarge)
We continued the drive in good spirits - keeping our eyes peeled
for signs of wildlife. We saw plenty of ptarmigan (grouse) early
on our drive, and hoped to see some bears and moose. We stopped
along the way to take photos of the surroundings - and photos
of ourselves with our *hubby dolls*. (Of course our *husbands*
went with us - there was no way they were going to miss this
The mountains are already snowcapped and the bushes and trees
just below the peaks look like they are frosted. It was an interesting
combination of colors. Although autumn is on its way out, there
were still plenty of bushes and trees in the park that wore
their colorful leaves. These gold and red hues contrasted nicely
with the black and white and gray of the mountains. Here are
some photographs I took of the landscape in Denali (Click to
the day was mostly overcast, the views as we traveled along
the park road were beautiful. Looking out to the horizon,
one feels almost as if the mountains are a painted backdrop.
It is truly a wondrous place to visit, and I am so thankful
to live here.
The highlight of any trip to Denali, is encountering wildlife.
Besides the many ptarmigan foraging in the brush, we saw a young
bull moose with a small antler rack, a group of three bears
wandering along the riverbank, and yet another bear napping
further upstream. Then, on the way home, we saw another moose
off the highway. It was only a baby, but we didn't see mama
anywhere in the vicinity. Of course, Rachael slammed on the
brakes and pulled off the road so we could get some photos.
Unfortunately, this little moose spooked and ran off into the
woodline. But the larger moose we saw in Denali not only stood
still so we could get some photos, but also crossed the road
right in front of us - looking over his shoulder at the crazy
women snapping photos of him as he continued on his way. It's
rutting season and I'm sure his focus was on finding himself
a lady friend. Here are some photos of the wildlife we encountered:
A few times throughout the day, we stopped to take photos of
our *hubby dolls*, so that we could email them to the guys.
Since they can't be with us physically, their presence in these
little dolls was the next best thing. One of my favorite photos
is of the guys sitting in The Monderosa, outside Nenana, with
our burgers placed in front of them. I'm sure they'll get a
kick out of the photos.
The Girls and their Guys
Burgers at the Monderosa
Steve was able to call me a couple of times over the last day
or so. It's always wonderful to hear his voice on the phone.
He also sent me a really long email which was interesting and
informative. While I'm not at liberty to share much of the information
in the email, I can tell you that he is doing well, eating well,
and staying as safe as he can under the circumstances. When
he calls, the connection is usually horrible, and we talk over
each other, but I will gladly put up with those annoyances for
the opportunity to hear his voice. I'm hoping that he'll be
able to send me some photos soon. I haven't had a chance to
webcam with him, and I miss seeing his face more than anything.
It has officially been a month since he left. Eleven more to
Some words he wrote in his last email:
|The bright spot in
this third world day was the kids, as always. They wave,
mostly begging for food or candy or toys that the guys
throw.... Driving back through the little village, the
kids were waiting. Smiles and waving all of them. 30 or
40 kids tops. The lead vehicle slowed and we heard over
the radio that they were going to toss out some toys that
they had. Dolls and footballs were the toys of the day.
I saw one small girl, maybe 6 or 7 catch a doll. She raised
it high in the air and spun around and around dancing
and smiling and celebrating her catch. The look on her
face was priceless. On the down side, a few hundred yards
down the rode we slowed and tossed a football to a couple
boys. The smaller of the two caught it, and we watched
the larger boy smash the little one in the head with his
fist and take the ball when he dropped it. We just drove
on, despite the fact that all of us wanted to stop and
help the little boy, but we couldn't.
I am so thankful that we live in a free country, without the
sounds of artillery and bombs punctuating the night. I am thankful
that my children didn't have to grow up in a place where just
stepping outside the front door was dangerous. I am thankful
for the opportunity to express myself through journaling - never
worrying that my opinions or beliefs will result in being persecuted
or murdered. I am thankful for so many things.
September 28th - A Glimpse of my Husband's Face & Photojournalism
Steve has been having the hardest time setting up Yahoo Messenger
on his computer. Because he can't set it up, we can't Instant
Message each other, or use our webcams. In addition to this
problem, Steve's internet connection is so slow that he can't
email me photos that he's been taking until he resizes them
to a manageable size. So for the past month, I have not seen
a glimpse of his handsome face. I know it might seem like such
a little thing to some people, but it's a big thing to me.
The other day, I found out from Marcella that Brian had a few
photos of Steve. I also know that Brian has been able to get
in touch with Marcella via email and webcam. I asked her if
she could get copies of the photos for me. Instead, she gave
me Brian's email address and I contacted him myself.
When I saw the photos of Steve, tears came to my eyes. I wanted
to reach into the computer screen and stroke his face. I wanted
to feel the slight nubby texture of his chin and cheeks at the
end of a day. I wanted to kiss him, and hold him, and be held
by him. I don't know if seeing the photos made this separation
better or worse. I felt my heart swell with love and pride for
him. He is my husband, my soldier, my hero.
Brian and Steve
Brian - 145F
Inside a Palace
View from the Roof
In other news... my photojournalism class is going well. I'm
really enjoying myself and turned in my first assignment on
Tuesday. Our first project was a "Fall Feature". Because
it's journalism, we are required to include people in our photos.
That makes it's more difficult for me, as these people have
to be strangers. While I don't have a problem talking to people
in the grocery store line, or on the streets - approaching them
while a camera is hanging around my neck, and asking for permission
to take their photo is a whole other story. It's a bit nerve
wracking for me, but it's teaching me a lot too. While I don't
anticipate working as a photojournalist someday, I am learning
so much from my instructor, and I enjoy seeing the work of my
On Thursday, after work, I stopped by Pioneer Park in search
of some fall 'news'. I was hoping to catch the workman boarding
up the shops in preparation for winter. Instead, I found a workman
replacing the rotten wood under the train trestle in the park.
I took a few shots from afar, and then finally summoned the
courage to approach him. I introduced myself and asked if I
could take his photo for my class. Not only did he agree, but
we also had a pleasant 30 minute conversation about the park,
his maintenance business, and the nearby crabapple trees.
After finishing up my shoot at Pioneer Park, I headed home
- stopping along the way to watch some children in the playground.
The sun was shining for the first time in almost a week. The
playgrounds were full. Two brothers were playing on the monkey
bars. Suddenly the sun went behind the clouds and the temperature
seemed to drop 10 degrees immediately. Big brother helped little
brother into his jacket. And I had my photo. Here are the two
shots I turned in for the project: (Keep in mind that these
photographs are intended for use in a newspaper - to tell a
story, and not meant to be framed and displayed. I think that's
the hardest thing for me to grasp is taking photographs which
tell a story, and not necessarily photographs that have pleasing
backgrounds, lighting, etc.)
M. Joe McGilvary works on repairing
the damaged wood at Pioneer Park now that the tourist
season is over. "We like to make these repairs when
the park is quiet, and before the snow comes", says
Joe. Joe has his own maintenance and snow plow business,
which keeps him busy in the winter months.
Big brother, Kavan Wilson (7)
helps little brother Landan (3) put on a warm jacket as
temperatures dropped into the mid-40s on this second day
Next week's assignment is for an "Environmental Portrait".
An environmental portrait is just that - a photo of someone
which is taken in their 'environment', or job. I have an appointment
to go to the Red Cross Office here on post to do a shoot. I
think that the Red Cross Office is a meaningful choice - especially
since 90% of our troops are currently deployed and the Red Cross
is our lifeline during an emergency. It will be interesting
to learn a little more about the organization and the service
it performs for the military community.