You guys have been missing me, right? I told my person you would be, but she makes all these lame excuses about being busy with summer chores and visiting kids and blah, blah, blah. I just stare at her. Until finally she gets it.
Her blog needs a dose of Maine Coon.
BTW, even though you haven't heard from me directly, I've been behind the scenes of her blog like usual, giving her pointers on what works and what doesn't--she can be so clueless in these matters--when she's taking pictures for a post. Check out the opening photo of her Interview with Bjorn Dihle, of his book Haunted Inside Passage (click on Books or Authors in the categories section). That's all me. In the picture below you can see me giving her advice on how to frame the photo of his book.
Anyway, it's summer here which means I have to really ramp up my vermin eradication duties to keep up with the migrant herds of mice, shrews, squirrels, weasels, not to mention the occasional malodorous mink. It's a full time job.
I'm proud to share with all of you that my person has finally gotten with the program and has made my mission much easier to accomplish by putting in a new floating walkway to shore that allows me to hunt at all hours and still be able to return to our floating HQ to refuel, no matter what the tide is doing.
I am so proud of her! I came inside and meowed up a storm, congratulating her on her unexpected brightness and initiative (sometimes I think I underestimate her), then demonstrated my prowess on the new walkway. You can see my runway skills below.
Sadly, she continues to deserve "the back," in order to discipline her on occasion.
Maybe you've heard about the bear problem Alaska's been having this year. They're everywhere and they're causing trouble, sometimes attacking humans. Naturally, I'm concerned about my person and want to make sure she survives in order to continue to feed me and groom me after I've gone to all the trouble of adopting her and training her.
Well, the bears have been around here, too. I came in one night and woke my person up with my special "BEAR!" alarm. I can really crank up the decibels when I give this particular meow. I gave my person my biggest-eye look to really get it through to her that this was Serious Business.
She didn't get it. She thought I was crazy.
Until we went for a walk the next day and I showed her a huge pile of bear leavings right in the middle of the trail, only a few yards from the house. Who's crazy now? I asked.
Turns out, she is.
I couldn't believe my eyes when, instead of running home like a good little person, as I insistently instructed, she took pictures.
I was forced to give her "the back" until she realized the error of her ways and followed me home.
(Graphic Photo Warning: If you have a sensitive stomach, do not look at the picture below.)
It's been hot these last few days and my winter fur has been only slowly coming off all summer a hair--or a hundred--at a time, all over my person's clothes and furniture. She complains, but I'm the one wearing a fur coat in 80 F degree heat.
But my person is nothing if not inventive. When my brush just wasn't coping, she discovered that a small flat stone with a ragged edge pulls all the loose hairs out by the gross. I lie on a rock while she uses the "cat scraper" to good effect.
It sometimes takes an hour for her to groom me properly, and she fusses about it, but we all have to do our part to keep me in top vermin-eradication form.
That reminds me. It's time to clock in again and make sure the critters remember who's boss around here. I just need a final polish--it's important to keep up appearances, even in the wilderness--and I'll be on my way. Below is a photo of my excellent grooming--oh, who am I fooling? Below is a photo of what I do whenever I think about what my person did when I showed her proof that a bear had been in the neighborhood....
In 1995 I had an article published in a national publication with an international circulation. In it I described living and writing out here in the bush and it seemed to strike a chord. Hundreds of people wrote to me from all over the world. One woman, a lovely older lady named Donne, wrote to me from where she lived in Johannesburg, South Africa. We wrote back and forth for years and then, on a visit to family in Canada, she made a side trip out here.
We were supposed to pick her up at the dock in Meyers Chuck, but we couldn't due to the weather. (Because we live on the tip of a high, forested peninsula it can be screaming a gale on one side and calm on the other side.) We contacted the airlines and their pilot agreed to drop her off in a bay close to us. She told me later that they were already in flight, late in the day, and the pilot turned to her and said, "Keep an eye our for a cabin in the woods, that's where I'm taking you."
