Thursday, January 28, 2016

Making Ideas Happen

The three big stories of this winter in Atomic City are:
1.  How much snow we have had
2.  How tame the deer in town are
3.  The surprising turn of events re: a small business I have been trying to get off the ground...............
Over this winter of 15/16 I have managed to rekindle a love affair with snow shoeing, and also learn how to cross country ski.
Not long after I arrived in Juneau Alaksa, I purchased a used pair of snow shoes from a lady that I worked with.
Over the course of those first few months up there (while I was still trying to find my way around a new city and new job - and while I was waiting for LC to join me) I snow shoed frequently and quickly learned to love it.
I loved the physical effort of these excursions but mostly I loved discovering the terrain around Juneau.
The mountains, the pine trees, the endless streams and waterways, the glaciers and endless snow, the sheer unadulterated beauty of an endlessly beautiful and rugged place.  
Many months later (as we were approaching a second winter) I bought a pair of used cross country skis that came with bindings, poles and boots that all fit me perfectly.
I tried cross country skiing out once while living in Alaska and never tried it again.
By that time I was overworked, overwhelmed, exhausted, burned out.
By that time my personal life and professional career were both swirling around the bowl.
With the extreme number of hours that I was working, the irregular schedule, and the endless, toxic battles (both upright and behind-the-scenes) that I was fighting, there was no physical or emotional energy left for such things as cross country skiing.
The quality of my life was terrible and the beautiful place I had so eagerly (albeit with some trepidation) embraced, had turned into nothing more than a beautiful prison cell.
And so this year (almost five years after I loaded onto a ferry and thankfully sailed away from Juneau Alaska) I finally put those skis on again and hesitantly slid away from the house.
And discovered that I like cross country skiing.
It's been a great winter....................

The deer are all over town - moving snow out of the way so that they can eat the tender shoots that are hidden underneath all of that frozen, white coldness, wandering in residents yards and down the center of roads, sitting alone or in small and gentle groups under bushes and trees.
They are wonderful to have around, and for better or worse that are very used to people.
They disappeared all last winter.
A disappointing winter of extreme cold, little snow and no deer.
Now, I see mothers with their now almost grown offspring, wandering in the deep snow, and the world is quiet, calm and beautiful.
Which is why this winter has been such a soul-embracing season...............

BLM Fire Station in the snow......................
We've heard for the past couple of years about large herds of elk that live out on BLM land in and around Idaho National Laboratories (INL) and were always disappointed that we had not seen them even though we spend a lot of time out on public lands.
And then one day last summer we were driving very late in the day on Big Butte Rd - heading home after exploring in the desert.
It was almost dark and up ahead of me I could see something dark a couple of hundred yards off the gravel road.
As we got closer LC slowed the truck as we realized that it was two elk.
Two young males, likely siblings, traveling across the desert together.
I took many pictures of them in the fading light before we continued towards the house, both of us excited about the unexpected sighting.
The terrain is so vast and endless.
Occasionally we see deer or antelope out there and it is so hard to get decent pictures because they are typically far away and on the run.
And so it went with the two brothers.
And so it went with the small elk herd we unexpectedly came across a few weeks ago.
We have seen them twice now.  A herd of approximately 25.  Always late in the day and a good distance from the road.
If you click on the pictures they will enlarge, but even then these elk are difficult to see at distance and in fading light.
Maybe one day we'll luck out and they will be closer......................
I ran a moderately successful business while living in Cody.
A business that I was successfully growing and that gave me great satisfaction.
When we moved here to Idaho we both wondered whether I could pull it off again, but after focusing on home improvements during our first year here and then putting it off for far too long once home improvements slowed down, I decided to give it a shot and see what happened.
Were we too far removed from a customer base?  
Was the region too depressed to give it a realistic chance of success?
Was I too unsure of skills after letting all skills lay dormant for so long?
I didn't know.
But likely.
For months it appeared that our concerns over these very real issues may have had merit.
And then suddenly and unexpectedly, my struggling small business seems to have begun to take hold.
It's not out of the woods yet.  
Not by any stretch of the imagination.  
The hold is small and tenuous.
But I am gratified with the positive results we have experienced through the month of January.
The end of the story is not written yet......................
It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.............Scott Belsky (Co-Founder Behance)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mackay To See A Truck

