25 April 2008 Echo Cove

The Alaska Friends Conference (i.e. Alaska Quakers) gathered north of Juneau this weekend for an annual spring meeting and retreat. Alaska has one of the highest density of Friends Churches in the country, but a very small number of unprogrammed Friends, the Quaker branch that Alaska Friends Conference represents. Friends Churches have ministers and hold beliefs and customs similar to other evangelical Christians. Unprogrammed Friends, who tend to be more liberal, sit together in silence until the Spirit moves someone to share. Someone estimated that AFC has only 80 formal members in the state. Sixteen of us walked out to Echo Ranch this last week.

The weekend began auspiciously with a beautiful spring evening in southeast Alaska. Several of us had left a snowstorm in Anchorage that morning (24" total!). The sunny skies of Juneau were a welcome surprise, given the normally rainy weather there. We walked 2.5 miles down the beach of Echo Cove to reach Echo Ranch at the edge of Berners Bay. Mallards, goldeneyes, and scoters floated in large groups in the cove. In the bay, humpback whales surfaced, exhaled loudly, and dove to feed.

Snow was still deep in parts of the woods and the songbirds seemed to be returning through the weekend. The shrill whistles of the varied thrushes became more constant through the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I encountered a small flock of robins while walking on the beach. On Sunday morning, I heard my first ruby-crowned kinglet of the spring.

Back here in Anchorage, Paul had cleared the driveway and those two feet of snow were rapidly melting in 45 degree weather. The first robin has returned to our neighborhood and has been singing constantly. The grape hyacinths are blooming under the eave on the south side of the house. Spring is ever so slowly working its way north.

19 April 2008 Talkeetna Goldsworthy

We walked through the woods on a hard firm crust in Talkeetna this weekend. I spotted this natural bit of art on Saturday morning; it looked like something Andrew Goldsworthy would have done if he had the chance to venture into the boreal forest in winter. This small spruce has long ago died and been buried in snow year after year until it's in a permanent arched shape. My luck was to walk by just as the morning sun was at the right angle to form a circle of the tree and its shadow.

My biking friends might see a misshapen bike wheel with spokes. Soon after snapping this photograph I headed to the Upper Susitna Earth Day event to set up a booth for The Nature Conservancy. From some of the presentations, exhibits, and conversations at Earth Day, I might say this was the circle of life -- death and rebirth in a new form (through light) all in one.

I just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. If we all read it, we'd revolutionize the food industry in this country because 1) we'd be sickened by how unnaturally our food is produced through mass production and 2) we'd want to put our planet back in balance. To me, the most fascinating section of the book is about a farm in Virgina where livestock and pasture feed each other and produce delicious foods that feed people. No waste leaves the farm because nothing is waste -- cow dung provides grubs for chickens, which fertilize the grass as they feed from the dung, and then the lush grass later feeds the cows again. The farmer moves the livestock in a circular dance from pasture to pasture and eventually to someone's table in the form of egg, broiler, or steak. Light grows grass, the main crop, and creates life anew.

Hmm, when I took this picture, I wasn't thinking about food production, just how nature forms art. But circles can be powerful symbols. And on a spring day in Alaska, the mind can easily be turned to thinking about how to make this Paradise last forever.

12 April 2008 Chugach State Park

Some time back in March, the driveway and roads were clear of ice, the snow had disappeared under the trees, and we started riding our bikes again. Paul even suggested changing over the tires when we got flats in 2 tires on the car. That seemed like crazy talk to me, despite the beautiful weather. Even the daffodils were coming up on the south side of the house.

Thankfully, caution (or laziness) prevailed and we left the snow tires on. After the snowfall on the 5th and 6th, we got a another dump on Wednesday the 9th. It was the worst morning commute of the winter. I think a lot of people had removed their winter tires back in March. The newspaper called the spring snow a "sucker punch."

A dusting very early Friday morning made for a nice ski for me and my friend Jo-Ann in Chugach State Park that afternoon. We both try to take every other Friday off and often ski or bike together, depending on the season. On Saturday, Paul and I headed back to Chugach and ventured on the Middle Fork Trail, a longer tour near tree line. The route can often be icy but Saturday's conditions were near perfect -- both with snow and sunny temperatures.

And now on Tax Day we are getting another snow fall! The prediction is for 1 - 3" and already an inch has accumulated on the deck. This storm is supposed to pass tonight, but current visibility is about two blocks. My bike club has its first ride tomorrow (to celebrate Jo-Ann's 41st birthday) but I'm wondering if I ought to stick my skis on the car just in case.

5 April 2008 Anchorage

So if April showers bring May flowers, what do April snow falls bring?

April started off with a bang and 8" of fresh snow in our part of town. On Saturday we started our "spring" cleaning inside the house. Dust from the fireplace demo and Paul's winter woodworking had found some corners and dark places that I hadn't reached in previous cleaning attempts. While we moved furniture, polished wood, and vacuumed, the snow kept falling.

On Sunday, when the snow seemed to be letting up, Paul cleared the driveway and we went for a ski in some great conditions.

April 2008 Remembering Alex

Amazing how a 12 lb creature (7 lb at the end) can be such a large presence in a big house. It's awfully quiet around here and my lap is often cold.

Thanks, Lola, for lighting a candle for Alex.