He had only a general idea of where we were but managed to find us. We pulled our skiff up to the pontoon of the floatplane and I met Donne (and her grandson) in the skiff. She said she'd been on some great adventures in her life (including being treed by a rhinoceros), but that her floatplane ride in the Alaskan bush was the greatest.
My cousin, Mark Morse, told me he wanted to write about his first experience of flying into the remote community of Meyers Chuck, where I lived as a child. He said it was something he'd never forgotten.
I don't think anyone forgets that first floatplane splashdown in the Chuck, and, in fact, airlines regularly schedule pickups in the Chuck after they've dropped off their other passengers elsewhere to avoid scaring them. You'll see why that is in Mark's guest blog below.
As the son of divorced parents I spent the school years in Atlanta and the summers with mom in Michigan. In 1977 as a third grader we learned that Mom had moved to Meyers Chuck, Alaska. Living with a father who was successful in the city, my younger brother Alex and I had no clue what it meant to live in an Alaskan bush village.
My first memory was the excruciatingly long flight from Atlanta to Seattle which ended in the flight attendants cutting gum out of Alex's and my hair. Mom met us in Seattle and we took the Alaska ferry system from Seattle to Ketchikan. We didn't get rooms or berths, instead we slept on the top deck under the Solarium in sleeping bags with lots of 1977 hippies also ready to check out Alaska.
The ferry was great and I remember it like yesterday, but the real thrill of Alaska bush living was still ahead of us.
We arrived in Ketchikan and made our way to Tongass Airlines. For the first time ever I saw a plane floating on water and was then instructed to get on it. Your first time taking off on water seems impossible, but soon you're airborne and in the hands of some of the best pilots in the country.
For some reason I always sat in the copilot seat and mom and my brother sat in back. Invariably the pilot would let me take the controls and push the yoke up and down, actually moving the plane. What had been so scary was now kind of cool.
First Time Landing in Meyers Chuck:
As we closed in on our new home, we saw some really tall trees surrounding a tiny bay, guarded by rock reefs on both entry and exit. The pilot flies around the tall trees and cuts the engine too quickly loses altitude, then, just before crashing, re-fires the Cessna engines, floats over the rocks and short bay and slams on the brakes.
Alex and I had ridden every rollercoaster in Georgia. But this was insane.
It's probably a five second maneuver but it's a five minute five seconds as you see every ripple of water, feel the crosswinds, and see the quickly approaching reef. The plane calmly turns toward the float dock, you unload your luggage and meet 10-15 people all willing to help you get to your new log cabin home in the sticks.
It's hard to describe the joy of that first summer, but getting there is something I will always remember minute by minute.
Most people boat into Meyers Chuck, which is around four to five hours from Ketchikan--or a 40 minute flight. But shortcuts in the bush always come at a price!
NOTE: Photos 1, 3, 4, and 5 are by Jo Wendel who lives aboard a boat with her husband in a small community on Prince of Wales Island. She blogs at www.alaskafloatsmyboat.com where you can see, in my opinion, the best photos of rural SE Alaska.
Many people, when they hear the word "editor," might picture someone with a red pencil tucked behind her ear and chained to a desk when she isn't riding the subway with pepper spray in her pocket to protect her bag full of coffee-stained manuscripts. While this image might be inadequate in New York City and other metropolises, it's even more so when you're talking about an editor in Southeast Alaska.
Take, for instance, my editor at Capital City Weekly, Mary Catharine "MC" Martin.
Besides being managing editor of a paper that caters to all of Southeast Alaska, she finds the time to teach a creative writing course at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), be a personal writing coach, write book reviews and articles for CCW, take photos for the paper, and write books of her own.
Before becoming the editor for Capital City Weekly, MC was a staff writer for the paper and spent two wonderful years, as she puts it, "traveling around Southeast Alaska--Yakutat, Angoon, Hoonah, Ketchikan, Wrangell--writing about interesting people doing interesting things."
