14 mar 09 The Middle Fork

On Friday afternoon I found the antidote to the work stress that had been steadily increasing all week. My friend Jo-Ann suggested that we drop a car at Glen Alps and ski down the Middle Fork trail to a car we'd leave at Prospect Heights. With a couple of inches of fresh snow, the conditions on the exposed and often windy trail might be just perfect. And they were. The fog that shrouded our houses didn't reach to Glen Alps, and amazingly, there wasn't any wind there.

Jo-Ann after climbing to the east side of the valley of the South Fork of Campbell Creek

The Middle Fork is also one half of a nice loop between Prospect Heights and Glen Alps. With such perfect conditions, Paul and I returned on Saturday to ski up the Middle Fork and down the Powerline Pass trail for a 2.5 hour tour. Clouds formed, dissipated, and moved across the peaks, and sometimes I just stopped to watch the change in light.
Paul welcoming in Lucky Cat fashion at the Middle Fork of Campbell Creek

Currently in our study of Buddhism, Paul and I are reading about the Middle Way, the eightfold path of self-discipline, self-development, and self-purification that leads to a cessation of suffering. On Friday and Saturday, I found the Middle Fork was another path to the cessation of stress. It might not get me to Nirvana permanently, but the Middle Fork and perfect Anchorage 'spring' weather took me there for a few hours this weekend.

12 mar 09 Repossessing Balance

This economic downturn didn't seem so scary to me last fall. With Barack Obama being elected president and a democratic senator emerging in Alaska, the world's future looked so hopeful. We traveled over the New Year and heard more stories of crisis and how tourism was dropping in Asia. We felt fortunate to be there and have jobs to return to, and we went on our merry way.

Even after we returned to Alaska, I wasn't worried. One of my co-workers expressed her fear about what might happen at our non-profit and I was surprised. Then a week later one departure was announced. Another week and two more layoffs. So this situation was going to get personal. People I knew, admired, liked, people who were part of my daily life, were going to be hurt. I wasn't worried about my own job but the future didn't look so bright.

How do you keep the fear and stress from rising? I can rationalize that I shouldn't worry, but then I talk with that friend who's out of work or hear another story on the radio about somebody losing their home or retirement. Short of tuning out, what is there?

One of the things that has brought me hope has been the chance circumstance that a radio interview program called Speaking of Faith airs about the same time we've been driving back from Talkeetna these past few weekends. The guests are religious folk, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist; authors and poets; scientists and bankers; economists and secular humanists. The discussion eventually gets around to whatever 'faith' is for them. It may be God, natural laws of science, goodness of people.

SoF has a series called Repossessing Virtue where the conversation centers on whether the current economic crisis is also a moral and spiritual crisis. The answers to that question have fascinated me. So much so that I've been visiting the website to listen to more past guests. It almost seems like the show's producers are screening the guests for a combination of optimism and wisdom. Their individual answers vary but there's definitely a common theme -- reexamine what gives your life meaning. For most of us, it's not our bank account or our paycheck. It's our relationship to our family, friends, and community. For many of us, it's also our communion with the natural world (see the Wendell Berry and Anne Frank pieces in the right-hand column.)

If I had named the series, I think it would have been Repossessing Sanity or Repossessing Balance or Repossessing Values.

6 mar 09 snowy perch

After mentioning our outhouse in my last post, I was inundated with requests with requests for photos of it. In my dreams. We did remodel it last year, however, and it's probably better looking than you expected. I painted new walls in colors that I took from a card from Wolf Creek Printery and we replaced the plywood roof with translucent corrugated green plastic. I'm sharing a photo of it that I took this past weekend. The Wendell Berry poem is on the left (if you're looking in), a poster with a Gandhi quote on the back wall ("Be the change you want to see in the world"), and Wolf Creek art on the right. There is no door so when you're sitting, you've got a good view of a lovely birch forest. I've watched moose pass through the woods from this perch.

Talkeetna has an excellent snow base for skiing. The path to the cabin and to the outhouse is like a maze. We had planned to preview this year's Oosik route on Saturday, but a bad head cold has sapped me. We'll still go up tomorrow and ski something shorter. Then tomorrow night we'll be potlucking Asian style with our traveling companions.