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Listen to the snow

falling on spruce boughs

and eyelashes

Feel the cold’s

icy fingers

reach into my chest

like death

looking for a soul

and coming up empty

.

life

a breath in the cold

gone,

and forgotten

but beautiful

.

isn’t that enough?

Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty dumpty had a great fall.


In all my time growing up and hearing that rhyme, I’ve always considered Humpty to be male.

All the kings horses,

And all the king’s men,

Couldn’t put humpty together again.


Over the past few weeks, watching my 8 months plus pregnant wife, I now realize the inspiration for humpty was, without a doubt, female.

My summer officially starts today.  Work for the season is done, and my summer schedule, if not completely wide open, is at least the next thing to it.

Perhaps a fishing trip with my two girls.

The ice has just began to go out around the edge of the local lakes, and the winter starved fish will be congregating at the open edges for a fresh meal, perfect for little girls to perfect their casting and still benefit from the reward of a catch.

And tasty too.

So why do I have this nagging feeling of guilt?

No, it isn’t really about killing the fish.  While I hate the process of killing something (I’ve been known to release the first indoor mosquito of the season back outdoors), I find great reward in harvesting my own food.  The act of taking a living creature’s life- in order to nourish your own- is for me a spiritual and grounding event.  I hope to share that with my daughters- they need to understand our food often comes from a life taken, not just a meat counter at Fred Meyer’s (grocery store).

No, this has more to do with what I like to describe as a puritanical work ethic- either inherited genetically or beat into my being (not literally) by parents who spent most every free moment of my years growing up trying to get our family on firm financial footing.

I wonder now, a parent myself, if they ever just relaxed and enjoyed a day off?  Or if they, like me, spent all their “downtime” worried about not working?  They certainly didn’t take many down days- if that is any evidence of how much they enjoyed them.

Even though they often didn’t insist my brothers or I participate, neither did we experience the freedom of knowing at week’s end we would have fun time with Mom and Dad.

Mom, Dad- what was that?

Could you repeat yourself?

Oh, ok, I got it, you said :

” Do as we say, not as we do (or did).”

Easier said than done.

I read somewhere recently that unless an adult undergoes significant psychotherapy, they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes their parents made.  Unless my own twisted form of introverted introspection is considered psychotherapy- I’d say to my ten and six year olds I am well on my way to instilling a 7-day a week work ethic (and/or guilt complex- which is worse) upon them.

The truth is, I’ve tried the working-all-the-time-to-get-ahead thing.  It didn’t work.  It made me miserable, my family miserable, and took a toll on my health; not to mention a significant drop in productivity and creativity.  I’ve (we’ve) made big changes and in many cases concessions to move away from that, which brings us full-circle back to today.

How do I shed that snakeskin of guilt that threatens to keep me from enjoying a day (or weekend) off with my girls- without turning to mind and/or mood altering substances?

Once upon a time, a few beers might dull that feeling.  Today that’s neither a dependency I’m comfortable having nor a healthy one.

Oh, sweet oblivion, where is your sweet kiss?

It’s in the smiles of two young children, running on the beach, throwing rocks, teaching things my father and grandfather taught me to do,  enjoying the sun’s caress on a beautiful day, all the while swallowing back the guilt derived from the thought of others doing without and tasks left undone.

It’s in a Saturday morning, in the great state of Alaska, taking advantage of the natural beauty that still surrounds us, and the blessing to be free to enjoy them.

It’s in the thankfulness to recognize these things, and for the time to acknowledge each and every one.

Tomorrow I’ll pack the cooler, the girls.  We’ll go to the store and get those fishing poles I promised them last year- that Grandma and Grandpa sent money for last year.  We’ll get some worms, and suntan lotion.  And bug spray- a can of the non-toxic environmentally friendly kind and another of the paint peeling, genetic altering DEET containing kind (just in case the bugs are REALLY bad).

Then we’ll go fishing.

And I’ll leave everything else behind.  Even if only for a while.

“I’ll comment more on this later.  For those who don’t follow this blog, it is one of the best in Alaska.”

OK, its later.

First, Alaska Mudflats, an anonymous blogger from here in Alaska that writes the wonderful progressive blog  The Mudflats, has been outed by a state legislator.  A Democratic legislator no less.  Mike Doogan.