The man who bought our truck told us as we were handing him the keys that he had an older model extended cab Chevy that he wanted to sell.
After asking questions LC and I had both decided that it likely was not what we wanted, but as a courtesy we went to look at it anyway.
It was located in Mackay.
Mackay is a small town of about 900 people.
It is about 50 miles from us, and about 20 miles from Arco, north into the Big Lost River Valley.
We were fairly certain that we did not want the truck, but in truth we had not been for a drive up the valley all winter, and this was a good opportunity to do so.
Mackay is surrounded by mountains.
We both love it up there. 
It is very lovely in the summer and stunningly beautiful in the winter.
Before heading out of town I took Kory for a quick walk through town.
The day was mild and washed out, with only a hint of faded purple to show that the sun was valiantly trying to break through the cloud cover.................
One lone deer crossing a snow filled section of BLM land adjacent to town..
I stood in the snow, holding tightly to Kory, watching this doe and absently wondering why she was alone.
At first I wondered if she was the deer with the injured front shoulder.
The one with two yearling does who were still traveling with her the last time I saw her.
Sometimes she can keep up with the herd and she grazes on the outskirts of the group.
But when they travel onto BLM land or jump fences and wander onto resident properties she holds back.
She can't run and she can't jump, and every once in a while I don't see her for a while and sadly wonder if the cold or the coyotes finally got to her.
Happily she has proved me wrong to this point, and is hanging tight.
But this was not her.  
There were no almost-grown babies following her.  And this deer was healthy, traveling quickly, hopefully trying to meet up with the others because there was safety in numbers.
The day was silent, the way it always is when the world is covered in snow, and I stood in one place watching her until she finally disappeared from sight......................
The drive to Mackay was fast and uneventful, and we drove into the middle of town searching for the house number we had been given.
He would not be home, but the keys were in the truck and we were welcome to look and test drive.
When I climbed out of the Tahoe I looked around me quickly and then regarded the home and large equipment the elderly man had carefully lined up underneath a huge metal wall-less structure.
The guy had some money, no doubt.
The vehicles he had were all clean, well cared for, expensive, painted white and all with the same dark blue stripe along the bottom of each truck big and small.
The house was small and neat and so was the yard as well as I could see through all the snow.
He was a widower.  A hard working man who I had already decided was lonely and who actively found ways to keep busy............................

