30 November 2008

Sunday morning musings...

I woke up this morning, after a much needed and greatly enjoyed night's sleep, to the sounds of snow plows outside and a veritable winter wonderland. I let the dog out, made a pot of coffee, started a fire, pulled up next to it and settled in to read the Nov/Dec issue of Orion magazine.

I turned to an article by Rebecca Solnit, 'The Most Radical Thing You Can Do', speaking to a conversation that Tim, Megan, and I, and more recently Justine, have been having on and off this fall. The idea, as Tim put forth, of being consumers of experiences and ever needing more - even as we believe so strongly in 'Buy Local' and reduction of emissions and carbon footprints. Not that I hadn't considered my negative global impact as a result of travel, but the extent to which I had thought about it began and ended, more or less, with the raw numbers - how much jet fuel I just contributed to burning etc etc. But the idea the perhaps indeed the most radical thing I can do is to stay home. To invest and experience and live and be in the immediacy and beauty of the land around me. The final paragraph of the article reads,

The word radical comes from the Latin word for root. Perhaps the most radical thing you can do in our time is to start turning over the soil, loosening it up for the crops to settle in, and then stay home to tend them.

Okay, I'm sold. Easy, right?

Not so much as I turn the page to the next article by Bill McKibben, 'Multiplication Saves the Day'. Knut's words ring in my head, excitedly discussing the possibilities and the implications of a multiplier effect - though in that case relating to moose response to increasing abundance of forage resources. McKibben posits that while we all can and should pat ourselves on the backs and continue to fight the good fight of individual responsibility to change - more efficient appliances, buying at the local farmer's markets, taking shorter showers - it is simply not enough. And it's never been enough .. individual decisions need to be cased within a larger context that can ring in the ears of the entire country. He says,

The trick is to take that 5 percent [who are deeply concerned and motivated to act on climate change at an individual level] and make them count for far more than 5 percent. And the trick to that is democracy.

The political mobilization of that 5 percent can ricochet around the nation and drive home federally mandated change - indeed this is how the Civil Rights Act came to be. In McKibben's words:

...the strategy was not to desegregate the country one lunch counter at a time - there were way too many lunch counters. Instead, you use the drama of the fight over one lunch counter to help drive the Civil Rights Act, which puts the full power of the federal government behind the idea...

As I turned yet another page I found myself enveloped in Ginger Strand's article, 'The Crying Indian - How an environmental icon helped sell cans - and sell out environmentalism'. My heart pounded as I read it (and not solely due to all of the coffee) ---

"How can we expect individual choice to right the wrongs of collective decisions?"

The Ad Council worked with Keep America Beautiful to campaign for the awareness and curbing of littering in the 1960s and 70s. Great, except that KAB is founded by the companies that worked so hard to move towards disposable packaging after WWII, given the cost effectiveness of one-way delivering (i.e. no refilling of soda bottles). The very idea that we, as a collective nation, were cajoled into this new way of being - my grandparents and great-grandparents were essentially convinced that to consume and discard is the best way to be a citizen of Our Great Country. From Strand's article this quote from economist Robert Nathan in 1944,

Only if we have large demands can we expect large production. Therefore, it is important that in planning for the postwar period, we give adequate consideration to the need for ever-increasing consumption on the part of our people as one of the prime requisites for prosperity.

How do we contend with such a marketing campaign on such a large scale - the damming of the Columbia to not only provide cheap electric, but to create aluminum plants for the war that then have heaps of product following said war needing a market? The idea that production off of the mass-production assembly line needs to be met by an equally ravenous consumptive energy - how truly and completely the tail wags the dog. We took that road. We have walked this walk for decades now, such that the idea to me of having to market the idea of disposability to the populace kind of blow my mind. In that revelation, however, is a deep vein of hope. We are not necessarily doomed to be hopeless consumers, mired in our individual crosses to bear - 300 pounds per capita annually of solid waste production.

But there again is that question,

How can we expect individual choice to right the wrongs of collective decisions?

I'm going to leave it at that for now, as I have to head into the office for a bit and contemplate other questions concerning citizen's science, water quality monitoring, Kachemak Bay and my place in the organization I have now joined. That thought, though, is well worth contemplation. As a proud member of the 5% McKibben calls forth, how do I move my individual choice into a collective movement, into the fabric of a democracy that has and will see remarkable power towards revolution and change?

17 November 2008


I know I'm on another poetry roll - no pictures, no personal life updates....But this, from today's Writer's Almanac, is just ....perfect.

