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Happy Birthday

rollie baby for postHappy Birthday hon. I am trying to makes this a day of remembering all the good we have had together and not allowing the sometimes overwhelming sorrow to rule the day.

Given the actual date of your birth I doubt I will ever be able to ‘skip by’ your birthday but I am going to do my best from here out to not allow it to be a day of mourning.

We have accomplished the needed paperwork to start the march toward ‘closing out’ the legal part of your life, although as you well know your imprint on the region and my life will never leave. It was not easy and took its emotional toll later that evening, but that was between me and the darkness.

I keep hearing  that I get ‘a pass’ when those days crop up that seem ever so impossible to go on, but as you well know…it doesn’t work that way. I will pay, if not immediately but eventually if I do not at least take care of the pressing things, each and every day. Living where we do there is almost always too much to get done for the time allotted and pushing most things off ends up either expensive or downright dangerous.

You taught me well.

Hopefully you can keep a watch out for me, passing some of your seemingly never ending energy and determination when I need it. You know that will be much more often than it would be if I were spurring you on. Especially give me some of your bullheadedness when dealing with those who will continue to mean me harm, despite the smiles, hugs and hollow words they utter. We both don’t need to name them but they are well known….which they have yet to realize 😏

I know there is a part of you that is surprised, although I am not always sure why, that I am as determined as I am to continue. Things will proceed slower and probably differently than if you were here along side me, but I will give it my best efforts. My vision is bound to change but I am sure the core of what we both loved and wanted will be there. (You might be surprised that I got a ‘speech’ from a trusted quarter about how I am not bound to anything or anyone, in a way ‘a whole new life’, and I could chuck it all…….still trying to process that one for a variety of reasons.)

For many it might be hard to understand this way of life.  It is filled with danger and to many seems very remote but what most don’t get…. also so filled with many great things.  You shared that we could have a life, not just vacation times, filled with great wonders and adventures, even in the simplest of ways. The sunrises we have seen when flying before dawn. The time hunting for the trail home in the pouring rain and pitch black on a frozen lake. The boat trips filled with wildlife, blowing rain and spinning around enough to make BB and I almost lose our meal. Running the skiffs home from the lakes at full speed in the moonlight….all with me just knowing enough to follow your wake.

Thank you for believing in me and weaving my dreams and hopes into yours. Of knowing that together we could accomplish just about anything we put our heads and hearts into. For understanding me enough to know I still needed to head into ‘true’ city, put on a dress, go to some event with you and be ‘like all the rest of them’ occasionally. Letting me show you how you could actually come to love our kitties and have patience with our stubborn Neon.

I have to keep, in my heart, the last time we just jumped in the plane to deliver fish, get a great relaxing dinner and a beautiful sunset to fly home with…even the looking for the darn airstrip,in the dark again….giggling when the kitties heard their dinner plane and turned on the bathroom light so we could have a reference point to help. One of so many simple and special times.

The ordinary things we turned into a special times by just being together.

Give our BB and Neon a hug and scratch from me. Hugs for your parents. If you can find my gran introduce yourself, she will love you. Enjoy your big brother and share all the adventures you, the man, had and he missed out on. Something tells me you will continue to bring much joy to each other and your parents.  Hopefully you have gotten BB and Flap to settle who will be ‘in charge’. Mostly be at peace, I will forever love you for choosing to share your life with me.

Just A Piece of Paper

Earlier this week the death of my spouse became official, although I do not have a Certificate of Death in hand, as of yet.

When someone disappears, even when the evidence is overwhelming that they have perished, you cannot immediately proceed as if they were dead.

You must, at least in the State of Alaska, go before a jury, present evidence that would lead someone to reasonably come to the conclusion they have died.

Six people sat in a courtroom earlier this week for part of a day. They listened to an attorney present a timeline of events, witnesses and representatives of organizations who searched, pictures, documents and other details. Included in all of this was my testimony. As the attorney stated it was the first time I had spoken publicly of the events. They preformed a service that I am thankful for, including the hugs and condolences they offered when we were done.

The jury was allowed to ask questions of the witnesses, and they did.

At the end of all the presentations they went into the jury room to  make a decision and come back into the courtroom to make it public.

They agreed it could be presumed there was a death.

Now those of us who loved him can take one more step in healing. I am not sure I can say ‘closure’ as there is no body to mourn. No answers as to what happened or how, or even when exactly.

It might be “just a piece of paper” but hopefully it will continue to make the difference it has the last few days.

The tears have not stopped. The “hole” has not been filled but hopefully, little by little, more healing will happen.

