Friday, December 28, 2012

A Sudden Glory: Book Review

How does God pursue us? How does he lavish His love on us? How can we feel His presence? What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Pick up the nearest Christian book catalogue, and you will find plenty of authors to explain their improved study techniques, their ideas for increasing your involvement, their ways to improve your prayer life, and so many other keys to changing your life. All of them, of course, want you to do something or change something about how you approach life. And if it sounds too intimidating to do all that? Don’t worry! There’s always another, more enlightening book on time management techniques…

I’ve had my share of busyness and failed goals over the years. I’ve had joys, letdowns, and plenty of opportunities to feel that I should be doing something more. I'm also—in spite of goals and busyness—rather inclined to distrust people who say you or I must do thus and such in order to achieve some higher level of spiritual knowledge.

Thus, I was intrigued recently to find a very active, very involved conference speaker, ministry leader, and women’s author who thinks that we just might be trying too hard.

In A Sudden Glory, Sharon Jaynes argues that we’ve got the wrong picture—we have projects and goals and lists and agendas all designed to move us closer to God. We might know we can’t actually reach God through our own efforts, but we live as though we can. We check all the little commands off and worry about weekly Bible studies, church programs, and daily devotionals, while forgetting God’s call for us to be still and just spend time with Him. According to Jaynes, we’ve forgotten how to stop.

This isn’t a book to be read in one sitting—I’ve sat down with it a couple times so far, and I suspect it will take a couple more times to get through everything Jaynes has to say. This is, however, a timely reminder for just about any stage of life. A Sudden Glory shows much about what it means to trust God, to raise our expectations in light of God’s power, and to choose intimacy over routine. And, I would recommend the book just for the stories Jaynes shares of her own encounters with God along the way, as well as the reminders of His incredible glory.

Most importantly, Jaynes calls for us to be more aware of God’s glory in our lives and in the world around us. For Jaynes, a sunbeam at dawn becomes an image of God’s face shining upon her. A lesson on ballroom dance with her husband becomes a lesson on trusting God’s leading in life’s surprises. And, in her first chapter here, a few minutes of silence away from busyness become a lesson in being still and knowing God.

You can find out more about Sharon Jaynes on her website or through Waterbrooks Multnomah.

[My thanks to Waterbook Multnomah for sending me a free review copy of A Sudden Glory in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]

Friday, December 21, 2012

At Year's End

The year has been traveling fast…

Just this Tuesday, I looked at the calendar and realized that the following Tuesday would be Christmas day. There are Christmas cookies, and Christmas Carols, and even Muppet Christmas Carols in the air.

If I were better at journaling, I could tell you more of what this year has brought. Teaching logic, surprise beach trips, flights to Alaska, long work days, home with family and friends, some writing over the summer, lots of writing over November for NaNoWriMo, changes, surprises, expectations of changes, and lots of happiness.

By my count, there is only one more week left to this year. Next week, for my last blog post of the year, I am hoping to review a few more new books from my reading.

And then it will be the beginning of a new year. I expect even more changes to come in this next year, but the most important part of life doesn’t change, that:

“Down in a lowly manger
The humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas morn.”

And so, in spite of presents and change and busyness:

“Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.”

Merry Christmas, my friends!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding the Family Tree

A cognate—according to Encarta—means a thing that is related to or has the same parentage as another. It derives from a Latin word which means “born together.” In the linguistic world, therefore, Cognate is a descendent of Cognatus as well as a possible parent or brother to Cognada in Spanish.

Today I went to my last Spanish class of the year, which means I’m once again thinking of words, their roots, and their meanings…

If you are working on la computadora, for example, is it more fun to use the mouse and pulsar or else hacer click en el ratón, “to make a click on the mouse”? If, unhappily, someone has not learned to read, is it better to say that person is illiterate or that he is analfebeto, without the alphabet? And, how is the Spanish embotellamiento, or bottling up, related to or derived from the English “traffic jam” or “bottleneck”?

As an English speaker, I find it relatively easy to use the familiar cognate, the word that looks like someone you’ve already met. If you can find the remote—or at least remember its name—then it’s not too hard to guess that el remoto controls the TV set. Still, who stops to consider that el mando a distancia performs the same function by sending or commanding the TV at a distance?

Words are lovely things, when you stop to think about them. It's rather like listening to children learning how to speak—we get to hear the old things in a new way.

