Thursday, December 29, 2011

Because I Can.

Some days I wonder if I've got what it takes to sit down and actually write this book. So many details, so much research, so many writes and edits and additions that I of course always think of after I've sent off the section to my editor; and I'm only a teensy way through what will undoubtedly be a long, long year of tap-tapping away at my keyboard. The local coffee roaster will be making a bundle off me, I can tell already.

Combine writing a book with, oh, yeah, my family, then sprinkle in the AKontheGO website and a little radio show called Alaska Travelgram, and I realize once more that I've gotten myself pretty deep into a lot of stuff. It can make a girl rather depressed. At least, it did, me, until the incredible forces of Yukon once again came to my rescue with this:

"If you are meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, you destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the Angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and everything in it.
Don't cheat us out of your contribution. Give us what you've got."
- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Snow On Snow On Snow

I can scarcely think of a better way to help a family grieving one more Christmas without their son and brother than a feathery falling of snow.

Christmas Eve was the perfect excuse to grab snowshoes and dog to head for our favorite community trail system, where my spirits are always renewed by the healing breath of nature. We spied a little hawk perched high in a cottonwood tree, chased each other around the stubby spruce trees, and let Bear show us the snow shelter he built last week at outdoor survival daycamp (yes, given many options for vacation fun, he picked winter survival; go figure).

I was content with 14 inches of perfectly perfect snow already on the ground, and our dreams of a white Christmas would have been fulfilled, easily. But when kid is in bed and all the lights are out except for the Christmas tree, and the eggnog is poured, and Midnight Mass is on the radio (I am a sucker for Christmas and Easter High Holy Mass), falling snow pushes me over the edge of sentimentality. And did it ever snow! Way beyond our bedtime of 1 a.m.

Bear woke up this morning to a new sled from Santa and a deep desire to try it out right away. Obviously.

The only other thing that competes with falling snow for a lump in my throat is the sight of a little boy flopping down on his brand new Christmas sled and belly-whopping down the sledding hill lovingly built by his dad.

It almost made up for the other boy we are missing. Almost. But it sure helped.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"A People In Darkness Have Seen a Great Light..."

I'm trying to keep that phrase close to my lips this week. Today is December 21, the shortest of the year and one that sends most Alaskans into a tizzy of excitement; not for the extreme non-length of the actual hours today, but for the additional eight seconds tomorrow. Sometimes that's how we must think, here.

Normally, Winter Solstice passes as a peaceful, snowy interlude with lantern walks, evening ski and snowshoe adventures, and hot cocoa beside a roaring backyard fire. It is the night before The Night To Come, and yet another way those of us who consciously choose to live in the Far North recognize the balance between nature and creature.

This year was something else, again. A month of warming, blowing, absolutely insane weather has played tricks on our usual celebrations. Trails are icy, roads are treacherous, and sledding hills are, shall we say, insanely dangerous (although that doesn't seem to be stopping some people).

In the wake of not one, not two, but three storms of 90 mph magnitude, we were tired. Tired of the creaking house frames, tired of picking up trash and chasing trash cans, tired of the darkness created from not enough snow to create the sparkling wonderland we have come to associate with Winter Solstice.

But the sun came out today. It warmed the earth, made the soggy snow to look something special, and gave me a special gift while I was out running on a local trail this afternoon, waiting for Bear to finish winter survival day camp.

The sun started to go down around 3:15 this afternoon, fingerlings of whispy clouds reaching toward my for my tired body and brain, offering energy, respite. Suddenly, the very bland colors of an Alaskan winter changed from gray and beige to orange and red and yellow.

We simply cannot have one without the other.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From the Wolf Den: IT.

This weekend I've done just about everything I can to avoid doing what I really should.
Actually, I should have done it a few years ago.

But here I am, sitting at the big family table with way too many chairs for the three of us and crumbs underneath Bear's seat (see how distractable I am?), staring at a pile of papers with such words at the top like "IN THE SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE STATE OF ALASKA" and official-looking lines and numbers and acronyms I don't want to read.

Today is December 18, 2011. I know this because I've written it at least five times so far on two sheets of paper.

In 20 days my son will be 18. Tomorrow, Yukon and I will troop the State of Alaska Court System and file a Petition for Guardianship.


I've visited with our attorney, I've listened to the fantastic staff at Mountain High School (who really pushed us this last time to get the legal bowling ball rolling). I get it, I really do. Wolf does not have the capability to make decisions regarding his current and future level of care to help him succeed as an adult. He thinks he can leave MHS the day of his birthday, despite what really will happen (nothing). We must do this. Our heads know, but our hearts have yet to accept the rational explanation.

But it's a big decision, and an ironic one, perhaps.

When the kids who used to be his peers start receiving college acceptance letters or letters of scholarship awards, my son will be receiving an official letter from the State telling him he is now our ward, signed, sealed, and delivered.

Yukon and I are so very torn between sighing with relief that we will be able to continue aiding our disabled son, and signing with resignation at the inevitable fireworks that are sure to follow.

We hope and pray Wolf's birthday on January 6, 2012 will be a true "ephiphany" for him. We hope somehow, in the middle of his ranting, he will feel, if only just a little bit, how very, very, very much he is loved.

But for now, on this dark, windy, and cold afternoon, I continue to sit here; scribbling on my file folders, listening to an Andrea Bocelli CD.

Oh yes, God Bless Us, Everyone.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Still, Still, Still?