Why?

Who knows.

Mudflats is one of the ways that I start my days.  I hit the Alaska Volcano Observatory, Daily-News Miner, Huffington Post, Anchorage Daily News, and the Mudflats.  Several times a day usually.  Often I hit Mudflats before any of the rest, except the Observatory (but only as of late), because it is more honest, better written, and often a day ahead of any news the paper prints.

Moving beyond my anger and disappointment at this event and recognizing that it quite possibly will silence an outstanding commentary on Alaska politics, an underlying philosophical question comes into play.

Are anonymous bloggers a threat to our society and to our form of government?

Apparently, Mr. Doogan thinks so.

Should people be allowed to speak out (or write in this case) for, or against things, without signing their name in big bold letters for everyone to see?

NO!!!  As Mr. Doogan sees it.

Mr. Doogan, who used to write commentary for the Anchorage Daily News, certainly has his right to that opinion.  On the other hand, does he have the right to enforce his opionion on someone who has chosen to be anonymous, using state resources to do so?  We’ll leave that question to be decided in the courts, at leas that is where I hope it gets decided.

Now, back to the subject, does anonymity have a role to place in a democratic society?

Our founding fathers Hamilton, Jay, and Madison felt it worthwhile to speak anonymously in favor of ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers.  Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanac under the pseudonym Richard Saunders.

Apparently they thought expressing themselves politically while remaining anonymous was worthwhile.  So what does Mr. Doogan know that they don’t?

For one, they had not made a career out of working for a newspaper industry that may well be in it’ s death throws, and a paper specifically whose continued viability has been called into question.  Mr. Doogan’s media may be a thing of the past, in part to the immediacy and honesty of bloggers like Alaska Mudflats.  So, maybe he’s just a bitter, old man.

Another dig there.  Sorry Mr. Doogan, I know you are a great supporter of common courtesy.  Back to the topic.

In my opinion, anonymity can provide a forum for honest and intellectual essays devoid of fear of repercussion or judgement.  I value that discourse in society.  I think it leads to an improvement in the public discourse.  Hamilton, Madison, Franklin, and Jay apparently agreed; as they used the format to present arguments via essay and print on matters as important as our constitution.

If one thinks that political opinions don’t carry reward or risk in Alaska, they are sadly mistaken.  When citizens aren’t allowed to discuss concerns, worries and events in an environment safe from repercussion, what does the future hold?  Particularly in a what can certainly be considered hostile territory for progressives.

I’ve written this blog, intermittently of late, but always anonymously.  But many people know me as the author.  That has been my choice.  I have written about some personal things, including conflict in a group as small as our church.  It hasn’t gone without criticism from some friends and fellow church members who thought I was being unfairly critical and mean spirited.

Perhaps.

My response to them is, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”

Needless to say, that doesn’t always go over very well.  The message I’m trying to get across to the critic is that the blog is a personal essay, an exercise in writing about something that one feels strongly about.  When well written it brings about a strong reaction in a reader.  Sometimes it is a positive response, sometimes negative.  Sometimes people are so moved they feel the need to comment and hopefully will enter into a conversation with the author.  If so, job well done.

I like to think of blogs as the modern day equivalent of letter writing.  Before our country was formed, our founding fathers discussed politics and philosophy via  letters.  Jefferson and Adams, friends and sometimes political rivals, shared letters.  Imagine, a civil discourse founded on thoughtful, intelligent debate at the end of a quill, or today on a keyboard.

Compare it to the TV bloviators, where posturing, yelling, and personality take precedence over the rational discussion of ideas.  Can you imagine what Bill OReilly’s blog might look like?  How about Rush?  Beck?  Mr. Doogan?  “I CAN TYPE LOUDER THAN YOU!!!!!!  SHUT UP!!!!  #%$!@@#@#!!!!!

Alaska Mudflats has added to the political discourse here in Alaska; providing insightful, at times funny, at times biting (often to those that deserved bit), political and social commentary.

Our state is entering a crucial time.  Our governor and legislature can’t get along, our governor doesn’t know where the state capital is, our state budget is a shambles, Alaska Natives are making the choice between food and heat, and one of our so-called leaders is using our state resources to hunt down the nefarious threat to democracy otherwise known as Alaska Mudflats.

