Month: July 2011

Kids and Earthquakes

My eldest granddaughter commented on FB that she slept through a 5.4 quake when it rattled through Anchorage this week.  It brings to mind all the times her mother and I experienced quakes of varying magnitudes when we lived there.

I found out that it was rather a jouncy, bouncy one from reading news reports. “Things were swinging pretty good and shaking, like pictures on the wall, bottles rattling – and my blood pressure went up at least 20 points,” said Pam Rannals, a bartender in Talkeetna, about 30 miles from the epicenter [which was near Willow]. “We had bears in the parking lot last night and now the earthquake. Those are the talk of the town.” (from the AP)

And there we have it, the reason I will always be a little homesick for Alaska.  I could do without bears in the parking lot, but I loved the two-foot tall ravens who used to stalk the garbage cans and rip the tops off if they were not firmly latched on – apparently garbage is really good scavenge!  I had a family of moose in my back yard one year (twins!) and even though it made getting to the car exciting – or impossible – at times, I still laugh at some of the things we experienced.  Like the time I was at a nearby convenience store, walked out and was nose to nose with one of the twins. I yelled with surprise. He jumped.  I bolted back into the store. He ran around the icy parking lot slipping and sliding, then dashed across a local road where the cars were parting like the red sea before Moses to let him through. Later that day we eyed each other with embarrassment.  I don’t know which of us had been the most surprised – him or me. I’m just glad Mama was not there at the time!

I am a sucker for the eagles that are all over the place. Wherever there is water and good fishing there are eagles.

I used to love to drive down the Seward Highway to the cliffs where, in the summer, the little Dahl sheep would come to the edge and look down at the silly humans who were by the Inlet side of the road, watching the water for Beluga whales.  They’d spraddle their legs and look down for a few seconds until Mama came along and nudged them away.  “Don’t stare at the humans, dear, it’s not polite.”

Once, lost on back roads by the airport, we happened upon a majestic bull moose with water weeds dangling from his antlers.  I remember agonizing that I didn’t have a camera in the car.  We just sat there and watched him for probably five minutes until he got tired of being admired and wandered off.

And then there were the earthquakes. One tipped over a neighbor’s china hutch. Mostly, they just rocked and rolled and sounded like a freight train under your feet – only freight trains don’t end up rumbling by with a finishing Bang! Bang! Slam! My daughter was the queen of diving into an open doorway and holding on tight, despite the fact we always lived in the area of town which was built on bedrock rather than soil subject to liquefaction.

Did you know that it is hard to feel a minor earthquake when you’re driving a car?

Yanno, I envy my granddaughter, even though she slept through it.

The Bug

Yesterday when I left the house we had one dog.  When I got back, we had two.  ??

She’s the formerly homeless five-month-old niece of the first dog.  Uncle Duke isn’t quite sure what to make of this.  The Bug is just a little gal.   Oh, goodie, another dog to train.  Here Bug! Sit Bug! Don’t poop on the floor Bug!  Good girl. Duke, don’t be so rough with the bug, she’s just a baby…

Boston’s Inferno

Heat presses down on Boston like a steam iron on high. The air almost congeals with its load of moisture and the sullen atmosphere surrounds everything with the impression of great depth and pressure weighing down the world, as if from the depths of an ocean, heated by a boiling cauldron blackened by dragon’s breath. Oppressive heat.

Walk out of an air-conditioned building and the steaming liquid air grabs you by the throat, wringing the fluids and breath right out of you.  Walking Boston is hot. Descending into the bowels of the subway is even hotter and sweat bathes the body almost immediately, although which is sweat and which is condensation is the question. At least above ground there’s some air movement. Below it’s like entering into the caverns of the goblins, trains roaring, the ground shaking, heat and moisture gathering to mist over glasses.

This winter people will complain about the bone chilling cold, the heavy snow to shovel, the ice to chip away, the fender benders. Remember summer.