Ever since last week, when I wrote from Homer while waiting for a flight home after a crazy wild windstorm flummoxed even the most hardy Alaskans, life has been a bit noisy.

Weather in Alaska is noisy, I've discovered. From the grating, grinding of snowplows to the sound of chainsaws cutting up tree limbs that have dislodged from their trunks in a violent reminder from Mother Nature that we are all, by the way, guests here.

Despite all assurances that the storm of last week was but a distant memory, one week later, here we were again, but this time, God Himself showed up. Saturday night winds topped 65 or 70 mph, compelling Yukon and I to make fast the bbq, Christmas decorations, and garbage cans. Power flickered all over town as the southeaster howled until 5 o'clock the next morning. Bear was scared and insisted I sleep in the basement family room with him while Yukon and Dog braved it upstairs on their own.

Yesterday brought temperatures in the mid 30's and snowfall as heavy as I have ever seen, but we were immersed in holiday fun around downtown Anchorage, so, as all good Alaskans do, we simply ignored it. Until, of course, reports from Facebook and Twitter started flowing in talking about 110 mph winds gusting all over town.

We returned home to find carnage; chimneys damaged, fences down, and four trash cans in our back yard that had crashed through our chainlink gate (severely damaging it), spewing recycling/garbage all over the back yard. In the dark and swirling wind, in our fancy "downtown" clothes, Yukon and I alternated between comforting a very frightened Bear, picking up broken glass and shredded documents, and keeping the dog out of whatever the neighbors had had for leftovers (everybody's trash was here, it seems).

After about an hour of futility, we finally left the mess and came inside. We went to bed early, fully planning on picking up the rest in the morning.

But morning came with an uncharacteristic hush. Nobody, it seems, had anticipated the foot of new snow that fell, and was still falling, as I rose from my bed at 6 a.m. Blizzard? I guess that was the right word. At any rate, this stuff was wet, heavy, and practically impossible to shovel. At least it covered the garbage.

We received another blessing, though; no school. Since this hardly ever happens, we took it as a holiday and allowed Bear to sleep in, play outside all day, and take an evening snowshoe around the neighborhood park with both of us.

Still, still, still, it is, tonight. I had forgotten how stillness feels.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What It Is: Writing Words

I think everything happens for a reason. Right now, I'm perched high above Homer, Alaska, at a friend's house, waiting. But I'm glad to be waiting.

Since Friday afternoon my focus has been on Homer, Alaska, and writing. Setting up camp at my favorite bakery/B&B, I've been all about words, words, and more words. I'm writing a book, see. But the weekend has been more than that.

Yukon is a smart husband, and he knows when his wife needs to fly away for a little while. More important, he knows that to me, writing is akin to breathing; vital, deep, and refreshing if I pay attention to it.

So I've been writing; molding words at my fingertips, fact-checking, proof-reading. I set up my "desk," a little table in my room upon which I set my laptop, reference books, pen, water bottle, and a few apples (writing makes me hungry). I had to move the coffee maker across the room in front of the television, because, of course, I wouldn't be watching any TV this weekend.

The weather was wild, with driving rain, wind, and melting snow; perfect writing weather . I'd sit in front of the modest glow of my Mac for a while, until the word count reached another thousand words, then I'd pull on my Xtra Tuff boots and rain jacket and go outside for a break.

I'd planned on returning home late this morning, but Mother Nature had other plans. 100-mph plans. Anchorage was slammed with a Chinook that brought heavy rain, wind, and ice on every surface. As brave as I had been feeling about flying on small planes this summer, I was not ready to fly on one, today.

So here I am, watching the clouds toss each other an occasional sunbeam. Perfectly relaxed, utterly spent, and waiting.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Family Regroups: It's Just Different

It's been difficult to post, lately. Yukon and I have, all of a sudden (or perhaps not) been thrust into this crazy, vortex-like salad spinner of emotions that leave us a little bit confused.

We have been told by those in the know (it's lovely to be friends with doctors and spiritual advisor-types) that this is not uncommon following a traumatic event. Since we've had several this past year, we can expect to multiply the subesequent meltdowns by two, or three, at least.

Seven months have gone by since Yukon dove into a pot hole of ice and mud. He is back on Nordic skis and is able to return to his flip-turning, machine-like swimming regime at the local pool; the dedication on his face, and within his very spirit, is palpable. It's good, but it's also different. Bear, in particular, notices that Daddy is not home right at 5 p.m. on some days because he's at the pool or on the ski trail. It's not bad, mind you, for Yukon would never sacrifice his family for his fitness; it's just different.

Wolf is returning to old patterns of behavior at Mountain High Facility. The staff are exemplary in their reactions and consequences and incredible sixth-sense of getting to the bottom of whatever set Wolf off, this time, or that time. The phone rings and I hear the report, and I listen to Wolf tell me all about it when he calls. But here's the thing: I'm done validating and commiserating. Wolf knows by now what to do, and all he needs now is to ask for help doing it. But he won't. In one month, he will turn 18. We, and a choir of supportive voices have made so many opportunities possible, but we cannot sing the solo for him.

"Elituq" too, is ready for a re-group, too, I think. But I'm not sure just what that will look like, or how, or if, things you read will change. So stay with us, if you like, and continue to be a part of our virtual support system. But know that we are reconfiguring our lives as we go, and sometimes that regrouping, that "not-bad-but-different" can look a little messy...