One of my long-held favorites is, in fact, that thing which others curse…being put on hold. No one wants to be held off—but what if, instead, you are asked “to be in hope,” estar en espera?

And, of course, there is always the Spanish word for an engagement or una compromiso matrimonial. My first thought was to match this word with a compromise or lowering of morals, not the proper ideal for a marriage at all. However, a marriage does at times require compromises or mutual concession, so perhaps the word is fitting. Even more appropriately, a marriage is a promise which a man and a woman make con, or with, each other.

(In the tangled family of words, it may be tricky to guess which language borrowed from another, but at least I can figure out my own family easily enough. Cognates, also according to Encarta, include anyone having the same ancestry, anyone related by blood. So, I rest assured that my siblings are among my many cognates.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Making Progress

Rome, I’ve been told, wasn’t built in a day.

Neither is a novel written in 24 hours.

Hardly even is a novel written in a month, despite November’s official title as National Novel Writing Month. That’s not to say, though, that it’s not fun to try.

A month ago, at the beginning of November, I started into NaNoWriMo with about 300,000 other writers. The goal? To finish the month with 50K words written on a new novel project. The month is now over, and the results are in.

And, yes—I made it!

To be precise, I wrote 50,405 words between November 1st and November 28th. Since I didn’t write on Sundays, and missed a couple Saturdays along the way, that means I averaged just over 2,000 words per day.

Soon, if things go well, I’ll get back to a more normal writing schedule, start posting more regularly, and perhaps put up a few more book reviews. In the meantime, I’m looking back at November with a small amount of shock and some satisfaction…

On the exciting side of life, I have proved it possible to sit in front of a computer and command myself to type reasonable and grammatical—more or less—sentences until I reach a 500 word or a 1,000 word, or even a 4,000 word goal. Painful, certainly, but doable.

I also now have 50K words written for the fifth volume of my Areaex fantasy series.

On the depressing side of life, however, I may not get around to working on either of my current novels before the end of the year. My brain is still functioning, I think, but the momentum ran out along with the deadline. I’m not entirely sure when I’ll get it back. Maybe if I set a smaller goal? Say 1,000 words per day? I’ve proved it can be done!

(Also, I have now 50K words written on the fifth volume of my series. It might work as the first third of the novel’s plot, once I figure out how to write the other two-thirds and cut this section in half.)

So, I’ve made progress—which means that now (as usual), it’s time to keep going.

Perhaps it’s time for a miniscule, insignificant goal, like 500 words per day? I no longer have an excuse not to.

What’s your favorite way to get things done?

(P.S. Congratulations to all the other writers who participated! And a huge thank you to all of you who encouraged me and other writers along the way.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Girl in the Glass: Review

What is more indefinable than love? A story about love, perhaps.

I received a review copy of Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass a couple weeks ago, but just managed to pick it up this week at the end of a busy month. The plot is relatively simple—Meg, or Marguerite, wants to see Florence, her grandmother’s birthplace and Meg’s dream home. She wants her father to take her there, because she wants to believe her father still cares for her after her parents’ divorce nearly twenty years before.

And Meg wants to figure out what love is supposed to be.

As a novel, Meissner’s story is a well crafted and interesting read, weaving three storylines together through three different narratives. The story is told mainly through Meg’s firsthand account, alternating with brief chapters from Medici principessa Nora Orsini’s diary. The third story comes through sections of Sofia’s essay-style memoire, which Meg’s employers—a small publishing agency for travelogues—may be about to publish.

Overall, it was fairly easy to swap between the two main chapter types, but I found Sofia’s memoire to be relatively weak. As much as the Meg and her friends rave about Sofia’s writing, I found those sections less compelling than the rest of the story, and I was happy—once Meg made it to Florence to meet Sofia—to see the memoire sections end soon after. Sofia’s story flowed better as part of Meg’s, besides providing the major plot twist and the key to tying all three storylines together by the end of the book.

As a romance novel, the story was fantastic—complications, tangled love interests, confusion, and doubt abound. The story turns to one basic question repeatedly—if someone likes a person, is a liking enough for love, and if it is love, is it actually love or just love? It’s significant that Meissner prefaces the story with Pablo Picasso’s quote, “Everything you can imagine is real.”

For myself, I enjoyed parts of the story. I might not reread the book, but it was worth some thought to understand Meissner’s picture of love.