A few quick things:
* no more halibut for me!!! Commercial halibut season ended on Saturday, Nov. 15th and with it my contract with the International Pacific Halibut Commission. I loved working for them, there are many parts of that job that were so funny and interesting and I'm thankful for the experience on the docks. That being said - yeah!!! This is Major Cause for Celebration.
* working the new desk job for Cook Inletkeeper in Homer, as their volunteer coordinator. Hell yeah. 40hr/week office job? Eh....we'll see. But I will get into the field a bit in the summer, and there's potential. Po-ten-tial.
* Kayak is still coming along, though on a bit of a hiatus while I wait for the skin to come in. That being said, I still need to finish up the coaming and make a paddle at some point.
* Justine is coming to visit next week!! Yeah!!!


by David Budbill

Sometimes when day after day we have cloudless blue skies,
warm temperatures, colorful trees and brilliant sun, when
it seems like all this will go on forever,

when I harvest vegetables from the garden all day,
then drink tea and doze in the late afternoon sun,
and in the evening one night make pickled beets
and green tomato chutney, the next red tomato chutney,
and the day after that pick the fruits of my arbor
and make grape jam,

when we walk in the woods every evening over fallen leaves,
through yellow light, when nights are cool, and days warm,

when I am so happy I am afraid I might explode or disappear
or somehow be taken away from all this,

at those times when I feel so happy, so good, so alive, so in love
with the world, with my own sensuous, beautiful life, suddenly

I think about all the suffering and pain in the world, the agony
and dying. I think about all those people being tortured, right now,
in my name. But I still feel happy and good, alive and in love with
the world and with my lucky, guilty, sensuous, beautiful life because,

I know in the next minute or tomorrow all this may be
taken from me, and therefore I've got to say, right now,
what I feel and know and see, I've got to say, right now,
how beautiful and sweet this world can be.

04 November 2008

Living History

There's nothing particularly eloquent or grandiose that I want to say right now - I haven't the words to express the feelings that run through my head and my heart and my country.....laying on the floor, listening to Obama's acceptance speech with friends sitting around talking and a puppy playing. I don't necessarily believe that this is IT, we are heading for a revolutionary change that will fundamentally fix our deeply flawed system. However, I feel a shift a realignment a *possibility*
And it is that possibility that I can align myself with and hold on to, maybe even shed the slightest bit of cynicism....(but no promises there)


That is the theme that I'm running with for my personal life, my professional life, life life life, this beautiful and vast country & world. Lofty, yes. but if we don't have possibility, if there's no hope and no optimism ---- then what do we have? What's left?

I'm in. Let's do it.
(Hell Yeah)

26 October 2008

Holy clamps, batman!


Actually, I think I could have used a few more...well, at least some different kinds of clamps.  Sue and I agreed the "gun clamp" and the "big ass clamp" were the best...the others really just barely did the job.  Get together a bunch of thin strips of wood, a tight oval, wax paper, and a ton of epoxy and you get the idea -- thoughts on "there must be a better way" kind of float through your head.

What on Earth am I talking about?? 

The cockpit rim, or coaming, for my kayak needs to be built.  The typical way that is suggested is to build a long steam box and steam bend a ~6' length of 7/8" thick hardwood around a form that is oval-shaped .. the cockpit.  Steve and Ben suggested making it instead by laminating 1/8" thick strips of spruce around the same form with some kind of adhesive....a marine epoxy being the best bet all around.  Except, of course, for ease of use.

Ben agreed to help rip out the long and thin strips of spruce, and to help me in the endeavor to create an oval-shaped form that could be worked with.  This was a more tedious task than I had anticipated, largely due to some of my general woodworking ineptitude...that being said, I think I'm getting better and better as this project continues.  Thankfully the company was good, patience abounded, and I/we were successful...kind of.  I'm also working on my concept of "perfection" vs. "good enough" and being a little more picky.

IMG_0232 IMG_0235

So the next day I went with the intention of epoxying.  I'm using System Three Laminate Gel (I think is what it's called), with something around a 10 minute set time.  The first roadblock was the wax paper - very necessary to not glue the clamps to the strips, strips to the table, table to the clamps, strips to the form, etc etc etc.  Found out (thanks, Mom!) that wax paper and parchment paper are indeed different beasts, but the jury is still out on whether or not parchment could be used for this task.  I decided to play it safe (as I typically due, I'm such a pansy - need to work on this?) and get me some good ole'fashioned wax paper.  Even with the strips, the form, the clamps, the wax paper, and the epoxy, I was unable to perform this task alone - although I gave it the old college try and found myself covered in epoxy and unsure as to whether or not a kayak actually even *needs* a cockpit rim.  I mean, really...

