Hello my dear blogger friends! Interior Alaska is coming alive with events, activities, sunshine, longer days, and even some warm(er) weather too. This means, I’ve been outdoors enjoying everything I can after a long winter. While many places in the Lower 48 anxiously await spring and are seeing the first bulb shoots appearing in the garden, we are still cloaked in 2′ of snow in many places (deeper in others). This snow will be here another two months, give or take a week or so. But on days like today, when the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the temperature is above zero, it feels like spring to me.
I have so much to write about, and so many photos to share. I’ve sat here several times trying to get a blog entry written, but then something comes up and I lose my train of thought, or I pack up my camera and take off with friends to find more beautiful Alaska adventures. I always feel a little guilty at the end of the day for neglecting this blog. Thank you to all my loyal readers and followers who have stuck with me over the years, even as my entries become more spaced out. You might want to grab a cup of tea (if you’re so inclined). This is going to be a long entry…
A BEAUTIFUL GIFT
One of my blog readers, was stationed here at Fort Greely (near Delta) for 14 months in 1970-71. He loved his time in AK, and never had the chance to come back. He was sent directly to Vietnam from here, and he thought about Alaska constantly. Bruce found my blog one day - years ago - and often commented on my entries and photos.
He began crafting these mats and wall-hangings 30 years ago. If you’re about the same age I am or older, you may remember making chains from gum wrappers. We used to fold and connect the wrappers by sliding one through the other.
Bruce has been creating these beautiful works of art using colored paper instead of wrappers. In addition to cutting the individual pieces from large sheets of paper, he also layers them with thin cellophane so that the mats/wall-hangings are water resistant.
He lays out the design on graph paper, and then painstakingly counts each square to determine where to overlay other colors - such as the yellow of the stars on the Alaska flag. Each row (chain) is hand sewn to the next row by weaving thread between the small links. This mat, that he made especially for me, took him about 400 hours to construct. He worked on it over the course of 6 months, folding and connecting as he watched TV and when he had some free time.
In the photo of the mat, I put a pen next to it, so you could see the size. It will have a new home on my office desk, under protective glass, where it will be safe.
Bruce included his phone number in a hand-written note, and asked that I call him so he could explain better how it was constructed. Of course I was thrilled to have his phone number so that I could thank him by phone, instead of an impersonal email. We talked for quite a while.
I thanked him profusely for such a sweet gift - especially one hand made specifically for me. I am so humbled by his kindness and generosity and I couldn’t stop gushing over such a unique and special gift.
But what really touched my heart is when he thanked ME for bringing him stories and photos from a place he has been missing for more than 40 years. He told me that reading my blog is a wonderful escape for him, and has made him feel better when ill, lifted his spirits when feeling down, and taken him back to a time in his life when he had the good fortune to live in a place as beautiful as Alaska.
My life has been touched by so many beautiful people, and it warms my heart to know that I have touched the lives of others too. Thank you again Bruce for this beautiful gift. You have really touched my heart with your generosity and creativity.
“There is a destiny that makes us brothers, no one goes his way alone; all that we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own.” ~ Edwin Markham
We have had a wonderful aurora season, and now that we’re in March, I’m hoping we have many more of these incredible displays of color in the night sky. March typically is a great month to view the aurora, and tourism has spiked as people from all over the world visit the interior with the hopes of catching a glimpse of this amazing beauty.
These photos were taken at various times over the last week and a half. These were all taken from my driveway, which is quite convenient when I don’t feel like driving anywhere in the cold. I’m also able to view and photograph the aurora in my pajamas too - which is an added perk. (Of course a parka and the necessary outer wear is also a part of my ensemble).
The ice park opened last week, and the single block sculptors were hard at work for several days creating beautiful works of art from ice. On Thursday night, they judged them and awarded prizes. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to visit the ice park as I have been busy with appointments and other events. However, I did go to the park for a photography meetup before the sculptors and carvers arrived. A few things were already on display, created by local volunteers for the ice park, and I snapped some photos while at the meetup. There will be more to follow, as I plan on going to the park tonight to view and photograph the single blocks.
After months of no moose visitors to my yard, a cow moose and her young bull calf wandered through a week or so ago. She pulled at the bent over birch saplings to get the still clinging (but dead) leaves from the topmost branches, and nibbled on smaller branches and shoots. Her calf stayed more hidden in the trees and bushes so I wasn’t able to get a good photograph of him. He was small - most definitely last year’s calf - and you could see the nubs on his head where antlers will grow. Mama looked quite heavy with calf(s), which means she’ll be pushing this youngster away once she gives birth. Poor little guy; I hope he survives. I also hope mama will come through my yard with her newborns once they arrive in late May or June.
FESTIVAL OF NATIVE ARTS
My friend Julie and I attended the Festival of Native Arts last Friday and stayed for a little while to enjoy some of the dancing and fiddling. I think we both enjoyed the littlest dancers the most. Sweet, cherub-faced babies, held close to their moms, enjoying the dancing and music and joyfulness. The stories that were told with dance were interesting and entertaining. It was a wonderful night!