Oddly enough, though, I found The Girl in the Glass to be almost as much about failed love as it is about the search for love. By my count, there are only two happy ‘successful’ marriages mentioned in the story. Meg’s ex-fiancé marries early in the story, but more in passing than as a plot point. All the other characters come from broken relationships or divorces.

At some level, I found the number of broken marriages disturbing—though frustrating might be a more accurate word. Sofia’s story introduces a difficult question about reality and how someone can shape their reality. And honestly, while I appreciated the amount of love and enthusiasm Meissner infused into her descriptions of Florence, I found myself skeptical a couple times, especially when Meg and Sofia discuss an old Italian poem by one of the Medicis. The poem’s ‘lesson’ involves a sort of wordplay—“pearling” and “purling”—that usually would not translate from another language into English. It’s my quibble, because I happen to love words more than renaissance paintings or romance stories, but it did stand out to me.

For more information, you can read the first chapter here, or find out more about The Girl in the Glass and Meissner's other books through Waterbrook Multnomah’s site. The Girl in the Glass is a good story for someone who appreciates travelogues or romance, but I might not suggest it as a first read for someone new to either genre.

[My thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy of The Girl in the Glass, in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lights, Drumroll, Action...

Last week, the time came once more for a biannual (sort-of) tradition—attending another performance of Corban’s Theatre Arts program. The play this fall?

Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

A post-apocalyptic rendition of Macbeth. Time-travelers instead of witches. Boarded-up houses, instead of grim castles. Air raid sirens instead of bells ringing.

In some respects, the most important question ought to be how Shakespeare comes out as a futuristic story, where—according to the program notes—a country has fallen low, reduced to scavenging among the ruins of past civilization.

Beyond just the setting, the production had action, of course, and promised plenty of weapons and violence as well:

That promise was well fulfilled.

Macbeth opened and closed on a battlefield. In the first, the three gaudy travelers burst through their portal in a chaos of lights and noise, freezing the battle below them and hand-picking Macbeth for their plots. Once they vanished, the battle resumed, while Macbeth and Banquo drove off the rebel armies. In the last battle, Macbeth the usurper slowly realized that he cannot escape the doom he has drawn down on himself.

The two battles effectively bookended a story reeking from beginning to end with mayhem, treachery, and murder.

More importantly, though, Director Tammy McGinnis and Assistant Director Rachel Ost framed the play as the story of choices, from Macbeth’s decisions ending in greed and madness to Banquo and Macduff’s choice of sacrifice and honor.

The production had, perhaps, some weaknesses—only a couple actors managed to articulate the Elizabethan dialogue consistently. Some of the scenes felt overwrought and ironic that should have felt touching. Some of the violence felt threatening, while other scenes passed as stage violence, making it hard either to chuckle or cringe.

At the same time, the cast shone—Duncan (Ralph Waldo Emerson III) ruled as a most excellent, gracious king before his untimely death. Lady Macbeth (Claire Clubb) argued persuasively for Macbeth to pursue blood with a vengeance and tried to convince herself of the same, arguing that she could have killed the king herself, had “he not resembled / My father as he slept.”

The loyal captain Macduff (Adam Fields) excelled in bombast as he argued for Duncan’s son, the lawful king to reclaim his inheritance—until news came of his own heart-breaking tragedy.

Macbeth’s other foil Banquo (Krystal Kuehn), provided a brief and effective balance to Macbeth’s rash decisions, but was mostly memorable for her dramatic and ghastly reappearance postmortem. (Yes, Banquo was played as a woman, as was Macduff’s ‘son’ and a number of minor characters. McGinnis and Ost made the changes to accommodate their available cast.)

Macbeth (Martin Fogarty), on the other hand, moved from puzzled to curious, trying to interpret the travelers’ message. When proof came that their first promise was true—and that he might hope to become king—Macbeth’s confidence became expectation, then doubt, irresolution, and finally action, falling swiftly to passionate remorse. While I had heard before the defiant “Wake Duncan with thy knocking!” Macbeth gave it a tragic pathos when he added almost wistfully, “I would thou couldst.”

Ultimately, the play ended as a solid, college production of Shakespeare—well done, but still difficult to follow in places because, well, Shakespeare is difficult. While his plays are certainly meant to be watched and not read, their language is nearly foreign to us. We are not used to listening to turn-of-the-17th-century idioms any more than we are used to the humor and attitudes of Shakespeare’s characters.