Rain & Wind, No Snow

10997192_10205510551896631_704764242660814815_nToday, as the East Coast is digging out from a BIG winter storm, we sit in our part of Alaska with no snow on the ground, strong winds and mostly temperatures above freezing. Another warmer than ” normal” winter.

I cannot say I miss blizzards, below zero windchill, or trying to safely move through heavy snows.

My soul does miss the quiet we usually have with the snows. I miss the peace that seems to come with the snows. The sense, even if it is false, that the “world” isn’t going to creep into your sphere while the new snows are around. The sun that makes things sparkle.

With the winds comes less need for the generator to run, as the wind turbines meet all our power needs. The rains are biting and such we are making up for the lack of moisture we have been battling the last few years. I am already sick of the cloudy weather, but it is not freezing much so there are trade offs.

I have been listening with an extra “ear” towards one of our wind turbines the last week or so. It is making an extra loud hum that the others do not, and I do remember. Something to keep watching and hoping it does not mean a bearing or something else is going out.

Also it doesn’t seem to feather like I think it should be.

On top of all of this one of the other turbines is making the switching system go nuts with lots of clicking. I thought it might be due to the high winds forcing the battery charge level too high, but even after turning the brakes on that turbine and letting that the battery charge level down it starts doing it again once I take the brake off of it. For now it is shut down and a call will be made to my renewable ‘guru’ on possible thoughts.

Don’t let anyone tell you, as they are selling you, any renewable energy system that it is maintenance “free”. Thank heavens we knew better, and I am not a head in the clouds kind of person.

Dealing With Business Needs

Believe it or not the needs of any business, at least for us, that happens in the spring through early fall, has almost as much work happening when there are chilling temperatures outside. Most farmers, many fishermen, and for sure seafood processors know this is true, if you want things to run smoothly you do  lots of off-season planning.

I have put off digging deeply into the needs of our various businesses these past few months, partly as there have not been overly pressing needs, but also as I knew any decisions made would probably not be sound. I am also well aware that there are a lot of pieces that need to come together to make it successful, even on the short term and unless I fit things together well things will fall apart quickly.

(Off-thread…woke up in the wee hours this morning wondering if I had checked the oil on our generator lately. I got up, bundled up, grabbed the headlamp and headed down to the generator shed in wind and dark to shut the engine off. Remembered in the middle of writing this post I had not checked the ‘gen’, after letting it cool down and the oil to drain down. Off again to the generator shed to check. Glad I did as the level was much too low. I think we have a “safety” on it to switch it off if it gets too low, but I am not sure. I now need to get back into the habit of checking on a set day each week, like I used to do on my car when I lived in the city.)

While I work on gathering a crew for our fishing operation I must also finish up our planting schedule for the farming operation. On top of that comes pulling our spring fuel order together. We get our fuel in via a tug & barge, usually only once a year and we must have the entire year’s need calculated not only for our operation but for those of our customers.

This is the portion of the businesses we run that I am the most “nervous” about.  Lots of planning as to amounts, putting what fuel in what tanks, double checking the on hand amounts,  working out our prices, etc. Since our goal with this business is to drive traffic and support the area businesses we keep our prices very competitive. We also sell a small amount of heating fuel to area villagers which means I need to second guess their needs. It is not anywhere near the bulk of our business, nor was it set up to be, we still find it to be important for some residents in the area.

Unfortunately, at least in our area, we have seen fuel needs for residents and businesses being used as a ‘tool’ to hurt at times. We have seen a city run their own fuel needs (putting heating and power needs for the entire city in jeopardy) so low just to make it hard for a business to conduct their business. Don’t think this is a racist, or even a small city thing…it happens with tribes too.. as we have seen it happen within families.

It is a control and jealousy thing that happens and in these closely related villages….sadly. It is common in the tiny village we live in for a group go out of their way to not include some residents in plans to buy bulk fuel or to help each other, thus we now carry fuel for locals so no one has to stop living out here due to the lack of access to reasonably priced fuel.

We are not ‘white knights’ but are people have seen much to much crap happen to good people and where we can make a difference, we do our best to do so.

So these next few weeks I must battle the desire to ignore the calendar and instead plow into the tank charts, spreadsheets and customer lists to deal with keeping this portion of our, now my, income up and working.

 

 

 

 

Overlooking the River, and Out To the Mountains

This week has been filled with a number of tasks that for many are probably not a ‘big deal’, but to me they are the foundation of skills I must either remind myself I have or must learn to be able to survive at our place here in bush Alaska.

