(No snow on even the highest mountains, which usually have snow all year around.)
Last week it sprinkled lightly for two days and I got such a rush! I felt energized for the first time this summer and ready to take on the world, blog it up like mad, write entire chapters in my book, put new logs in my float, re-build the dam....
And then, just like in that horrible Terminator-type song "Here Comes the Sun" it all went south again.
Yep. More sun. Non-stop sun. Sun even where the sun doesn't shine sun. It's been everywhere this summer, and it refuses to go away for more than a few moments at a time--and only then with a Teutonic, threatening "I'll be back" promise--and the oppression is wearing me down.
This is a rainforest! Or it's supposed to be. I grew up loving the sound of rain drumming on the roof, of roaming the beaches on a windy, rainy day. I have always loved the rain. And now that I can't drink the water in our dam, I'm reliant on rainwater for my very life.
("Here comes the sun!" Even the wildflowers have given up smiling about it.)
Yesterday when we crossed the strait to do a grocery, fuel, and bottled water run there were only the barest hints of snow on even the tallest mountains. In the store, one of the employees told me, as he brought out cases of water to put on a barren shelf, that he can't keep the water stocked. My dad was told by a local that they're rationing showers.
In one of the last great rainforests on earth!
At least we're not dealing with the fires that some of my friends in California are coping with. One friend, who lives in northern California, has been facing possible evacuation, and so has her sister. Alaskan firefighters have been flown down to help with the blazes.
Meanwhile, back in the "rainforest," in addition to unheard of temperatures every day in the Eighties (F) and higher, we had smoke from fires in British Columbia being funneled down the Inside Passage causing respiratory problems. One evening my dad came home and saw a spectacular sunset due to the smoke. He came and got me to take pictures of the enormous, cherry red sun just hanging there off one of Prince of Wales Island's headlands.
Unfortunately the tablet wasn't able to capture the scene the way the human eye experienced it, as you can see. In person, the sun looked as big as Jupiter hanging above the strait and made me feel like I'd transported onto another planet.
So, yes, the sun is being like the worst guest possible, paying no attention to that scripture that says "Make your foot rare at the home of your friend" and instead is waaaay outstaying its welcome in the rainforest. But at least the sunsets are glorious.
While there are a lot of wildfires burning in British Columbia to the east and south of our position, we were puzzled by the fact that the smoke seemed to be coming from the northwest and we've had weeks of northerlies blowing. My brother Robin just shared that the smoke haze we're seeing is actually coming from Siberia, Russia, where vast fires there are creating massive plumes of smoke that have crossed the Pacific to inundate Alaska, Canada, and states in the northwestern U.S.
It's that time of the year when bears are everywhere. Thirteen-year-old A.C. Darden who comes and stays with us frequently told me that the day before she came to visit there was a black bear down on the dock at the nearby village. Fortunately there aren't that many tourist vessels in yet and the summer people are still sparse so there was no interaction.
My dad, A.C.'s brother, and I went over to work on the dam a few days ago and found that a bear had been there, too. While I was gone the bear had ripped the pump off the dam and chomped into almost every piece of plastic around, including oil jugs and the container we use to prime the pump. Fortunately he didn't bite the pump itself, or the waterline. He did carry off our can of ether, though, that we use to get the balky pump engine started. I pictured him passed out somewhere in the woods after puncturing the can.
Apparently, though, it didn't keep him down for long--either that or there's another bear around--because two days ago my dad saw a black bear near the beach that has a good signal, where I go to send my blog posts.
Not wanting to make the bear's acquaintance, even though I go everywhere with a .44 strapped to my hip these days, I've decided to just send off this short blog post explaining why my longer post about my trip back from Juneau will be delayed--it's on a bear hold.
(If you want to read about what took me to Juneau and the trip up there here's a link to my column that talks about it: http://juneauempire.com/capitalcityweekly/ccw-columns/2018-05-23/alaska-real: wilderness-nanny-interrupted.)