And yet, we are used to them, because they are universal characters, as well as universal motives and emotions. It may be shocking—and amusing—to listen while Macbeth calls out:

“Awake, awake!
Ring the alarum-bell. Murder and treason!

As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.”

particularly when the answering alarm bell rings forth as an air-raid siren. Renaissance and post-apocalyptic do mix strangely at times.

It is not shocking, however—or even surprising—to watch a loyal man driven to break his loyalty for greed or ambition. Macbeth's madness reminds us how easily evil can look like sanity.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Week 2

Last week, I announced that I’m attempting to write 50K words in the space of a month.

It’s a crazy attempt, especially since I love to rewrite each word and sentence half-a-dozen times before moving on to the next thought. So, in attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge, I’ve set a couple smaller challenges for myself:

First, I shall not rewrite. Not even one little conjunction. (Unless it’s misspelled, of course, or needs to be replaced by a… No! Not even one.)

Second, I shall attempt to use an outline—and stick closely to the core idea of the outline, while still allowing myself to ramble into new ideas. This, if it works properly, should allow me all the benefits of both structure and spontaneity, so that the ideas continue to flow in in smooth progression, while... (Wait, what was that again?)

I’m still not sure if I’ll last out the month, but if I can complete 50k words—or even a small part of the month’s total—it should provide a good foundation for the rest of the novel. To make this happen, I’ll only focus on the essentials for the rest of this month. I’ll see what happens with the rest of the story come December.

Meanwhile, it’s time to write my 2K words for today!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


If you are reading this, it’s because I’ve lost my mind.

(Or, perhaps I’m just on the verge of insanity.)

As of today, I have completed the first week of the annual NaNoWriMo challenge.

In case you haven’t heard, November is National Novel Writing Month. During this month, an estimated 300,000 people will spend an enormous number of hours writing…and writing…and writing.

Those who complete the NaNoWriMo challenge will have completed 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. In some genres, this would be close to a complete novel. My project novel, being fantasy, should be about twice that length in its final state, but 50K words is no small part of the project.

In fact, I am writing this post while it is still October, before the race begins. I have no idea whether I will make it all the way to the finish, but…

…the fact that you are reading this means I’m still going.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Napkin Folds and Airplanes

I’ve been home for two weeks now, and I’m slowly getting over the culture shock.

But, after five months in Alaska—and two weeks back in Oregon—I’m finding some things about ‘civilized’ life rather odd. I mean, how strange is this? I’m back in a place where it’s important to look for cars before crossing a road.

In Port Alsworth, we had to look out for airplanes.

Actually, it feels odd to have roads here instead of airstrips connected by two or three intersecting gravel lanes—not to mention what it feels like to ride in a car. I could count on one hand the number of times I rode in a car or truck in Port Alsworth this summer. Now I’m driving at least a couple times each week.

The move from a four-wheeler to a 15-passenger van is almost just as strange.

I do have to drive now if I want to go on a hike, but at least I don't have to worry about avoiding bears anymore.

And there's fresh fruit, unlimited Internet, free time…

Well, we did get free time at the lodge, in between working odd hours. Still, it was always limited by the next project on hand—prepping for dinner, turning on the fuel pump for a pilot, getting to bed at a decent hour so that we could start breakfast prep by 6:30 or 7:00 next morning.

Some things make me happy—no more fuel pumps, no more running down to the Cache so someone can buy a 50-cent lollipop, no more ironing sheets and tablecloths before we use them. Instead, I can stop by Walmart on my way home from tutoring. My decision process at the store takes just as long as ever, but I can pick things up myself and not wait for them to get mailed in.

One of these days I'll even check some books out at the library again.

Oh, and we don’t use decorative napkin folds at home. Now that’s kind of strange.

I’m getting used to it. Slowly.


Friday, October 26, 2012


For years I have claimed not to like surprises. In fact, my family has a rule that we’re supposed to plan our spontaneity.

We can handle adventures. We just want to know about them before hand—no surprises, please.

Surprises mean something has gone wrong. The car makes strange noises. The faucet handle no longer turns the water off. The laptop won’t talk to the printer when I absolutely must print a couple dozen pages of information before midnight so that I can head off by 7:30 next morning.

Sometimes, I admit, surprises do mean good things—but they so often happen in a stressful way. Good news, the lodge has more guests coming; bad news, we have to find space for fourteen extra guests and set two more tables for dinner—with only an hour before they arrive.

