Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Life Of Its Own

As I was driving into work this morning the sky, at least that early, held promise for a partially sunny day.
By the time I arrived in the Valley though, and continuing as I got closer to downtown, the sky became dark and then darker.
The weather (half heartedly and for just a short while)  tried to clear after days of heavy pouring rain and high winds.  It tried unsuccessfully to clear for this Thursday.
But there was something very calm, and quiet and soothing about the weather we had today.
It did not really rain.
It was not really even that cold.
But the fog banks that dominated downtown Juneau today weaved themselves slowly and methodically in and around both the mountains and the downtown office buildings.
After a downtown meeting I slowly walked back to my car.
I looked at the mountains in back of Juneau.  And then over at the mountains on Douglas Island.
I walked across to Marine Park and then walked along the sidewalks that followed the water back to the parking lot, watching the fog the entire time.
The fog today seemed to take on a life of its own - to have an underlying energy to it - as it appeared to follow me while I walked.
Such is Juneau when the sky is grey and the fog lies low. 
I have seen days when the sky was perfectly blue, and the fog lay in a thick layer only along the entire length of the channel.
I have seen days where the fog lay so low and thick, that it appeared that mountain tops were floating in the air.
I have seen days where Douglas Island completely and absolutely disappeared.
And I have seen fog, not in bands, but in thousands of small pieces, floating through the mountains so thickly that it appeared that the mountains were filled with smoke.
I wonder if Juneau ever HAS had a forest fire before?
Somehow I doubt it..........

One day late last Spring I rode my bike from downtown Juneau to just beyond the boat ramp over on Douglas N.
It was only about 10 miles.
Downtown Juneau that early in spring was a beautiful and clear and very cool day, but I was dressed for the weather.
Or at least I thought I was.
By the time I had ridden only a few miles I began to hit fog, and the temperature started to drop.
By the time I arrived at the boat ramp I was completely and absolutely enveloped in fog.
Fog that was so thick that it actually became claustrophobic.
The fog was so thick that it felt to me like a solid wall of grey that was closing in on me.
I biked a little further once I got to the boat ramp.
Partly because when I looked out on what I knew was a beautiful channel and island view in normal weather, all I saw was a wall of grey on that cold biking day. 
I could see nothing at all beyond a few feet from shore.
And partly I biked further because I was freezing, needed to move, and continued to hope that I would be able to ride out of the fog and back into the sunshine.
That did not happen.
I was freezing cold, even when I put on all the extra clothes I was carrying in my pack.
My outer fleece (one of three layers I was wearing on top) was covered in a thin layer of ice.
After much too long being outside and on a bike in those kinds of conditions I decided to head back to Juneau.
It seemed like a very very very cold and miserable ride back to town, but when I crossed over the Juneau-Douglas Bridge I again hit sunshine.
Weather in this town can be strange, unpredictable and incredibly localized.............
THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on
........Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Is What It Is

I took a walk while I was downtown today.
The nasty-ass weather continued to get worse as the day progressed, moving from cloudy and cool early this morning to hard rain, high winds and decreasing temperatures later.
At 8am it was 52 degrees and by 10:30am the temperature gauge at City Hall read a balmy 48.
I smiled in resignation when I saw that.
I know that Juneau weather bothers a lot of people, but in the almost nine months that I have been here it has never bothered me.
My Mountain Boy makes fun of me because one of my favorite expressions, regardless of the situation, is "It is what it is".
The weather in Juneau just is what it is.
I walked for quite a while late this morning, having a lot of steam to burn and nowhere to put it.
And so I walked.  And then walked some more.
Today is the official end of tourist season in this Alaskan capital city.  The last cruiseship came into town on a cold and wet fall day, and then it left.
And will not be back until next May.
And today I finally saw first hand that Juneau is, as predicted and promised, indeed shutting itself down for the winter.
The float planes are gone. 
The flower baskets that have been hanging from street lamps, and the colorful flags that have been hanging from posts all over the city all summer, have been taken down.
The boardwalk is empty.  Almost empty anyway.
And with the exception of a few last holdouts, the street vendors have headed back home to wherever home is.
The very beautiful mountains that hug this city close..........
Fall - typical fall with multiple trees with multiple colors - does not exist in Juneau.
The yellow trees lose their yellow leaves very quickly with the high winds that seem to dominate the weather when the weather turns on a dime from deep blue sky to deep grey sky..........
HEY!!  I found a red tree!!
This picture was taken at Marine Park.
I have spent a lot of time down at this park throughout the summer. 
I have greatly enjoyed watching the ships and the tourists and the float planes and the vendors.
I have also enjoyed watching people at this small green space beside the channel. 
People what sit and sleep and read books and eat their lunch and play music, in what, during the summer was an incredibly relaxed and layed back place to enjoy..........
The last cruise ship of 2010.........
As I walked along the boardwalk there were thousands of seagulls swimming in, and flying around the Gastineau Channel.
How is it that all of these birds, whose cries filled the now-quiet channel, just magically reappeared on this particular very cold and rainy day? 
And where did all the fat and sassy ravens, who have been gorging themselves all summer on tourist junk food snacks go to?
Two mysteries of nature and timing that I do not know the answer to..........
Many of the planted flowers are still in place and in bloom in downtown Juneau.
But even as I was walking along the boardwalk I saw city employees tearing them out of the ground.
The season is over.
And I think that before long we will begin having freezing temperatures overnight...........
These flowers, these beautiful and colorful summer flowers contained in a large planter at the park, seemed somehow out of place among the dried yellow leaves that were on the ground and among the grey skies and grey clouds that lay low in the mountains in Juneau and over on Douglas Island.
Fall is here, but seems to be going very quickly.
It is hard to believe that only a few shorts days ago the weather was so incredibly warm and beautiful.
No matter.
It is what it is.
One last look at beautiful and colorful summer flowers before they also disappear for the season.........

