Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

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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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.


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In one of my earlier posts I laughingly suggested it couldn’t get any worse that George W. Bush.  I was mistaken.


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Last night, I attended a vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks for the victims of the Sunday shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. As of this afternoon, two victims of that tragedy have died, four remain hospitalized and two have been released.

We met in the somber grey of another rainy day, one of many this summer in Fairbanks. People wandered in, many straight from work, finding a place to join with a circle of friends to mourn this event, recognize the lives that we lost, and search for grains of meaning. Music played gently in the background, echoed by the rain on the roof overhead.

The lights of the sanctuary were off, our only light came from above, filtered first by the grey of the sky, then dappled by the dripping green of the birch tree leaves. Candlelight centered our attention on one side of the circle, eight flames casting warmth, each representing a spirit damaged or lost to us by Sunday’s events.

Jeff led our vigil, leading us through songs and an update on Sunday’s events. Members took turns speaking from the podium, then from the chalice.

For the first time since I’ve attended our Fellowship, barring one Sunday when I lit the chalice itself, I lit a candle.

I spoke of the heroes from Sunday’s attack.

Of how often these attacks occur, and the shooting goes on for hours.

Or until the police arrive and dispatch the gunman. Which is exactly what this fellow was hoping for.

I wondered aloud how many lives were saved by the quick action of those in the Church. It was reported that only 3 rounds of the 76 brought into the Church were discharged.

Today the evolution of that thought has continued. I’m not alone.

Unitarian Universalists are, by my experience, peaceful people.

Peaceful, but not passive.

We are used to protecting those who can not protect themselves. We are cursed at for attending peace rallies, spit upon for supporting the rights of gays and lesbians, and damned for allowing atheists and agnostics in our midst.

In the case of Sunday’s shooting, members quickly disarmed the suspect at great risk to themselves. At least one fatality is reported to have fallen victim to the shooter while sheltering others from the gunman.

I believe the shooter, like society, made a misjudgment. To value peace is not equitable to being weak.

To stand up to the majority for what is right, at great risk to one’s self, one’s livelihood or home is a sign of great strength.

Peaceful, but not passive.

I recall an image from the movie Ghandi though I’ve seen the movie once, when I was in the 4th grade. In my memory, Ghandi and his followers lined up to harvest salt to break a British monopoly on the commodity. British soldiers met the single file line, beating each person as they took their turn at the front of the line. As a person recovered consciousness, they returned to the back of the line. On and on they made their way through, each taking their turn over and over again until the British gave way.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Sunday’s shooter bought into one of the great lies of the right, that there is not enough for all.

If the shooter had taken the time to listen to the UU message, that in an equitable, just, and free society each person can and does have work, a place to live, education, freedom to worship, and love as they choose. There are many paths, one doesn’t preclude the other.

Instead he chose hate, and a violent solution.

Our response must be love, and peaceful.

Peaceful, but not passive.

Somehow we must use this event to reach out to the marginalized, those people like the shooter that have been touched by hate. Our country, and our faith, must offer them hope.

On a global scale, we must raise people up to our standard of living. There is enough for all.

To borrow the the words of a burgeoning orator “this is our time.”

It is time for our faith to re-emerge from the shadows, and take up our roll as leaders in society. To show the world how to move forward in the face of violence.

Peaceful, but not passive.

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Last week, or sometime in the semi-recent past, I was tagged by Jules- otherwise known as the, excuse me, a UU Deist in Texas.  I’ve never been tagged before, so am trying this on for size.  Basically, the rules are:

“FYI – you’ve been tagged, you have to write a blog with 10 weird, random, facts, habits or goals about yourself. At the end, choose 6 people to be tagged, list their names & why you tagged them. Don’t forget to leave them a comment saying “You’re it!” & to go read your blog. You cannot tag the person that tagged you, so since you’re not allowed to tag me back; let me know when you are done so I can go read YOUR weird, random, facts, habits and goals.”

So, here I go:

  • Despite my fears for the future of our little world and my writings of concern, possibly bordering on cynicism, I consider myself an optimist.  I’m just not happy about it.
  • I used to have an ear ring, two in fact.  This may not seem that strange, but you must realize that despite my liberal leanings I am very conservative in appearance and behavior, and anything that draws public attention to me causes an immediate and painful social paralysis.
  • I used to have a pony tail.  (See above.)  I threaten my wife on occasion that I’ll regrow it.  Don’t hold your breath.
  • I don’t dance.  In public.  See above.  If its ok to dance, isn’t it equitably ok not to?
  • I once considered the military as a career.  Go figure.
  • The last time I cried was at my grandmother’s funeral.  I was 21.
  • When I turn 40 I’m moving to southeast Alaska and living in a boat on the sea for a year, allowing the stunning intersection of water, earth, and life to absorb me.  (My family isn’t totally in support of this yet, so don’t say anything to them until I have the plans finalized.)
  • When I was young, all I wanted to be was a Cowboy.  There was an honesty to the life of the classic cowboy figure that appealed to me.  When I was thirteen, my horse killed herself.  That dream never recovered.
  • One of my greatest regrets is not planning a future with my brothers.  Together, we could have ruled the world.
  • I’m an angry person.  It exhausts me, and may be costing me time on earth.  I hope I never lose that rage, if I do it means I no longer care.

Now for my turn to tag some others.

  • Threads in My Stash- because I love you.
  • Fairbanks Pedestrian- because Russel found my blog through yours.
  • Alaska Journey- because we need to hear from you.
  • Alaska Plights- because you give me such a hard time for not writing and so much encouragement to continue to do so.  Writing, that is.

I’m going to hold the last two of my six tags- for all you taggers out there counting how much ammunition is left I’ve got enough to take at least two of you with me, so watch out.



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A week or two ago, as describe in Alaska Vernacular (a glossary), I decided to start adding “Alaskana” words to my blog, with definitions. I like being able to link to the word from my other posts, without providing a definition of what I am talking about. After some consideration about my blog’s discontinuous nature, I decided it best to move Alaska Vernacular to its own blog where it can range free from the constraints of discontinuous permafrost.

Which probably means it will be pretty focused compared to what you find here.

I hope to add one or two more words there every week.

As I said in the original post on discontinuous permafrost, I’d love to add some authors or additional definitions to Alaska Vernacular besides my own. Please let me know if you have a word or entry you’d like to make, or if you would like to add them yourselves.

Thanks, dc

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The act of taking a 2-3 foot diameter net, on the end of a 10-15 foot pole, attaching a dip to the end of the pole opposite the net, wherein said dip inserts the net end into a raging, dangerous river while perilously perched on rocks hanging from the side of a canyon, hoping to catch salmon migrating upstream in said net.  It has been known for 30 salmon to be caught in 2 hours, but not uncommon for 2 salmon to be caught in 30 hours.  The intelligence of dips can be observed by how securely they are tied off to canyon rocks, to preserve their bodies for burial should they fall into said river.  Dipnetting is most frequently used when referring to the Copper River, though “dipnetting light” is allowed on a few other Alaskan rivers.  Dips must be Alaskan residents.  (Please note; author is a mid-level intelligence dip, but don’t tell his wife.)

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