Surprises mean learning that I get to tutor again this year with a homeschool co-op. Junior-high last year; 5th-6th graders this year? No big deal. (Actually, yay!)

Oh, wait, make that 3rd-4th graders. (Yikes!)

Recently, though, my views have been changing.

I’ve learned to cope. I can handle the idea of teaching 8 and 9 and 10 year-old students—after hitting momentary panic and calling my mom, of course. But I can handle it.

It’s actually fun.

I’ve only taught once so far, but they like me so far. I like them too, and we get to be goofy. We get to sing preposition songs, memorize history timelines, practice identifying cell parts—and even, I’ve been told, play with a crawdad and cut up owl pellets. We’ll have lots of surprises there, I’m sure. And two of my students this year are younger siblings of two of my students last year.

Have I mentioned my ability to handle surprises? It’s growing by leaps and bounds.

Last week, a friend and I were thinking about visiting a particular library. At the last minute, we scratched that and went to a different library instead. It was entirely spontaneous, I promise—we even surprised a couple of the people we met there.

Surprises can require effort and change, yes. But surprises can, after all, mean fun and excitement.

(It’s also a nice surprise to find a topic for yet another blog post after procrastinating for two days.)


Hurrah for surprises!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Home Again

Today I was reminded that I haven’t posted in a while.

That is correct, and it is also correct to say that I have much to write about. The flight to Anchorage, time with friends, the trip home, the trees...

I've posted one of the photos from last week.

But now I’m home again after five months away, and the week has been busy.

Then again, the week has been busy, and I expect that to continue for a while longer. Perhaps indefinitely, since such is life. Still, I’ll try to catch up on thoughts and stories—soon.

Have a great week!



All summer went by, and I had to go to town to see a moose—a cow with twin calves. We weren't actually in Anchorage, but we were driving through a small town, when someone spotted the moose grazing on a church lawn.

So, we stopped, took photos, and got a lesson on moose calls.

They sound like cows, apparently.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Seeing Lights

That fox is still hanging around the lodge…

A couple nights ago, shortly after midnight, I went upstairs to retrieve my camera. The night was still and very bright—I was carrying my flashlight, but I could see well enough without it.

As I came out again and started down the steps, however, I heard a rustling behind me, right under the porch. I looked around and switched my flashlight on, wondering if there were any shadows big enough for a bear.

There it was—a small red shadow darting out from under the porch.

Oh well, no need to worry too much. A fox is not a bear.

Thinking the fox would run off, I went down the steps and stopped in front of the lodge for a moment, but the rustling followed me down.

After a moment, still hoping the fox was headed back toward the porch, I started down the hill to the lawn by the cabins. Again the fox followed me. When I reached the bottom of the path, the fox was less than ten feet behind me.

This fox has a white tip on its tail. On a bright night like that, it looked rather like the fox is carrying a beacon behind it, even with my flashlight on.

Bear or not, the thing was getting just a little creepy. I stopped and waited. The fox stopped and waited too, watching me. So, I took a step toward him and told him to shoo.

To my relief, he bounced off into the shadows.

I waited to see that he had really gone. Then, having shaken the pursuit for a moment at least, I headed across the lawn toward the runway. As I reached it, I could see the four other people I was looking for—dark shadows in the gray dusk.

I joined them, and we hung out there for about half-an-hour. Then, reluctantly, we turned and went the long way around, past the hanger to the lodge.

As we came up the road, guess who we saw running in front of us again…

Mr. Fox!

Still, I’m not too worried yet, because I was out again last night—hanging out on the dock in front of the church this time—and I didn’t see him once, even though I was watching for him.

So why, you may ask, was I outside after midnight the past two nights—with my camera?

It’s simple.

And spectacular.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Foxy Fellow

Guess who came by today to say hi...

He must have been looking for something special, because he came by us a couple times, and once he walked past less than ten feet from the four of us.

I have now added another item to my list of odd and irrelevant facts known: rabbits bounce when they run, and so do foxes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

PTA's Believe It Or Not 4.0

Over the summer, I’ve been noting strange signs, strange items scattered around town. It’s still difficult to draw a conclusion, but the evidence suggests that there is more to this town than meets the eye.
It might be aliens.

In fact, some of the contraptions look rather like alien constructions. Oddly-shaped bodies, long necks, beady eyes?

Check, check, and check.

