goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Bucket List Item Checked

Back when my older two kids graduated high school, my mom asked me to plan a trip for her to take them to Alaska as a celebration of their achievement. I refused, declaring that any vacation to the 49th State would have to include me. And that is how I ended up in Alaska with a vanload of family members for a few weeks one summer a few decades ago.

We all were a lot younger then.

I knew one day I would return. The grandeur of the mountains. The breaching of a whale. The light at 10pm at night. The distances with dramatic long views. All told me that there was much more to experience in Alaska.

The desire to see the Northern Lights has to be weighed against the fact that they are only visible when it is dark and summer nights are not dark in Alaska. The time to visit is the REST of the year, with December through February the prime time because of the length of the arctic night.

But it is cold. Way colder than any place I have lived. I knew my winter boots MIGHT be adequate but that was the only outerwear I owned that I could trust. Since the right kind of clothing could add up to over a thousand dollars and we would not have any use for it after the trip, I was very pleased to learn that rental clothing rated to -20F or -40F was available. And now that I have had the experience to FEEL -22F, I can let you know it is worth the expense. The only complaint I could say is that when I got myself all zipped in and fully covered, if we hung around inside, sweat happened. Good clothes.

Graham and I flew into Fairbanks. There are a few areas in the northern hemisphere where Aurora Borealis tourism excels and Fairbanks is the stepping off point for many of them.

I had long heard that if you want to see the aurora borealis, you better plan three opportunities. And sure enough, our first night was cloudy. We enjoyed a salon dinner in a yurt that is 100% off the grid. Nice company and okay food, but no sky view.

The next day, evening we were back at the yurts and our guide and our host informed us that something unexpected was happening: it was early (9:30pm) and the show had already started. For those of you who followed our trip on Facebook, you already know I needed to take a day to analyze the experience.

Alaska: January 29

We are used to quick gratification. Waiting 15 seconds for a page to open on a screen has gotten to be annoying. 15 seconds of a pause in stimulation feels different now than it did to me even five years ago. There’s a lot written about how our screen time affects us. Last night I learned that slow-motion is not what I am used to any longer.

I’m going to steal Dickens’ opening to a Tale of Two Cities to say my aurora boreal viewing last night was the best of times and the worst of times. And I’m not talking about the COLD.

I learned a long time ago that I can’t control the weather and that you just can’t see anything of the sky when it is cloudy. Our first night here was cloudy.

The forecast for yesterday was more promising. We expected clearing at 1am. As we drove to the place, we learned that some of the other aurora viewing teams reported lights already and it was only 10pm. That raised the anticipation.

We got to the yurts, the same place we had enjoyed the evening before and the guide and one guy who has been here 3 weeks (this was his 20th night out) started exclaiming with delight that the show was upon us.

The stars were amazing. The Big Dipper was at an angle I had never viewed before (duh). Of course it is almost directly overhead here. Orion was also in a different spot.

Looking at the sky, I saw what looked like a cloud. No color-sort of white. And a few minutes later it had stretched into a horizontal line. A short while later it feathered vertically and stretched more. And then dissipated.

And then another. And then another. Walking outside of the heated yurt I enlarged my view and could see all around and the sky was full of these things.

Slowly, ever so slowly shifting. All around us everywhere. All around. Everywhere.

We did not get the colors last night. I think the rating on the scale (high is 10) was a 2 or a 3. But I certainly am not complaining.

Green tinted aurora above the yurts

The third night we went in a different direction to a hot springs resort at Chena. That evening, there was a small burst of color around 8:30, but nothing much. Yet, on the 2-hour ride back to Fairbanks, the driver and I noticed a lot of wide towers of lights through the trees. Whenever he hit one of his safe parking areas, the show was not happening, tho.

We spent some time early in the third day wandering into shops and lucked into an artists coop. There, one piece of fused glass kept calling for my attention…and surprise, surprise, it followed us home. I felt it was a beautiful and pretty accurate depiction of what we saw our second night.

What is a bucket list? Simply, a list of desired things to do or see before you kick the proverbial bucket. And I really don’t remember when I added the aurora borealis to my list; it just always has been something I wanted to see. And right now, I can’t name another item. Although there are lots of things I still want to see and do, none reaches this level of intense desire. Well, maybe Barcelona……


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Shaking Out the Dust and the Breadcrumbs

Spring cleaning…….big sigh. For those of you who know me personally, you know I am not a clean freak. But……..
The sun came out last week. That’s what it felt like here in the Northwest where the winter rains broke all kinds of records. The snow pack is healthy in the mountains and California’s drought is relieved in some ways. It was a dreary four months and although the rains are not over yet, the sun is out more days now and everyone seems to be more upbeat.

