2015 Year of the Move

Our year revolved around completing our house and shop project in Talkeetna, selling the house in Anchorage, and moving to Talkeetna. The sale and move happened in June, and the projects ... well, is a house ever really complete? Here are some highlights of the year ~

Technically we unpacked the last box in the house in October when Paul completed a shelving unit for the stereo and all the various music medium we own.  There are still boxes of books in the storage room that need a place to be.
By the end of September, all the siding and trim was on the house and grass seed was sprouting all around.  This photo was taken from the railroad tracks, looking over the swamp to our place on the ridge (house on left, shop/barn on right).

Biking and snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaii in February has become almost an annual break for us from the Alaska winter.  For Alaskans, visiting Hawaii is like New Yorkers going to Florida to escape snow and cold.  With one flight, we can step into a warm, lush, humid tropical setting.

In mid-May I joined friends to bike the road into Denali National Park.  For a short period in the spring and fall,the road is closed to vehicles, providing a good mountain bike ride on gravel roads up and over passes.  Spring had not arrived yet - the rivers were still mostly ice covered and you can see the the plants had not leafed out yet.

In June, just 2 weeks after we moved, I visited Alaska's Emerald Isle - Kodiak - with  friends.  We drove to the ends of the few roads to wander on remote beaches and saw the famous Kodiak brown bear and the less-famous bison. 
This was a warm, dry summer -- great for checking out many of the local lakes for cooling off in the evening.

One half of my parents visited in August.  The warm weather continued and we installed the umbrella on the picnic table to shade dinners from the hot evening sun.

In August the Alaska Dirt Divas made the annual backcountry trip to a cabin near Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park.  Biking on a regular basis with these friends is one of the things I'll miss about living in Anchorage.

We did a little camping.  Over the 4th of July weekend we rafted the Susitna River with friends.

Over Labor Day weekend we camped in Seward with friends.  While the guys fished, the women hiked with dogs.

In October I visited the other half of my parents in upstate NY.  The fall colors were gorgeous. More about that in my last post.

oct 15 falling in love all over again

A week in the Adirondacks of New York and I've fallen in love with my home state all over again.
an idyllic back yard

Mom and Jack consult a map at the fire tower on the top of Azure Mountain

view from the top of Azure Mountain

Higley Flow (a flow refers to an inundated area above a dam.  Higley is along the Raquette River, which has many dams)

Mom and Jack have an apple tree that was dropping some big delicious apples.  This was the biggest - one pound!

scenic North Country farm house

May Day 15 life on the ridge begins

My selection of today as our "first day living on the ridge in Talkeetna" is somewhat arbitrary (and it's not technically a ridge but more on that below).  Paul has been here in Talkeetna more than in Anchorage for the last 8 months.  I've been mostly in Anchorage and most of our stuff still resides in that house,  But all that will change soon.  Earlier this week we signed a contract to sell the Anchorage house, and the move north is finally feeling real.

So why did I pick May 1st?  For one, I am in Talkeetna today and woke up here this morning. And May Day is a celebration of spring, new life.  This will be a new phase of our life.  And lastly, this evening is the start of Talkeetna's annual Birdathon event.  We've got 24 hours starting at 6 pm to identify as many species of birds as we can.

For months I've looked forward to this weekend with the hopes that we'd spend the evening on the deck, observing birds in our new neighborhood and relaxing with friends.  On Saturday we'd ramble through the woods and along creek and lake shores, using the birding as an excuse to be outside much of the weekend.  The weekend would be a balance of house work and recreation, with the scales tipping towards play and relaxation.  The months of house remodel, shop building, and house selling -- mostly working indoors -- would be behind us.

And it almost is. A few details remain on this house, but we could move our stuff in tomorrow.  The Anchorage house is tidier and cleaner than ever and we found buyers who love it.

So that's why I'm calling May Day our first day of life on the ridge.

But it's not really a ridge. Though we've called it the Little Ridge  House since we bought it four years ago, and our friend and neighbor Chip calls this place Redtail Ridge for the hawks that he's observed.  Really it's the bluff on the edge of what used to be the broad floodplain of the Susitna River.  The Alaska Railroad acts as a dike between us and the river, so we're unlikely to ever see the river at the bottom of the slope.  Instead there's a small spring fed creek that meanders between some trees in a wetland field.  Beyond the track we see the birch-spruce forest, catch a glimpse of the river, and admire the foothills of the Alaska Range beyond.

It's not really a ridge, it's not really the first day, but it is the start of something new worth celebrating.

post script May 4: The weekend was exactly what I had hoped for.  Fabulous weather (see the photo above), a personal best of number of species seen, and tons of time outside hiking and hanging on the deck.  We even bushwhacked across the partially frozen swamp below our place, over the train tracks, along a couple of sloughs, over to the Susitna River (see the photo above again).  Then we were happily reminded that we'd been told about a trail to that same spot, which we took for a much easier (though longer) return to the house.  Along the way we added to our birding life list (ruffed grouse!) and saw the boreal chickadee that broke our previous Birdathon record.

25 jan 14 sunrise

our Talkeetna backyard at sunrise

16 jan 15 winter surprise

winter day surprise
when I lift cold frame to store
crisp taste of summer

10 jan 15 sunset

sunset from the Ridge House

Like a beautiful sunset, this song by Carrie Newcomer reminds me how many parts of life are beautiful in their simplicity and that pleasure and meaning in life are all around us.  I don't know if it's the sentiments or the deep richness of her voice, but I can't hear this song without getting a catch in my throat.

I Believe

I believe there are some debts that we never can repay
I believe there are some words that you can never unsay
And I don't know a single soul
Who didn't get lost along the way.

I believe in socks and gloves knit out of soft grey wool,
And that there's a place in heaven for those
Who teach in public school.
And I know I get some things right,
But mostly I'm a fool.

I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea,
And all these shoots and roots will become a tree.
All I know is I can’t help but see
All of this as so very holy.

I believe in jars of jelly put up by careful hands,
I believe most folks are doing about the best they can,
And I know there are some things that I will never understand.

I believe there’s healing in the sound of your voice,
And that a summer tomato is a cause to rejoice,
And that following a song was never really a choice.
Never really.

I believe in a good long letter written on real paper and with real pen,
I believe in the ones I love and know I’ll never see again,
I believe in the kindness of strangers and the comfort of old friends,
And when I close my eyes to sleep at night it’s good to say,

I believe that life is comprised of smiles and sniffles and tears,
And in an old coat that still has another good year,
And I know that I get scared some times
But all I need is here.

I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea,
And all these shoots and roots will become a tree,
All I know is I can’t help but see
All of this as so very holy,

I believe.

7 dec 14 campbell creek gorge


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves
with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 Pablo Neruda

16 nov 14 campbell creek

This bridge wasn't so great for walking either -- the far end was in the creek.

1 oct 14 golden pond

This lake is very near the highway that I often travel for work meetings.  It's a welcome respite at the end of the day.

I have again come home
through miles of sky
from hours of abstract talk
in the way of modern times
when humans live in their minds
and the world, forgotten, dies
into explanations.

Wendell Berry
an excerpt from 1992
A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997