Getting spark plugs pulled-burned out until replacements arrive, getting cold circulation pumps going-with oiled gas in the air intake area,  securing heavy tank loads with chain and a come-along, making sure equipment is plugged in long enough to warm for starting in our below freezing weather, knowing just how far you can take a 500+ gal tank up in the air-tilting it down so you can gravity feed the tanks…..all without either getting hurt, spilling fuel all over or damaging something. On top of all of this happening, with the everything being coated in ice due to earlier freezing rain, you are trying to stay warm while it rains and freezes MORE.  Lots of little tasks that added up to a win for me, and reminding me I should be capable to accomplish much of this.

Now after working several days to get things secure for a cold snap, down to single digits or less, that should roll in tonight I can sit at our bay window that looks out to the “front” yard….miles of river just steps away and a mountain range some 20 miles or so away that is made up of active (steaming almost daily) volcanoes.

While the critters dream and snore on occasion I can watch the winter sun travel the last hour or two out towards the bay and then finally setting. When asked why I do not “pack it in” and return to a life in the big city, filled with restaurants, live theater, and a much easier life, this is why. The beauty. The peace. The quiet. The wildlife. The wonder of rural Alaska!!

If the cold does roll in overnight and tomorrow is too cold to do more than the most critical chores I will probably catch up on some bread baking, more planning for the plant seeding that much start soon and some much needed paperwork.

Some Good, Some Not So

This weekend, although most times there,is little need to pay attention to what day it is this time of year, has been one of mixed successes.

As much as you might plan to accomplish something grief has a way of showing up to disrupt plans. I could not get past lots of memories and feeling totally unable to think clearly, the most frustrating aspect for me, for one full day this weekend. This is unusual for me as I push had to not allow myself to just ‘wallow’ in tears or sadness.

Thank heavens by the end of the weekend my mood had turned around. Seeing the snow capped mountains a mere 20 miles or so away, the river still running freely, a smattering of sun peaking out of clouds and miles of beauty my soul can do nothing but heal a little more

Coming Home

It has been right at three months, although I try hard NOT to count the days, since I lost my  spouse. The death was unexpected, immediate and a total shock. Having now come home from being ‘out’ for the holidays,the tough part of starting to really pick up the pieces of our lives and mold them into some type of life for myself needs to start in earnest.

There has really been little chance to shut down and just ‘grieve’ as we have businesses to keep going, although they are mostly seasonal and this  is the time of year when it is more planning than doing.  Too many things, from making sure there is power to critters needs, call on me daily for attention so succumbing to any type of inaction just cannot happen without a risk of actual harm coming about.

Almost each day, it seems, brings some new task I must learn more about to have things run smoothly or even at all.  Yesterday it was dealing with routers that run our Internet system. I was finally able to work things around to get all of our systems up so I can communicate with the ‘world’.  The day before it was helping to get a kinked and broken propane line  repaired. Learning what it took to flare the end of the copper tubing once the kink was cut out so the fitting could be connected again, and  get propane running into the house, enabling cooking to happen once again. Today seems to be going well enough, so far, that I am getting a break although I can see a possible issue with the solar (panels) tracker. I will need to reach out to my “renewable power guru” via email and pictures to tackle another day. Oh the havoc a 100+ mph wind can cause, especially when you are not there to take precautions.

At this point I am going to stick with the chore of sorting a months worth of mail and working on a planting schedule for the season coming up.

 

How I Got to This Place

After coming to live in rural (the bush) Alaska some years ago, joining my spouse who grew up in the state, I am now trying to make it on my own in an area that is less than friendly.

We built a hard working but successful life that includes a number of businesses, not unusual in this state. We have a commercial fishing business, that includes a processing portion that his mom started some almost 60 years ago, a small but quickly growing farm and finally a fueling business on our private 5000′ airstrip.

We were a partnership that worked hard together and most importantly enjoyed doing so. Our educations and life experiences complimented each other. We both believed strongly in the ability of this area of Alaska to be sustainable and to offer a way of life that is hard to find any more. We have worked hard to support other area businesses and those wanting to keep this a great place to live, while offering opportunities to those who want to join us in the area.

It might not be the easiest thing to do, carrying on alone, but our dreams are intertwined with the hopes, dreams and businesses of others and I am going to do all I can to keep our end of that going.

I decided to put this all ‘down on paper’ so, hopefully, when I reach those points where I wonder if I can on I will be able to review what has happened up to that point and gather my courage to continue.

Whether I have any of this go ‘public’ is yet to be seen.