Sue, thankfully, called and offered her assistance!! Did she know what she was getting into?  Probably not.  But am I ever thankful? Absolutely! 


Sue loves clamps.  In fact, she {hearts} them...

IMG_0242 Lots and lots and lots o' clamps


My days of laminating are not over, though they're getting close.  It'll be interesting to go back tomorrow and see how much I glued to the table.  I fear that my wax paper job may have been a bit on the sloppy side...

22 October 2008

She Floats!!!

Yesterday I did a saran test on my completed boat frame!  I was fairly nervous, to the point that I had a hard time convincing my body I needed to eat lunch.  It's been over two years since I've been in any sea kayak, and that was only a one week trip in Prince William Sound.  My friend Ben kept asking how my roll was...I kept insisting we not talk about it - or how difficult a wet exit would be from a boat with such a small opening.  Squeezing into this Greenland kayak is no small feat.  I don't want to try squeezing out of it in Kachemak Bay in mid-October. That being said, I had three people on the shore ready for the rescue, my PDF, and a full change of clothes just.in.case.




Kaya was a little unsure of exactly what I thought I was doing.  She was definitely not going to be swimming out to meet me.  Pemba, Ben's dog, on the other hand was all about it.  I was pretty sure she was going to take me down by trying to jump on the boat - but crisis was averted. 



The Gibson's, looking on.  They have provided me with all of the lumber for this project, ripped much of it to proper dimensions, and have graciously donated a small space to me at the sawmill to finish up this project, as winter has descended and my front-yard-uncovered workspace stopped being quite so productive.

05 October 2008

It's baseball postseason and white-capped mountains are in view!

I can't believe it's already October.  The blustery winds, periodic rains, cold temperatures and clear skies drive the point home.  Not to mention the incredibly beautiful snow-capped mountains out my window, across the Bay.  Bringing it home even further will be later today when I switch back to my snow tires for a trip to Fairbanks starting tomorrow.  I remember vividly switching those tires over in May and stashing the studs in the shed.  Time flies...and here we are on the brink of another winter, baseball's postseason in full swing.  I'm a little disappointed that the Cubs were ousted so early, but hopefully today the Red Sox will sweep the Angels and move on to either the White Sox or TB...I'm kind of hoping for the Rays.

On the boat front:

IMG_0068 IMG_0070IMG_0065


The keel and chines are done (though possibly the chines are set too high on the bow & stern pieces....), the bow and stern pieces created & pegged to the keel and lashed to the gunwales.

In order to join the gunwales and the stem pieces on the bow and stern, I chiseled out a recess and cut out a breast plate to lay across the three pieces on either end:


Here are a bunch of little saw-cuts that were then chiseled out:


Tadaa!  The stern breast plate. 


She's coming along!!


On other fronts, this is a picture from last week - there is far more snow now, but this is part of my view from my room...the snow is now blanketing the peaks, and there's a dusting almost to the bay.  Yeah!  If you haven't heard my excited rant, I'm planning to take up some backcountry skiing this winter - I can't wait to get into the mountains!

IMG_0047 IMG_0050

Dogs are still happily roaming the beaches.....


And we have something that semi-resembles autumn around these parts...fleeting as it may be, I'll take it.  Someday soon I'll post up pictures from the harvest party we had last night...indeed, I had people eating donuts off of strings in what has become known as New England tradition.  Did I make this up?  I know I've done it before, but perhaps it's not as ingrained as I've made it sound...at any rate, I almost can't believe that 10 people got down on their knees and attempted to eat donuts, no hands, faster than their peers.  Happy fall!

15 September 2008

Birthday Backpackin'

August 30th was my 27th birthday!  Having spent much of my summer in Homer, on call and waiting to scan fish, it was solidly decided that I had to get out of dodge for my birthday.  (In case you aren't aware, birthdays are my favorite holidays of the year....I love the entire idea of celebrating individuals on their very own day!)  August 31st was the 24th birthday of my friend and old roommate, Jen!  So the two of us, our friend Rachel Todd, and my two dogs headed across Kachemak Bay to Kachemak Bay State Park for a 3 day backpacking trip in celebration of us and the wilderness. Yeah!