I looked at the truck that was for sale and (as predicted) it was a well-used, worn-out looking truck and I immediately lost interest in it.
LC walked over to the truck and I heard a low and steady rumble when he started it up.
It sounded better than it looked.
When LC told me he was going to take it for a test drive I immediately headed back to the Tahoe, reached into the back seat, and made a grab for my pup's leash before moving out of the way and allowing Kory to eagerly jump down into the snow.
We would wander while LC test drove an old truck..................
Immediately I fell in love with Mackay all over again.
Buried in snow the homes looked pretty, and the mountains behind them looked even bigger and closer now that they were covered in snow, than they did the rest of the year.
As I looked beyond the homes and up into the mountains I watched the clouds.
They were settling heavily in the nooks and crannies of the mountains, and I could see the cold pulling them down so that they lay across the mountain tops like a blanket.
I had never seen clouds look like these before.
I saw the same thing often on Big Butte, but this was an entire and continuous section of the mountain range, and for a few moments I watched the clouds, mesmerized by them, watching the long band float and hesitate and then settle again.....................
My dog cared nothing about pretty houses and beautiful mountains and living-breathing clouds.
She cared nothing about being in a small, mountain town.
All she cared about was that she had been freed from the bondage of the vehicle, and now had a chance to walk.
We headed down the icy and snow covered road....................
We didn't walk very far and I snapped many pictures as we wandered.
God it was SO beautiful!
Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful little homes, mountains and pine trees..................
Surprisingly, only a few minutes after Kory and I set out on the road I looked up and heard LC heading back towards me.
He hadn't gone very far and he hadn't been gone very long.
I did not regret going to Mackay, but had known almost from the get-go that the truck was going to be a non-issue.
LC's quick out and back trip confirmed that, and after snapping the picture below, I turned with Kory and slowly made my way back towards the home......................
After a quick stop to get gas we headed back the way we had come, intending to stop on the way home so that I could take some pictures of horses I had seen on a piece of property right beside the highway.
As we slowly made our way south down the two lane highway we looked to our left, and in the distance we could barely make out a large herd of elk standing together in a field that at any other time of year would be filled with growing crops.
On the spur of the moment we turned off the highway, and picked up a snow covered side road, hoping that it would eventually circle back towards the elk so that we could see them more closely.................
One more side road to the left and we both quickly realized that we were actually moving further and further away from the elk, and they were no longer in sight.
We had no idea how to get closer to them at that point, and instead of tying ourselves in knots over it decided to just enjoy what we had.
There were cows.  Mountains.  Snow.  The cloud cover of the morning had burned off completely and we were now in the middle of the most beautiful of winter days.
We would just enjoy the day......................
By the time we had finished picking up random side roads and snapping pictures of cows and mountains, we found ourselves back in the center of town.
 Yes..............we had circled back into Mackay.
20 minutes later we were pulled over to the side of the highway and I was standing next to a fence taking pictures of horses.
There were maybe 10 or so, and they were quietly eating hay from huge farm tires that were spread out in a long line across the span of the field.
Standing in knee deep snow I looked back at LC and Kory, and both seemed content to wait on me.
I turned back to the horses and kept snapping pictures...................
It had to happen.
One had to come visit, and I stood still for a few moments while the beautiful brown and white horse slowly made his way in my direction to inspect this new and strange interloper to his domain......................
Just as I was heading back to the Tahoe I noticed a woman - a straight up farming woman - headed in our direction.
With ruddy face, rugged clothing and sturdy boots she looked as though she had lived in the country and on a farm her entire life.
Uh oh.  
It was the owner of the home and property (and presumably the horses) and she headed directly to the Tahoe.
LC and I smiled our friendliest smiles and within a couple of minutes the woman knew who we were and what we were doing, and her questioning face rapidly transitioned into a friendly and outgoing face..  
After questions had been answered she ended up standing beside the Tahoe talking about seemingly endless and random things.
Boy could she talk!! 
 In fact, she wouldn't STOP talking, and it ended up taking us more than 30 minutes to break free from her lengthy banter.
A friendly, unexpected (and lengthy) interlude on the way home....................
Pictures snapped on one more watery winter day the next morning, as I walked again with Kory on the outskirts of our cold, quiet, winter town.
Endless winter days spent in an endlessly silent place.......................... 
We are accustomed to consider Winter the grave of the year, but it is not so in reality. In the stripped trees, the mute birds, the disconsolate gardens, the frosty ground, there is only an apparent cessation of Nature's activities. Winter is pause in music, but during the pause the musicians are privately tuning their strings, to prepare for the coming outburst. When the curtain falls on one piece at the theater, the people are busy behind the scenes making arrangements for that which is to follow. Winter is such pause, such fall of the curtain. Underground, beneath snow and frost, next spring and summer are secretly getting ready. The roses which young ladies will gather six months hence for hair or bosom, are already in hand. In Nature there is no such thing as paralysis. Each thing flows into the other, as movement into movement in graceful dances Nature's colors blend in imperceptible gradation all her notes are sequacious..................Alexander Smith, "Winter 1863