So, there is more energy and the task to straighten, to clean, can no longer be postponed.

Why is there is tendency for cultures to have this spring cleaning ritual?  After being cooped up with shut windows for months, it is refreshing to let the breeze in and even though it is not warm, the air in the house brightens. Historically, we heated our homes with coal, wood and kerosene which produce an amazing amount of soot and yes, the house would be impossible to keep clean in the winter. With the sunlight we can see those dust bunnies better….so time to get to work.

This habit has long been part of civilization. It may amuse many people who are phobic about Muslims that the Persian New Year is the first day of spring and Iranians continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which literally means “shaking the house” just before the Persian new year. We’re talking thousands of years of culture here, people.

And not only that, but in the Jewish religion we have an intense time this week cleaning. Monday evening starts the holiday of Pesach-Passover. All bread crumbs must be cleaned out of the house, and so, every corner, every nook and cranny, is wiped and washed and altogether freshened up.

Chinese culture has long had a practice of pre-New Year’s cleaning. So interesting that three ancient cultures have recognized this practice is needed to healthy living.

Perhaps some people may not like this tidbit of history-that something they do is a Jewish or Muslim or Chinese custom. However, the rest of us will enjoy knowing we are indeed a multi-cultural community here and we can enjoy all aspects of sharing. Now, if only I can find someone who just LOVES to share the joys of vacuuming.

 


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Changes in our Lifetime: Air Conditioning

If you are of an age, anywhere above 40, you most likely remember living through the summer without air conditioning. Growing up in New Jersey we had some warm spells but the reason we finally got a window unit when I was in high school was to help filter the air to help with my allergies.  It was the ONLY time my sisters wished they had allergies like me……

Each summer from the age of 3 until 16, I traveled with my parents on camping trips around the United States. We slept in a huge heavy canvas tent for years which eventually got replaced with two smaller lighter tents. In 1965 we got our first camper van that snugly slept all 5 of us plus our two boxers. Sometimes we enjoyed setting up wherever we wanted to stop, like crossing the Nevada dessert. Dad pulled off the highway (no interstate expressways in those days) and followed a dirt road a ways, making sure we stayed between the highway and the first rain culvert.  The idea of a camper van opened up new areas to us.our van on daytona beach fl

But we never went to the Deep South because, in the summer, the heat and humidity made things pretty uncomfortable. We visited some areas on trips during school vacations in December and the spring, but no full exploration without air conditioning.

I moved to Nashville in 1975 and my exploration of the Deep South really started.  My first car did not have air conditioning and I would jump in the condo complex pool after my late afternoon drive home. In the summer Memphis often was 90/90…90 degrees and 90% humidity. My hair in those days best resembled Bozo the Clown because of the damp. It was years before I finally got a style that was good for my curly hair and stopped fighting nature for that straight hair look that I never could achieve.

Until air conditioning spread throughout the South is was a laid back place. I lived there in the mid to late 70s and returned to Nashville in 1994. The difference was amazing. During those two decades, air conditioning had given the once sleepy culture a vitality it had not had – ever. There is a reason the South had a reputation for being slow….it was. You HAVE to move slower in the kind of weather that lasts for months and months.heatindex

Once air conditioning became widespread there was a new migration of people in the US. Many people moved south to areas that welcomed them and cities grew. Nashville had a population of 500,000 when I lived there in the late 70s and over a million 20 years later. And that population was much more diverse with people from all over the globe, not just the nation.  This influx of diversity resulted in some new cultural norms in the South,

For example, when I worked for the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1975-1978, a pretty conservative work place, I stood out as a “foreigner” because of my Yankee accent.  (In those days they called me a “Yamn Dankee” and smiled, thinking they were not being rude, bless their hearts.)  I used to fly home to visit my parents and bring back bagels. One day one of my co-workers asked me why I was eating my sandwich on a donut.  I introduced them to bagels and soon I was “importing” 5 dozen each time I flew back from New Jersey to Nashville. In 1994, when we returned to Nashville, it became very apparent things had changed…at least on the surface.  I saw  bagel shops all around town. More surprisingly, I saw many many many multi-racial couples. However,  people were no longer as “polite” as they had been before. They expressed very clearly the things that had changed that they hated. Very few thought the change was good, but they sure did like their air conditioning.