You had better watch out for this one, because it certainly is watching you.

I've also discovered headless monsters, and others of a different sort entirely.


Those are perhaps the hardest to explain. Any guesses?


What, for example, is this thing? It looks like a rusty heap of scrap metal, but surely it is something more...something odd, mysterious, mystifying, and, well, mysterious.


And who exactly, may I ask, left this laying around? According to the label, it's a telephone box, but can you really be sure? Especially when it's just sitting out in the woods like this? I wonder which phone line it uses.

The invasion seems friendly for the most part, with only a few suspicious-looking items.

Not to worry, though. I've found the prototype for the original Millennium Falcon.

It might be a bit rusty, and in need of repair, but no worse than any other bucket of bolts you might find out here. I'm sure someone can fix it up, if the hyperdrive isn't too badly damaged.

Where do they all come from you ask? Through the portal of course…

So, aliens or not, I've decided that it's time to head home. Less than two weeks now!

Friday, September 28, 2012

September & Snow?

It's one of those interesting chores around here—running down to turn on the fuel pump for someone to fuel a plane. It's even more interesting when there's snow falling...not to mention cold.

The snow isn't sticking—yet—but it's coming.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Puh-TAY-tuhs: Alaskan Style

Monday, September 19.

Port Alsworth, Alaska.

Fresh snow on the mountains in the morning, potatoes vines beginning to die, no guests arriving today, and two of the farmboys are leaving later in the week. It's time to dig potatoes!

After working here the whole summer, I'm now initiated into the world of potato farming, from planting in early June, to harvesting at the end of summer. I've seen it all. (Well, almost all, since the guys were responsible for hilling the potatoes halfway through the summer. The other girls and I were probably busy cleaning our 352nd cabin about then.)

Last year, the potatoes took us three days to dig. This year, we had plenty of help...we started Monday‑and finished Monday. You know that feeling where you can hardly move, it's almost five o'clock and definitely past time for a break, but there's only one (or two) more rows of fat, heavy potatoes left to dig and haul?

Yes, that was our day on Monday.

And now all the potatoes are safely stored away in the farm's root cellar. We might not have asmany this year, but they're done, finished, ended...

...just in time for fall, golden leaves, and early snow on the mountains...


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Of Canons and Bears

In a land crawling with bears, it’s not so common to see one.

So here I am—four months in Alaska this summer, and never a bear in view.

It’s okay, actually. Hiking to the falls, climbing a mountain—all that is adventure enough, and I would prefer not to see a bear at those times. In fact, I’ve been warned about them repeatedly…

In the spring, the locals say, bears come out of hibernation and hunt for food. They’re on a diet of sorts, though, and they want to eat their greens. If you make a lot of noise when you’re out in the woods, they likely won’t bother you.

In the summer, the bears disappear into the brush. They’re still looking for food, but they’re rather shy about it. You might walk past half a dozen on an afternoon stroll and never know it. Just make some noise, so you don’t come around a corner and startle one accidentally.

In the fall, the bears are once again looking for food. Bears and mosquitoes both, and they know that time is getting short.

Still, even in the fall, it’s not so common to see a bear.

That’s why we have to go out looking for them.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve hosted a couple of photography workshops at the lodge. One couple came the first week, another couple this week—they stay at the lodge and fly out with Jim Barr, a professional photographer for lessons on using cameras in a variety of settings and light conditions.

And on Wednesday this week, I went bear viewing with the group.

Not only that, but one of the guys on the crew loaned me his Canon XTi for the day. Someone else offered to loan me a pistol as well, but I decided to stick with the Canon.

So it was—with barely time to take a breath—my day changed from cleaning two cabins and dusting lodge furniture to climbing aboard Katie, Glen’s float plane, with a sack lunch, a pair of waders, and two cameras. (I took my own camera along, of course. I knew how to take pictures with that…but a DSLR? How does that work?)

At any rate, I'm pretty sure I didn't look as impressive as the other photographers with their huge lenses and professional quality tripods.

About forty minutes after takeoff, Glen landed us in a small lake about forty minutes south of the lodge, and we hiked from the lake across a flat hump to the river, where we had spotted bears feeding on salmon.

It was a slow day on the river—the salmon run was over for the year, and very few fish remained in the stream.

We found the bears, though—a sow and cubs far off on the hillside eating berries, one or two others splashing along the bank…

…along with a few seagulls too.