You forgot…

The shop foreman came in and apologized that I had to listen to him yelling at his guys. (they were all late)

I looked up from my iPhone and said, “You forgot.” meaning I can’t hear that. He smiled and said “then you don’t know the sound is off on the TV?” but I did know, only I don’t care. So the sound is still off.

I offered to teach him sign language. He smiled and said he knew sign language, but none he could use with me. We laughed. Dave is a great guy.

He should offer to take over for Click and Clack when they retire. He says he is not interested and they make him crazy. Laughing. (he would be soooo good on Car Talk)

Magical Mystery Tour

Imagine.  Sit somewhere comfy, close your eyes, lean your head back, breathe a cleansing breath and for just a few minutes, let your mind explore what it would be like to be 95, half blind, half-deaf, experiencing early-stage dementia, medicated to the gills because you’ve got Sundowner’s syndrome, and you’re trying to make sense of a world in which nothing makes sense.

Imagine trying to make sense of traffic that is only partially seen, but has vivid hues (tree service truck, dump truck, Zoots van, etc.) and you figure with all that size and color it must be a parade! Actually, that’s very good processing based on an injured brain handling blurry images.

Imagine seeing so poorly that you’ve got to guess where your food is and not having the ability to learn the skill-set the blind use, so you’re trying to spoon pudding from your glass of water and trying to drink your pudding.

Consider the indignity of being unable to drive a car, but having your long-term memory be so clear you can give the driver directions as to where to go – and still having the tact to not say, “And while you’re at it, you can go to hell too.”

Think of the thrill of discovery – you really do have your glasses – in your pocket. And no, you didn’t put them there while shaving, which you actually didn’t do today, but because the doctor asked you to take them off while putting eye drops in..

At times you’re so clear on so many things, mostly things of the distant past, so why can’t you remember where you live? Where is your car?  Where the did cane and wheelchair come from? You helped build structural monuments that exist around you, but you live in a “Memory Ward” with locked doors.

Was this what the song meant after all? “The magical mystery is waiting to take you away, waiting to take you away, hoping to take you away, dying to take you away…”

Hug an elderly vet today. Hug an elderly parent today. Hug a grandmother or grandfather today.  Hug a Mom or Dad today. The other operative song is “All you need is love…” Isn’t that the truth.

Once a Marine always a Marine

His eyes close. Flicker open. Close again. Sleep comes. He’s an Eagle Scout, building a teepee. The day is warm, the other Scouts are near and he can smell supper cooking, the twining odors of meat, vegetables, and bread making his stomach growl.

Another twitch of the lids and he feels the oppressive heat and humidity of the Mekong Delta pressing in on him from all sides, filling his lungs with air so thick breathing is work. There’s blood. He sits up and looks at the blood from the land mine shrapnel.

Once a Marine, always a Marine. 

Memories like a slide show. Ground control at a Space Center.  Interdicts on the high seas in a Coast Guard cutter.  Smiling faces of his children beaming up at him. Daddy. Daddy.  Working in a garden store. Desensitization therapy for PTSD.  Bicycling.  Holding up a sign on a corner “Veteran will work for food.” Police politely ask him to move along.

He wakes in a strange room with strange people. Smells of the recent dinner comfort him.  He’s full and warm in a room where all but one is a stranger. Two women pack food from the meal, pull frozen food from the freezer and fill a cooler. The others talk about feeding the homeless vets in a nearby shelter. They talk about how fortunate they are that most of them are employed again. How can they help the unemployed or partially employed among them?  They notice he’s awake and ask him sit with them and be a part of their community.

It is late. He’s got food in a bag. He’s got money in his pocket.  Come back. He starts his ancient car. The food pantries say he makes too much money for help, even though he has no money left over to eat. The Druid woman he met made sure he was fed to bursting and he’ll have food for the rest of the month – some she will fix for him. When he’s back on his feet he’ll help feed the homeless vets. He’s promised.  Marines keep their promises. Semper Fi.

