christmas 10

We spent a quiet Christmas in Talkeetna. Many of our friends were out of town, which meant we were able to stay at a house with running water (including hot!), electricity, and a thermostat. The comforts were much appreciated for the long cold weekend. We did miss our cozy cabin, but we were a short walk away and brought a few of its comforts over. We dined with friends on Christmas Eve and night.

With the cold and short daylight hours, our outdoor activities were subdued, too. Paul and I snowshoed on Saturday and decided that the route was solid enough from previous snowshoers, cold temperatures, and recent wind for the bhikkhu to join us on Sunday. The three of us toured the dismal swamp and numbered lakes 1 through 3. We met up with a friend and his dog for the latter half of the loop. I had hoped to photograph George's frosty beard, but my camera battery died in the cold.

I hope that your Christmas was filled with friends, comforts, and time outside with those you love in a place you love.

merry merry to you!

you can click on our Christmas card to see it larger.

thanksgiving 10 family history

Many of us in Alaska have left family far behind in the lower 48. Some people come here to forget their family and start over. Even for those of us with happy childhoods and loving parents, at times living in Alaska makes it seem like we're the beginning of the line, defining a new path in the north.

When I visit my mom in upstate New York, however, I am immersed in family, heritage, and a history rooted in place. My mom and stepfather live in two old farmhouses in upstate New York. One they bought just as I finished college, and they moved from the Finger Lakes area, where I spent most of my youth, to the northern edge of the Adirondack park. I haven't seen that house in years because early in this decade, my mom and her siblings inherited the family homestead in Verona with a house built circa 1815. My mom eventually became the sole owner of what we have always called "the Farm."

My mom's Uncle Ed acquired the Farm in the 1950s and slowly worked on it for decades. He added electricity and plumbing and a 'modern' kitchen in the 1970s. He had hoped to live there with his mother, my great-grandmother, but she died before they could move there. Finally in the early 1980s Ed and his sister Hazel moved in. Aunt Hazel was an outgoing, stylish woman who played a mean game of cards called Spite and Malice (which as a child I thought was Spike and Alice). Unfortunately her brother wouldn't let her paint or hang pictures, and the only room in the house that didn't look like a furniture store was her bedroom.

Visiting the Farm as a kid was always a treat because it had barns with sleighs, spinning wheels in the high attic, and another attic packed with stuff. A kid could hope there was some sort of treasure there somewhere. Now visiting the Farm is a treat because my mom has turned a handsome old house into a home. My step-father Jack installed a wood stove in one of the fireplaces, making the house cozier than it ever was before. They have painted several rooms in bright warm colors. On this recent trip, my brother and I got to give opinions on which green to paint the living room.

Jack has also created trails throughout the woods and dug two ponds. Some of the land is still cultivated by farmers who rent the land from my parents. The harvested soybean and corn fields attract deer and wild turkeys, which in turn bring coyotes. After Thanksgiving dinner, we walked through the woods and circled the fields. Jack showed us where the bucks paw the ground to mark their territory.

My family has also marked this land as ours, with houses, barns, fields, and a family cemetery. These things are only slightly more permanent than the deers' marks, but much more noticeable to other humans. They say that a family has lived here and cared for this place.

19-21 nov 10 pennsylvania color

A week before Thanksgiving I flew back East. My first stop was the Philadelphia area to attend a workshop at Pendle Hill, a Quaker center. Clerking is a form of facilitation that is part of the Quaker decision making process. I've wanted to take this workshop for two years to not only become more effective at our Anchorage Quaker Meeting but also in my work, where I facilitate a lot of meetings. Wouldn't it be nice to feel centered, confident, and joyful in all of those meetings?

I left a gray/brown and white world in Anchorage. We already had more than a foot of snow on the ground at home. In Pennsylvania, fall hadn't quite ended. I felt like I'd stepped back in time. The Pendle Hill campus is about 23 acres and I circled it daily on the perimeter trail, basking in the glow of the remaining leaves on the gingko and maple trees.

The trees that brought me to a halt were the Japanese maples. I collected a dozen flaming leaves over the weekend and scattered them on the desk in my room. I even enclosed a few in a card home to Paul. There is nothing like this in the Alaska fall scene. After the workshop ended on Sunday, I walked to the Swarthmore Campus in the next village over. From the train* I had noticed a large woods next to campus and Pendle Hill provided trail maps. I walked along Crum Creek, dodging wet labrador retrievers and runners. I crossed under the railroad bridge and toured the holly collection of Scott Arboretum. Then I walked through the campus, which reminded me of my alma mater Cornell. When I noticed that the sun was getting low, I headed back into the woods for a last quiet evening at Pendle Hill.

*if I'd taken any train photos, I'd post an entry about how wonderful it was to use real public transportation (something else we don't have in Alaska). Amtrak took me north to Utica, NY, to spend Thanksgiving with family.