18augpics.jpg (44)


The water taxi dropped us off at Humpy Creek, where indeed the Humpy's were running.  If you look at this picture of the Creek, all of the things poking out of the water are the backs of spawning salmon.  It was a veritable playground for the dogs, who paid for their rotten salmon buffet later that night with much puking.  They didn't seem too phased, but I thought it was disgusting.

P1010115 P1010123

Jen and Rachel, on Saturday.  The 30th was an absolutely gorgeous day - nearly no clouds to be seen  and we were HOT (not just figuratively, either).  One of the few times this summer that I've felt really really too warm. 


The dogs resting in the shade when we reached the alpine, on our way to Emerald Lake.


P1010147 So fun, we found snow! 


This is Emerald Lake, where we camped for two nights.  On the second day we hiked down to the edge of the glacier, and then back up to the lake.  At this lovely overlook, day one, we had stopped for picture taking and snacking before heading straight down through the alders and massive shrubs to the lake.  And being the cool kid that I am, I left my camera sitting in the tundra.  It proceeded to rain rain rain for the next two days, and by the time I realized where my camera was and climbed back up to retrieve it....well, let's just say I ordered a new camera and it's on its way.


The result of the camera-debacle is that my pictures from this trip stop abruptly at the beautiful weather and this scenic overlook.  Alas.  Jen has more, and at some point I'll have to direct you either to her pictures online or post a few up here.  But for now, I think you get the gist.  Three days, great company, beautiful beautiful mountains and ice and snow, good hiking, a most fabulous birthday.

ever-changing, the shoulder season is a tough time to work outdoors....

It's true, I believe, that we have solidly hit what I consider to be the shoulder season.  Let's not be crazy and call it "fall", down here in SouthCentral AK it's far from the autumn that I dig into in Fairbanks or New England.  This is a much wetter, grayer season with some slow changes to yellow and red in the trees and the fireweed.  The Anchorage Daily reported last Sunday that indeed this was one of the coldest summers Alaska has seen in many many years.  Fantastic.  No serious complaints from me, though - the times of sun we've had have been lovely, and the rains have been sporadic enough to not make me feel entirely cooped up and crazy.  Boat building has been fairly slow-going, given my outdoors workspace and the daily rains that hit us seemingly whenever I have a spare moment to drive over to the boat....

However, some pictures for an update:

 18augpics.jpg (56)  this is the jig I used to start the bending in the ribs.  I was rather concerned about the use of spruce, as I hadn't heard great things about it as bending stock.  However, spruce is what I had, and so not truly knowing any better spruce is what I set out to bend.

18augpics.jpg (50)

Here are the ribs, cut to size, pre-bending, making a beautiful circle.


18augpics.jpg (67)

18augpics.jpg (66)

HaHa!!! Success!  A few of the ribs, mainly the for-most one, had to be re-bent 3, 4, 5 times as it kept breaking.  And then another rib (you can see it in the close-up rib view above) had to be re-bent the next day when I fully realized how wonky the shape was.  All in all, however, it was a much smoother process than I had anticipated! 

02 August 2008

Boat Update!

Before I do a general summer-update, I will post up some pictures of my boat-in-progress. I just moved in the past few days, and was really hoping to get deck beams all secured in place beforehand. Come to find out, hand-cutting compound angles is a wee bit tricky, and I blew through quite a bit of wood before getting the hang of it. It's still taking awhile for each one, and not reading the directions correctly really didn't help at the onset.

A week ago (or so..) I cut out spreaders and end braces, leveled and adjusted everything, and now my boat really looks like a boat! The ends are doweled together, and she's taking shape...slowly but surely!

And maybe you'll notice that I'm no longer working within a carport for my woodshop! I've moved, and Megan's front yard area is now my make-shift boatbuilding workshop. So far I've been super lucky with weather - summer finally came!! But I'm going to have to bust out the tarp action, and work when I can when the sun is shining!

27 July 2008

And the rain came down...

Day six. Or seven.  Possibly, come to think of it, eight nine or ten, of rainy days here in SouthCentral Alaska.  I cringe to think of summing up the time I've seen the sun in the past week.  The hours could be counted on one hand, and that time denomination is pretty optimistic. 

I have been wanting to post pictures from recent events, but my camera cord is hopelessly lost in my house somewhere.  I have searched to such an extent that I'm afraid that I had a "moment" and perhaps placed it in the freezer?  Or one of the dogs ate it.  Or it's gone to the same place my single socks go missing to...