I hope Alaska Mudflats sticks around.  As I’ve said before, reading Mudflats is part of my daily routine.  If it goes away, I’ll miss it greatly.  I feel deeply for Alaska Mudflat’s family, and hope they remain safe.  I hope they feel safe.  The loss of ones comfort and security in their own home, their own community, can be one of the greatest losses one can have short of a loved one.

To anyone offended by Mr. Doogan’s actions, especially Alaskans, his contact info is below:

Mike Doogan
Ph: (907) 465-4998
Or (800) 689-4998
Fax: (907) 465-4419

doogan@akdemocrats.org

Representative_Mike_Doogan@legis.state.ak.us

doogans@gci.net

If you want to keep up with what other bloggers are saying about this event, check out Immoral Minoritys blog where there are links to what everyone is saying.
UPDATE: Another link to with updates and commentary at  the Mudflats Forum.

When you’ve just retrieved your retainers from the -50 car, where they have been all day, don’t put them in your mouth until you have warmed them up.

We are on the front side of a cold snap, up here in the interior of Alaska. It’s just starting to get cold, with temperatures this morning in downtown Fairbanks hovering right around 30 below Fahrenheit.

The weather forecasters are threatening us with an extended cold spell, indicating temperatures should drop into the negative 40’s in the days ahead, with no break to the cold in the foreseeable future.  But what do they know?

I like the cold.

More honestly, I like extreme weather.

I find that it is nature’s way of reminding us who is in charge, of the limits to our own knowledge, technology, and power.

The wilderness, or natural world, restores my spirit. Whenever I can, I like to go to the mountains, the forests, or sea to do just that.  I don’t get there as often as Id like.

So when the weather turns inclement, it’s like a house call from God.

It redeems me, renews my understanding of my place in the world, and the universe. Despite all our folly, our destruction of ecosystems and life (possibly even our own), weather reassures me the natural world will persevere.

We may not recognize the outcome, or be able to exist in it, but nature and all its intricacies will remain.

And that comforts me.

So today when I come in from the cold, fingers swollen, icicles and frost on my beard, don’t pity me.

Celebrate with me.

For I’ve been dancing with the gods.

In the oh so, glorious cold.

I’ve been walking to and from work downtown recently, depending on when I go relative to kids going to school or my wife going to work.

Today I rolled out of bed while everybody else was sleeping in, taking off to work in one of those beautiful mid-winter mornings in Fairbanks. New snow had blanketed the town during the late morning, and was still drifting down.

Snow in Fairbanks is unique to any place I’ve lived. It falls silently, rarely accompanied by any wind, and stacks quietly on any limbs, wires, or even twigs; forming an intricately woven organic lace of white on every tree, willow, or blade of grass long enough to still emerge from earlier snows.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if just to work.

After work, I headed home via the post office. It gave me an opportunity to cross the Cushman Street Bridge and pass by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, as opposed to the pedestrian bridge where I usually cross the river.

I grew up Catholic, and although my views on religion stray far from the church these days, I still long for the spirituality and mysticism that can envelop a traditional mass. So much so, as I passed their front door, that I eyed the times for mass and even considered recruiting, or drafting, my family for a Christmas service.

I continued down the path, freshly cleaned of snow (the only disturbance during my early morning walk was the snow blower running over the church’s walks); to the little altar of stone for the Virgin Mary built in the Church’s front yard. The snow had been carefully brushed away from the altar. Within the apse, a statue of the virgin mother stands, surrounded by pots of brightly colored plastic flowers.

The irony of this little scene didn’t escape me.

So I stood there, in the low winter light of the Alaska midday sun, rays filtering through the branches of the snow covered birch trees, snow still softly falling upon me, surrounded by divinity as it was meant to be, in front of a poorly crafted altar to the mother of a god made in mankind’s own image.

I walked on, struck by the folly of man.

Of religion.

Of the obscenity of plastic flowers replacing real ones made by god.

Man does do it better, after all.

Meanwhile the pope is in Rome, railing against the evils of homosexuality, proclaiming how it will be the downfall of humanity.

Not overpopulation.

Not the disease, starvation, war, torture, abuse, injury, rape, environmental ruin or death brought on by overpopulation.

Just homosexuality.

Homosexuality?

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