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rainy Monday

I took these pictures this afternoon while standing on the porch in the rain in my pyjamas.
I was working at home today and although I had some specific work in mind to accomplish, I actually ended up spending a good part of my day composing one email.
All day it poured with rain, as it is supposed to do at this time of year when you live in a rainforest........
These are pictures of the house and yard the day I moved into the house at the end of February.
This house, to put it mildly, is quirky.
Weird stove, water catchment system that has a questionable pump, too small cubby holes that double as closets in the bedroom, a oil stove in the kitchen that I have not even tried yet because it requires multiple steps to light it up.
But I love it.  It is far away from town and if I don't want to see people (which is usually the case) I am far enough away that I do not have to.
Once you leave the Valley and head Out the Road the drive is outstandingly beautiful, with mountains surrounding me on one side and the channel shadowing me on the left.
There are overlooks to pull off Glacier Highway, and the view of the water and the Chilkat Mountains are stunning.
There are parks and beaches and coves and trails almost non-stop between Auke Bay and the End of the Road.
There are many wonderful places to stop for a short time after work, and for a long time on the weekends.
I am so glad that I found this house in this place...........

Somewhere behind those trees, and behind the heavy clouds and fog are pine tree covered mountains.......
Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain....Author Unknown

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Arenas, Boat Harbors and Bears

On Thursday night I went to bed early.  I woke up at 1:30am when I heard something hit the ground down in the kitchen and then heard the lever action on a rifle.
I walked downstairs to see LC wearing a headlamp and messing with a Marlin.  My sleep fogged brain wondered WTH was going on.
We have a heavy door on the outside of the porch that leads downstairs to our walkway.  The door has a bolt on it, and every night we bolt the door closed.
While my Mountain Boy was sitting in the living room he apparently heard something pushing on the porch door. 
He walked outside onto the porch and heard it again.
At first he thought there was a prowler wandering around our house or our neighborhood, so walked back into the kitchen to retrieve both a headlamp and his firearm.
While he was grabbing for his gear he looked outside the kitchen window and saw a bear at the top of the stairs pushing on the door.
When my Mountain Boy turned the headlamp on he scared the bear down the stairs. 
With rifle in hand he went out onto the porch, hit the bear with the headlamp again and it ran off into the woods behind the house.
Thankfully an easily spooked bear...............

I spent late Saturday afternoon and then into the evening, on Douglas Island over at Savikko Park.
The weather was the same last night that it had been on Friday - heavy pouring down rain, high winds, cold and socked in clouds and fog.
Thankfully the weather does not bother me, and I always remember that rain and cold is better than the hot and unbearably humid that I left back in Tennessee.
And regardless of the weather, I think that Juneau is always very beautiful.
I spent some time yesterday at Treadwell Arena in the park, before walking down to the boat harbor and then back to the Arena where I was slated to meet up with my Mountain Boy.
The picture above was taken in the drizzle and winds, at the protected boat harbor.
When I look back at the beautiful pictures that I took over the past almost 3 weeks when the weather was so warm and the sky was so blue - and then I look at the pictures I took on a typical nasty-ass day in this Alaskan capital city - I realize how much I like pictures that I take on nasty ass days.
Because the day is so grey the pictures are also so grey. 
With jolting shots of blue, red and yellow that truly stand out.
These pictures speak to me in a different and quiet way that warm and sunny do not.
A different kind of beautiful.
But still beautiful none-the-less.......

Pictures taken of hockey practice late in the afternoon..........
I started at the arena, and by the time I made my way outside the pouring rain had slowed to a constant cold drizzle.
It did not matter.
I took my time, walked and looked and photographed and enjoyed this very beautiful boat harbor.
And as always, the mountains that completely surround it.
Unlike the boat harbors downtown or in Auke Bay, I rarely see people walking or working around their boats at the harbor on Douglas Island..
I don't know why that is.
Today there was nobody walking anywhere in the area (aside from people rushing to and from the arena parking lot) except me.  And those are the times that I love to be outside more than any other.......
The Juneau-Douglas Bridge on a cold and grey day..........
Looking back at Douglas S from a rocky path that extends out into the channel for about 50 feet............
Some more rusty and unknown (to me) objects that are incredibly interesting and architectural.  I came across these beautiful things in the parking lot across from the boat harbor...........
Back at the arena I met my Mountain Boy for a quick Subway sandwich meal, and a walk to one of the pavillions where we warmed ourselves with a fire set in one of the bar-b-q pits.
It was very very good to see this good and decent man, after working a very long day. 
After eating and warming we went to ice skate.
I have not put on a pair of skates since I was living in Canada.  In fact I have not put on a pair of skates in probably 25 years or more.  So last night seemed like a good night to give it another shot.
I moved to Canada when I was 16, by way of Norway then England then Australia, and never did a whole lot of ice skating.
Thankfully what little I remember how to do came back fairly quickly, and I had an outstanding time.......
Me looking like a goober, thankfully with the lights turned down and the disco ball spinning..........
And two young women doing a much better job than I was..............