There have been a lot of changes in the past 27 years. At the time, 35% of American homes did not have air conditioning. By 2005 only 15% did not. By 2009, 97% of homes in the South had an air conditioner.

There have been a lot of changes in the past 27 years.
At the time, 35% of American homes did not have air conditioning. By 2005 only 15% did not. By 2009, 97% of homes in the South had an air conditioner.

 

As this climate change happens and various areas of the country experienced a hotter than typical summer through it all most of us have our air conditioning.  Can you imagine life without it?  Would you live where you do without air conditioning to keep you comfortable in the hot summer weather?  We are pretty spoiled.

 

 


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Reaping What You Sow

Karma…..many of us know the pretty relaxed concept…..what goes around comes around. You actions, good or bad, will come back to you later in time. send out get back

Taking that concept…let’s look at some of the things I saw on my Facebook feed today.

Now this one is probably a concept many agree with. This person is expressing to the best of her ability her fear with the President’s announcement last night to define, by Executive Order, part of the current immigration policy that the House of Representatives failed to work on. It is an important concept and one many support. While I personally don’t see the need to have an “official” language in this country, I do think it is smart for immigrants to learn English in order to achieve the best success they can. I also urge native born Americans to learn English as well.

English language

If you agree with her message, does her misspelling disturb you or do you think the message is more important than the method?

Many of the undocumented workers keep themselves apart and do not mingle but there are many people of all kinds who may be working at low paying jobs and just have a hard time making ends meet. This is food insecurity and it exists in your neighborhood. Here in McMinnville we  have soup kitchens that operate that provide at least one hot meal a day.st barnabus soup kitchen

The local food bank recently reduced what food the soup kitchens could purchase. This leaves their budgets strained. If you can, give.  If you can’t afford to give, go help.

Related to the latest political wrestling match I still saw a number of these today.exec order

The reminder was not only that Republic Presidents had gone ahead to clarify immigration issues through Executive Order, but they also had done it legally.

And speaking of Republican Presidents who used Executive Orders, I suspect the one that used it to make the largest change in our American history was Lincoln. Although Mathew Brady and others were beginning to use photography in the days of the Civil War, it was assumed no photograph of Abraham Lincoln existed until a plate was found and examined closely.Lincoln

Almost 90 years after the Gettysburg Address, Josephine Cobb, the chief of the Still Photo section at the National Archives, discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speaker’s stand at Gettysburg on the day of its dedication as a National Cemetery. Her perseverance and dedication to the task helps us get a better feeling for the events of that charged time.

In the midst of difficult times, some people hunker down. Others feel rules don’t apply to them I heard a lot yesterday of the difficulty the Buffalo area was having because as streets were cleared, people broke the travel curfew, ventured out and got stuck, needing to be rescued and their cars cleared from the streets.  It is hard to repress curiosity, for sure, but I hold this person in high esteem.3 feet of snow

Not only did he or she venture out, but they left us something to enjoy. Art wins.

And finally, something to ponder.potential

How do you chose to express yourself?

 

 


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Typical Fall Weather

Several years ago when I told people I planned to move to Oregon many wondered why I would want to move to a place where it rains all the time.  Well, based on The Willamette Valley, which is one of Oregon’s many diverse eco-systems, the area has what is called a Mediterranean climate.  It has warm dry summers and cool wet winters.  When we compared the typical rainfalls and summer/winter temperatures it was very similar to where we were living.

The winter rains start sometime in October generally and today is a good example of a typical “winter weather” day.  When I left my house to drive to the farm it was raining, but as I headed south, the skies seemed to be lighter.  I was hoping the rain would stay to the north.2014-10-26 08.19.33

I was working inside the high tunnel at first, packaging up vegetables ordered for the Monday delivery, but then the farmer needed me to clean the leeks. Leeks get dirty any time, but when a leek with a diameter of 1.5 inches has a 5 inch mud ball, it takes a while to clear.  So, I grab a chair, a couple of bins, a clipper, and a hose and get to work. I was out there cleaning for about an hour and in that time the weather did this:

FIRST the clouds rolled in from the northwest.2014-10-26 10.57.34But as the rain started, the sun was shining from the southeast.2014-10-26 08.19.38So I then enjoyed a typical rainy Oregon day event.

2014-10-26 09.47.50You just have to know how to dodge the drops!