MEETUPS WITH ONLINE FRIENDS
One of the best things about blogging, and facebooking, is having the opportunity to meet online friends in person. I am always open to meeting new people, and I get quite a few emails and private messages from people who are traveling to Alaska, and would like some information about things to see and do. Most of the time, we’re able to meet in person - even if only for a cup of coffee or a meal. Sometimes we can even hang out for a day - or several.
This past week, I met up with an online friend Gail and her friend Elaine. These two ladies have been friends for more than 35 years and even though they live on opposite coasts of the US, they were able to plan a winter trip to Alaska to view the northern lights, do some dogsledding, and to experience some of the other activities going on around town. Gail messaged me to let me know when she’d be in town, so we could set up a time and place to meet.
The IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) Winter World Championships were taking place here in North Pole while they were visiting, so we decided to meet at the track. My friends Julie and Amanda went with me, and less than 15 minutes after meeting, we were all chatting like we had known each other forever.
We stayed around to watch a couple of the teams go off the starting line, but they were having a hard time keeping their feet warm (mine get cold if I’m not moving around too). They also planned to visit the ice park that afternoon, so we couldn’t visit for too long. We decided we’d get together a couple of days later (last night), for First Friday events. They also graciously invited the three of us to their cabin north of Fairbanks after we made the First Friday rounds with the hopes that the aurora would make an appearance. How wonderful! We were all excited, as their cabin had clear views of the north sky, and we’d have a warm place to retreat to if we got too cold.
As luck would have it, Friday arrived with snow. And more snow. And even more snow. All the way into the evening. Not one bit of clear sky at all. Clouds everywhere. We were so disappointed! However, we weren’t going to let that stop us from hanging out with Gail and Elaine on their final night in Alaska.
Julie drove (thank you Julie!) as she has four wheel drive and a car that can handle slick roads and deep(er) snow. We drove up the Steese highway in blinding snow. We didn’t have too hard of a time finding the Aurora Borealis Lodge near Cleary Summit. We arrived soon after Gail and Elaine got there, and they took us into the main lodge to meet owners Mok (and wife Akiko) and Logan. We chatted for quite some time about Fairbanks, the aurora, all the people we knew in common (Fairbanks is not that big a city!) and so much more. Then we went back to Gail’s room to enjoy some snack food and wine and keep our fingers crossed for the aurora. It didn’t look good.
Thirty minutes later, I looked out the door and there were stars!!! Not only that, but a faint band of green was arcing over the hills in the distance. YAY! We quickly pulled on our heavier winter gear and grabbed our cameras from the car, setting up our tripods on the huge deck outside the cabins. The lights grew a bit in intensity and we began to see some magenta shades with the green. A small corona burst above us. It was quite damp though - almost as if it were sleeting. The lights soon died down, a brief but lovely show. Considering we had no anticipation of seeing the aurora, we were thrilled with the short displays we did see!
Gail and Elaine flew out of Alaska this morning, making their way back to Southern California and Maryland. They are in the air as I type this. I know they had an awesome visit, and I do hope they’ll come back again in the summer, so we can show them the splendor of Alaska when it’s a little warmer.
Another online friend, and fellow photographer, Glenn, is also in town this week - visiting from Las Vegas. I met up with Glenn a few days ago, and took him to Chena Lakes to scout out some places to view and photograph the aurora from. It was a beautiful sunny day, with blue skies and temps in the 20s. Spring! *grin*
We walked a little way on the x-country ski trail, stopping to take photos of the gorgeous birch trees. We hoped to see a moose, but no luck there. I also took him into North Pole so he could check out some of the ‘Christmas’ touches throughout town (candy cane light poles, decorations, etc). We stopped at the Santa Claus House so he could pick up a few things for his daughter.
I love the trails at Chena Lakes in all seasons, but there’s something really special about walking them in the winter when it’s quiet and snow blankets the ground. I plan to go back soon and do some more walking before everything melts away.
We drove to the race track to see if there was any mushing still going on, and got there just in time to see the littlest mushers race. These little kids are SO CUTE! There were only three or four participating so it didn’t take long to see them all race the shorter distance to the finish line. One little musher’s dog decided to stop along the way. Mom had to run up and get the dog’s attention to make him continue to the finish line. Funny!
As you can see, I have been a very busy girl! And it promises to only continue as the weather warms, the days grow longer, and (hopefully soon) the snow begins to melt. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the aurora and stars yet, but I am looking forward to 24 hour days and endless hours to hike and fish and camp and roadtrip. I’m also looking forward to dry roads, as I’m quite tired of having a death grip on my steering wheel when I venture out.
In my next entry, I will have some ice sculpture photos to share, and perhaps some more aurora too.
Thank you for being patient with me!
Until next time…