Sorry for the shortness of this post, but I have to use as few photos as possible so it will send from my house. I'm willing to brave deep snow, gales, and pouring rain to send off blog posts, but I'm not willing to face this:
An early memory that I treasure and often revisit is of when I was about eight years old and I was staying with my grandparents at their cabin in Meyers Chuck on a dark fall or winter day. It was overcast, windy, and raw outside. The water was a dark, angry grey, slapping at the boats moored at the dock across the harbor and rocking them, making the bells on the tops of the trolling poles ring out. Inside the house the wood stove was crackling and a pot of fragrant coffee perked on top of it. My grandparents were quietly reading books and exchanging comments while I was curled up on the couch coloring.
The waxy smell of the crayons, the rough texture of the paper in the coloring book about fairytales, the picture of a young man attempting to strike a flint stone and my grandmother's explanation of what a flint stone was and why it had been so important--she knew that as a bush kid I'd appreciate the need for fire in heating, cooking, and lighting--all come back to me in a flood of warmth accompanied by a deep sense of security.
It's not a lone memory. My mom always loved coloring and she brought us kids up to color alongside her, particularly during those cold, dark days when we couldn't play outside. I have many memories of all of us grouped around the table or on the floor with the stove emanating heat and an audiotape playing The Lost World or Wind in the Willows as we shared stubby, broken crayons, squabbling over whose turn it was to use the peach or sky blue.
We were in perpetual awe at my mom's intricate coloring and asked her how we could color like she did. Her reply was always the same, "It's just practice. The more you do the better you get at it."
We all tried, but I don't think any of us ever really believed we'd be as good as she was. And, to be honest, we never did attain to her level. Her ability to put light and shadow into a bland, flat drawing, to bring people and images vibrantly to life, is, in my opinion, without parallel. Many was the time I'd give up coloring for the greater pleasure of watching a scene come to life under her skillful fingers.
All of the children who have stayed with us get hooked on the joys of coloring. Twelve-year-old A. C. Darden, who visits us regularly and spends summers with us (along with her brother), asked if we'd get her a coloring book based on the Archie comics, her favorite reading material. We were able to do so and when she visits us in these cold days she takes pleasure in spending quality time with Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie in summery Riverdale.
"What's your favorite part of coloring?" I asked her.
"The colors," she said firmly.
My mom said she'd have to agree. "It's all about the colors. I can remember the very first picture I colored," she added. "I was about three, I think. It was of a chicken and an egg. I remember trying really hard to get the colors just right and I must have colored it really well--I think I was shading even then--because the adults all raved about it."
With that kind of validation, not common from adults to children when she was growing up, she became addicted to coloring, and not just for the pleasure of it.
Long before the current adult coloring book fad, before therapists found out the soothing qualities of coloring and recommended it to their patients, my mom always turned to her coloring books whenever she was going through a stressful time (being often entirely alone in the wilderness with five kids, for example), and especially when she's coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Dr. Nicki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, writing for The Huffington Post, says that "There are many times when I suggest adult coloring books to patients and they look at me like perhaps we should be switching seats. However, time and again, they come back to me and tell me how beneficial they find them to be. Many psychologists and therapists 'prescribe' these to patients for various reasons, and many occupational therapists presribe them as well!"
As additional good news--my mom is always worrying that she's on the verge of complete cognitive disintegration--Dr. Martinez also maintains that "coloring has intellectual benefits as well. It utilizes areas of the brain that enahance focus and concentration. It also helps with problem solving and organizational skills. This may sound strange, and like perhaps the usefulness is being stretched, but it is all true. Our frontal lobes are responsible for these higher level activities and functions of the brain, and coloring detailed pictures activates all those properties."
Plus, she adds: "Coloring utilizes both hemispheres of the brain, right and left. When we are thinking about balance,color choices, applying colored pencil to paper, we are working on problem solving and fine motor skills."
My sister, Megan. A Duncanson, a world-renowned artist, created her own coloring book titled "In the Garden." (Available at Amazon and elsewhere.) In the front matter she wrote a dedication to my mom, saying, "She raised my four siblings and me to appreciate the arts and we would spend endless hours coloring in stacks upon stacks of coloring books as children. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of my childhood growing up in the remote bush of Alaska."
I feel the same way, and, in fact, I'm getting the urge to pick up a coloring book and start coloring to ward off the cold and short days of winter.
Note: A version of this story appeared previously in Capital City Weekly.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)