Glen and Jim led the way up the river to a shelf halfway down the bluff, where they could set up their tripods. I figured out how to change the standard lens on the Canon for a telephoto lens.

We took photos, adjusted our settings, and took more photos, while a couple of bears wandered up and down the river below us. Once in a while, a bear caught a salmon or dragged a dead fish out of the shallows. A couple times, they swam across the river to a different fishing hole and shook the water off before taking up a new post.

Eventually, the bears wandered off and disappeared around the bend. Maybe they were bored—or they had scheduled a performance downriver a mile or so. At any rate, we had a quiet spell and a chance to eat lunch.

We were just finishing, and I hadn’t packed my lunch bag back into my backpack, when a big honey-colored bear sauntered down the bluff beside us and strolled along the path beneath us.

Think about standing at the top of a flight of stairs, looking at a bear at the bottom of the steps—that’s how close it felt.

The bear ignored us, though, and wandered down to the water for a short fishing excursion, while we snapped photos—and waited for her to turn around and face the right direction for the lighting.

That's a bear's life around here.

Through the day, we spotted some other wildlife as well, including a ground squirrel. It wanted to imitate its citified cousins, trying to run almost under our feet. And if you look closely, you might find the ptarmigan hiding in the bushes...

Early in the day, Glen wondered briefly about takeoff from the lake, if the wind didn't pick up. By mid-afternoon, the wind was still calm, so he told the others he would fly me out to another, larger lake, drop me off with some of the gear, and then come back for them.
It shows how little I know about this kind of life. Getting dropped off at a lake in bear territory and warned to be careful? Okay—I know not to wander too far, and I’ll make lots of noise while I’m there. I can handle that.

But getting dropped off somewhere and handed a gun? That’s just a little weird, not to mention unnerving.

Sadly, (or perhaps fortunately), the wind had changed around by the time Glen and I reached the plane. The rain was setting in as well, so Glen taxied across to the other shore and picked up the other two passengers. I was told to sit in one of the back seats—someone else, bigger than me, needed to ride co-pilot so we could get more weight forward. Once everyone was settled, we taxied out, headed into the wind, and lit out for home.

Anyway—yes, I have now seen a bear this year. I’ve also heard stories of a brown bear visiting the town in the past week, but at this point, I’ll be just as happy not to see that bear before I leave, or any others either.

At least, not without having a camera with me—point-and-shoot or DSLR.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rescuing Books...

...rescued by books?

Very early this summer, not long after I arrived at the lodge, we were told that some old books were being moved from storage into the burn pile. Oh, and there were some books in with all the rest of collection.

Let books be burned? Certainly not!

 So, another girl and I trekked down to the burn pile and picked through it, rescuing as many books as we could. (Though not all of them, sadly—I'll do better next time, I'm sorry, mea cupla...)

I came back with an armload of books—a few well-known classics, and a few oddballs, like Just So Stories and The Call of Alaska.

This was in May.

It's now September.

I've read the first couple chapters from two of these books; I've even read one of them clear through, along with a few others books I'd brought from home. Most of the books just sat on my shelf, though, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then one of the girls asked me this week..."Are you alright?"

I was surprised. Yes, sure, I'm fine. Tired, but that's normal around here. Maybe a little disconnected, maybe a little crazier than usual, but still fine, just fine...

A couple hours later, though, I realized there was a major problem in my life. One almost unbelievable and most certainly inexcusable.

I hadn't read a book in over a month, not since I posted my last book review.

Now, I may have read a short section from one of my rescue books, and I might have looked at a couple photo books. In all that time, however—in an entire month—I hadn't sat down and read a book.

Among English Majors, that must be a record. I know it is for me, and fortunately, I knew at once how to remedy it. That afternoon, I pulled out one of my thickest books, climbed onto the top bunk, and started reading. (It was not, I must admit, one of the books I'd rescued, but one of those I'd brought with me. It was a book, nonetheless.)

I didn't get far—time tends to get a little limited around here, with only two hours off between cleaning cabins and prepping for dinner. But I did get some mental relief, and a brief trip to another place, before I came back to lodge life and headed upstairs to chop cucumbers for that night's salad. I'm planning to head back to the book again soon.

So, how's it going here?

Still sane!

Hurrah for books!

(Beautiful, beautiful books!)

Oh, and some other news for this week...

...the snow this year was almost exactly two weeks earlier than it was last year.