This is someone else’s story through my eyes from memories shared and stories told. It is a shameful tale of how our country treats our veterans. Is there some reason men and women we send to war and serve our country with honor and distinction are homeless or hungry, neglected, and all too often alone? The Fifth Century Reconstructionist community is vanishingly small, but we believe in honoring contracts to provide for our warriors who served and at the very least we can help feed them and help them find jobs.


The Wet, Wild, and Wonderful…

Hot summer night. Storms rolling in. Rain pelting down so hard at times cars pull to the side of the road until the drivers can see the cars in front of them. Driving to ASL class, avoiding the Mass Pike, working my way through Boston on the way to Allston. Just past Boston University the rain is now a soft drizzle, more space than wet. At a stop light two young women in tank tops and shorts start to cross the street when the heavens open up and water pours down, drenching them instantly.  Long hair plastered to her back, one looks up into the sky, arms slightly behind her  and then she lifts her arms  over her head and dances across the street, twirling in the water, splashing in the puddles, face raised to the wet.

Instantly, I am transported. She’s given herself over to the experience. She’s giving herself up to the absurdity and glory of it all, the rain, the wind, the soaking she’s gotten. She’s experiencing the moment, reveling in the wet and the wild.  She’s an angel unaware, giving herself over to Mother Nature. She’s every grandmother’s granddaughter, she’s every mother’s daughter, she’s the nature spirit and the water sprite.

Another girl walks by with a small paper bag over her head and I wonder if she realizes what she’s missing, huddled under brown paper.  She can’t see what there is to experience in the wet, wild, wonderful ecstatic experience of the moment.

And then, in a heartbeat, the light changes, the traffic moves and the eternal moment of transcendance becomes a memory, albeit a vivid one. And I wonder…does the water sprite’s mother know she dances in the rain?  Will she teach her grandchildren to love what you cannot change?  I hope so.

American Sign Language

The first time I learned American Sign Language (ASL) it was from the Deaf Community in Pocatello, Idaho. Despite being a Hard Of Hearing (HOH) little kid and young adult I met my first deaf person in college. Tom went to vo-tech while I was a freshman in general studies. We both lived on campus and had mutual friends. I remember how incredibly expressive he was and how no one bothered to learn how to communicate with him.

One day I went to the Chair of the Audiology Department and learned finger spelling. I taught my roommate and practiced for weeks, too shy to use it with Tom lest I be thought lacking.  Instead, the first time I waved at him and signed “Hi” he lit up like a Christmas tree and ran across the street – narrowly missing being mowed down by a car.

My introduction to the Deaf Community was both rapid and awesome. Deaf culture emphasizes the needs of the community rather than the individual. Everyone I met was gracious and welcoming, adding to my trove of knowledge. I learned how to help them in return. As a “half-deaf” I had enough hearing to interpret for my newfound extended family .

Tom left for a job Salt Lake City. I left for a different college. In the years between then and now I never found another Deaf Community and gradually lost most of my sign despite teaching my daughter and taking random ASL classes in Anchorage.  Even the “baby sign” my two younger grandchildren learned wasn’t enough to get me back on track.

Last night I started my first class in ASL at Deaf Inc. It was like the years peeled away. Signs flooded back unbidden. At the end of the class I was grinning like a madwoman. I’m excited about connecting with the Deaf Community in the area.

I can’t wait for class tomorrow night!

Second Day Delivery

Is it just me, or would one imagine that if one ordered something and paid for second day delivery they’d get it two business days after the order was placed?  So if I ordered it Thursday it would arrive Monday, right?

Well, not if the person you order it from does not send it until Friday!  My order is in a bin full of items which have not yet been unpacked.  Tomorrow.  No earlier.

So now I will not have my book for American Sign Language class tonight.  Nor can I find the old one that isn’t up to date.

I’m going to pretend it is Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Argh!  Now send for Hedwig to get the necessary item.  That works, right?

White Barn Owl Landing

Where is Hedwig when you need her?