Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

a breath in the cold

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



a breath in the cold


and forgotten

but beautiful


isn’t that enough?


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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.

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“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.


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.


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




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.

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alaska wisdom learned the hard way

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.

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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.

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Playin Alaskan

I’ve been pointed to two good guest columns on Sarah Palin this week by Alaskan writers Seth Kantner, author of “Ordinary Wolves” and Nick Jans, author of “The Last Light Breaking”.

Take the time to check the columns out, both are honest reactions of observant, thinking Alaskans to Sarah and her fundamentalist, faux Marge from Fargo accent, lets develop Alaska so its just like everywhere else shtick.

Seth Kanter “That Sarah Palin is one unreal Alaskan“.

Nick Jans “Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska“.

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Some new quotes.  This one has to be me favorite.

Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.

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