She finds it funny to think of what she does as "work." As she wrote to me recently: "Tomorrow I'm going to go to a performance of the Git Hayetsk dancers--a group of Tsimshian dancers who perform wearing these amazing, evocative masks one of the group's leaders carved--to take some photos for the weekly. That's 'work,'" she adds with a sort of whimsical irony.
In the course of doing research for one of her book projects, she circumnavigated Douglas Island where she lives, across from Alaska's capitol, Juneau, where her office is located. (Techinically, Douglas is part of Juneau.)
"The front portion of the island is roaded, but the back--around 20 to 30 miles--is wild," she explains, and adds that while on her trek (anyone who's circumnavigated an island in SE Alaska on foot knows that's no mean feat), "I waded into the ocean to avoid two young black bears, creeped myself out and had to move camp, scrabbled up steep hillsides by digging my fingers into the dirt, and almost killed my feet."
Did the experience get her down and dissuade her from continuing to do field-research on her book? Hardly. This is an Alaskan editor we're talking about.
"By the end I was humming to myself," she says, even though her feet had swelled up and she could barely hobble home. "I had to wear flip flops for a week, but it was my favorite thing I did last year."
MC is a born wordsmith, spending most of her waking hours thinking about words and stories since she first learned to read. She became known for her obliviousness to anything going on while reading, including her name being called over an intercom or someone dancing around in front of her trying to catch her attention.
"Once you're in that deep, editing, at least in your head," she says, "becomes involuntary. Soon I'll be one of those people running around with an apostrophe on a long stick and I'll just stand there, an apostrophe activist, in front of signs that need them. Just kidding. Sort of."
MC's sense of humor is something I rely on when I send her my column, especially when I tell her it may be late or I can't get the accompanying photo because the tide isn't cooperating. If you happen to follow her boyfriend Bjorn Dihle's articles in the Juneau Empire, or have read his book Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska (early release in Alaska, official relase May 2, 2017), you will find more instances of her sense of humor being put to the test.
As Bjorn writes in a chapter titled "The Ghost of Castle Hill":
"One afternoon, as sheets of rain echoed off the windows and the wind made the condo shudder, I was feeling a little lost in the mental doldrums. I decided to incite the wrath of my feminist girlfriend, MC, in the hopes it would help with my writer's block."
He goes on to do precisely that. And, as he says: "My plan worked. After she finished screaming and throwing books and cutlery at me, I was able to concentrate and write again."
I have a hard time picturing MC, with her unfailing good humor, being driven to that extreme, but you never know. If anyone could pull it off, I'm sure it's Bjorn.
Bjorn and MC are a matched set with their sense of humor, love of writing and books, and the urge to experience the real wilderness. "Most years Bjorn and I take a few weeks and float down a river in the Yukon or Alaska," MC says. "So far, we've floated down the Stikine (which was amazing--we spent about a week traveling from Telegraph Creek, in British Columbia, to Wrangell), and the Nisutlin, Pelly, and Big Salmon rivers, all of which are in the Yukon. This year, as research for the Klondike book I'm [writing], we're going to retrace the route of the gold rush stampeders."
MC will be taking a break from editing (I'm going to miss her, but I'm looking forward to working with another Alaskan editor/writer, Clara Miller), to do a writing residency at Alderworks, in Dyea, Alaska, the start of the famous Chilkoot Trail, until early June. Then she and Bjorn and Fen will hike the 33 or so miles of the Chilkoot Trail and paddle the 550 or so miles from Lake Bennett to Dawson.
"It'll take most of June," MC says, "and I can't wait."
I look forward to hearing about it, and how her book project goes. I'll be sure to share the results with all of you.
NOTE: All the photos, except the ones MC took of her office and the view of Douglas Island, are by Bjorn Dihle.
MC has recently edited my latest column, this time about a ghost town treasure, appearing Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at www.capitalcityweekly.com.