So no pictures, but some updated thoughts from life in Homer these days.  There's a good chance that my camera cord *will* be uncovered, as I am presently taking a break from packing. Yes, packing. Yet again I'm moving myself, my dogs, our belongings, to another home.  Yeah! This time, we're moving in with Ms. Megan Murphy, to her fabulous home- such an exciting work-in-progress that I'm very much looking forward to be part of the changes and living amongst & contributing to the improvements I've been so impressed by!  Not to mention having such wonderful roommates (that being said, I will very much miss Jen and Blaine and our little house with big windows in the suburbs of Homer).

My current life plans include staying around Homer for the winter.  I just love rain and scanning fish *that* much.  Just kidding...I'm excited about hanging around a bit longer - it took me so long to warm up to this place (and I mean that extremely figuratively - have I mentioned how damned cold it's been this "summer"?), I'm not quite ready to leave yet. 

Last weekend, the last solid bit of sun I can recall, Kaya and Shaemus and I went down to Bishop's Beach to run at one of the super-low tides.  Once getting beyond the 1/4 mile immediately surrounding the parking area, there were no people.  No one.  This is a beautiful part of a seaside tourist community in Alaska, vs. Maine where I'm from.  The beaches, more or less, remain fantastically deserted throughout the summer...even when the sun is out, there isn't much in the way of sunbathing to be done, and even less swimming.  So as we were running down the beach, the dogs were playing in the rocks, the waves, tearing down the open sand - and I was running along, shirt tied around my waste and sun streaming onto my arms and bared torso (first, and probably only, time of the year).  The cliffs along the beach remind me so much of Peninsula Valdes in Patagonia, and my dogs running with abandon made me feel so blessed and overwhelmed with joy that I couldn't imagine it was time to pack up and move on at this point.  There are just too many runs left to do on that beach, with those cliffs, and these dogs.  Not to mention the quite-good skijoring to be done in the wintertime! 

I should get back to packing, but whenever I find that camera cord....my boat looks much like a boat these days!  I know, you can't wait, can ya?!

04 July 2008

inspiration realized - kayak building...

so, as i just described in my last post, mom and i were across the bay and i was inspired. i need a boat.

okay. what i really need is a small skiff, with a small engine.  given, however, that i have little in the way of financial resources, and the skiff my dad said he'd give me is upwards of 3000 miles away (by land, lord knows how far by sea...), the kayak i'm fixin' to build is going to have to suffice for now.

so this evening i got up the courage to do some measuring, some more measuring, and then to make some serious cuts in the gunwales, which are still nailed together for symmetry's sake.

IMG_0422 i'm pretty pleased with my use of power tools...


i already drilled the holes in the bottom where the ribs will go (pictures later - i don't have them handy), and so the job tonight was to shape the gunwales.  i.e. - cut off large pieces of wood.  ack!

i practiced a bit with the hand-jigsaw that i bought for $20 at a yard sale a few weeks ago.  palms kind of sweating with nerves, i cut into my boat frame and started the process....

mom came out and was a huge help - not only did she have good thoughts on clamping and tool-use, but she also did a bit of documenting:


there's a video, as well, of me jig-sawin', but i'm going to have to figure out how to get it up and posted... more later, but the kayak building is on!

inspiration across the bay

  yesterday morning, mom and i took a water taxi across kachemak bay, to kachemak bay state park.  we stayed in a beautiful yurt, built by nomad shelters here in homer.

IMG_0336 IMG_0391

i really loved this shelter - i think i could easily live in a yurt, and kaya and shaemus didn't seem to mind, either...


the beach was gorgeous - we had a campfire and read by the water in the evening.  earlier in the day we hiked over to the grenwick glacier lake - soooo beautiful!  icebergs were brilliant blue, and the glacier was incredible.  on the way back we had a good bear-scare, with the dogs alerting us to a bear just off the trail in the woods.  i was on the ready with bear spray, and mom was securely fastened to my back.  we yelled our way down the trail, making sure that we were noticed and weren't surprising anyone...all was good, albeit a little shaky, and we made it back to the yurt safe and sound!

 IMG_0342 P1290006


dogs were happily roaming free, swimming in the ocean and amongst the icebergs, mom and i got to relax and breath in the deep smells of the forest (ahhh! big trees - i love it!), and all in all i felt inspired and incredibly pleased with the world.