Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ahhhh...the smell of skunk cabbage!

Sometimes winter just seems to hang on for so long. Spring time, oh how we covet the...

When the sun finally shines in Ketchikan, after a long, dark, and cold winter we respond with vigor. People drop everything and go outside. We celebrate the warmth on our back, and welcome our shadows return from hibernation. Plans will change in an instant. Dishes will be left in the sink, laundry left on the floor. Teachers will hold class outside, and give extra recess. Kids are happy. Strangers smile. Priority always goes to the sunny side of the street. Nature wakes up, and shakes off the rain, like a wet dog ready to bound into summer.

One of my favorite ways to commemorate this change of season is to go for a hike on Pennock. On a beautiful morning of sunshine I am witness to the expounding energy of the sun. I am fortified with the knowledge that Spring is here at last.

My eyes are filled with fresh new colors. Bright greens burst forth from the alder, and salmon berry buds, spruce tips glow, and fern fronds unfold. In a blink of an eye, The Island is transformed from a dark, winter forest of dead sticks to a thick lush rainforest.  

My ears hear the cacophony of birds rejoicing. Shore birds have returned to their nesting grounds. They call to one another; "Herb how have you been?" The raucous Blue Jay reports the found treasure trove of last summer.  The chick a dee, junco, and robin sing and scratch up the seeds and worms as they dance under the new foliage. The eagles screech; are they arguing about who is to be on which branch, or explaining to their yearlings how to fly.  

Nothing can compare though, to the distinct aroma of the skunk cabbage; the earthy quality wafts towards me across the bog. It meets my nose, before the bright yellow crowns peaking up through the bogs and marshes meet my sight. It resembles the pungent smell of the skunk it is named for, but does not pierce the nose as sharply. The oder let's room in for the fragrant smell of the damp evaporating off the moss.  Of all things, the perfume of the skunk cabbage, is the reassuring testament that Spring has won her battle and that winter has lost. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Ketchikan's springtime weather is the perfect recipe for Rainbows! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Step.....The Dump

The Dump or Landfill is a place where garbage is supposed to go. Right?

We live in an age where anything can be defined as garbage. We throw away the fast food restaurant toy that has been in the car too long. The stack of magazines in the garage, the old dishes cluttering the cupboards, all of it is considered trash. 

Most communities have a special day in the spring when you can literally throw anything away. Spring Pick Up, or Spring Curb Side is what we call it. It is an attempt to clean up the city and corresponds with our internal drive to spring clean and purge. Just leave anything on the curb and your local sanitation engineer will come pick it up at no extra cost! Amazing huh. In our community this happens in April just before tourist season starts.

The predicament? Our population is growing rapidly. According to the US census, America’s population grew 9.7 % from 2000 to 2010. Multiply that number by how much garbage we produce and that is a big problem. We also produce garbage for a longer period of time. We are living longer. There is a 13% increase in people over the age of 65 since 2000. So, there are more of us, living longer, which equates to more trash. We just can’t keep up with our old habits.

It is easy to put things on the curb or throw things away into a dumpster and watch while a big truck comes and gobbles it up, we never see it again. Out of sight, out of mind. Phew!

I wish the large trucks that gobbled up trash could convert the waste into the fuel required to drive up and down the city streets. Wouldn't that be great! But no, instead they drive back to the local landfill and regurgitate it into a pile of guck. Typically when the guck gets to be too much they stir it up with glass, cover it with gravel and start all over again terracing up large mountains of refuse. 

That is why I think everyone should go check out his or her local landfill, before the purging begins. Go see where the garbage goes.  Go see what they do with it. Go see what people throw away. It will shock and amaze you!

The view from the Ketcikan Dump

This is our landfill. We visited the Ketchikan dump prior to our purge. It was my first step. Why? I wanted to be reminded of accountability and responsibility.  I want to redefine garbage.

So often I have started out a purge with good intentions that just... fall short. I promise myself I will post unwanted items in the classifieds or on e-bay, that I will have a garage sale, that I will donate to Salvation Army, or second hand stores. But this is an arduous process. It takes up too much space, too much time. I need to 'hurry up' because I am expecting company, or I just get overwhelmed, and emotionally fatigued by it all. Sometimes,  (I hate to admit it) my unwanted items end up in the dump. The weight is lifted though. Immediately it's over, and it’s all gone. Oh what a wonderful feeling to rid myself of crap and clutter!

But we haven’t gotten rid of it. It does not just disappear. It just changes locations, and becomes a bigger problem, a community problem.

But when there is no accountability for the trash there is no responsibility for the purchases.  The voids we create with our purge make room for more stuff. They get filled up again so quickly. The goal, to avoid this vicious cycle.

My daughter thought her dolly would have liked this

This toilet is in better shape than mine

I stood there with my daughter and looked at all of the things people got tired of looking at; all of the ‘things’ people gave up on and threw away. There was construction material, pallets of unopened bags of plaster, and nails. There was baby bathtubs, dolls, pots, pans and silverware.  I recognized myself in the heap. Like items were in the piles at home ready to be disposed of. It was so sad. I found it completely inspirational. I don't want to contribute to this. My predicament to find appropriate homes for these misfit things.

Purging doesn't just relieve us of possessions but should remind us of the responsibility of ownership. We must take the time, make the effort, and pay the cost to take care of the items we no longer want. The act of purging, should teach us a lesson. We will finally comprehend the enormous responsibility of being a consumer in America. 

All of our recycled glass is mixed in to help break down the plastics

The dump should be a sacred place reserved for all things deemed unusable, all things that can not be sold, or given away, all things that can not be reused, recycled or composted. The Dump should not be a shelter or a haven for...exasperated consumers. 

I will not mindlessly throw things away. I will be mind full of what I am consuming and how I will dispose of it when I am done. I will pay attention to what I need. I will be connected to the future. Hopefully this process will help me to resist the refilling of those empty spaces.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing to Purge!

Preparing to purge!

We have all done it...Picked up that magazine that tells us how to simplify our lives. Read the advice. Daydreamed about that perfect closet that has everything neatly organized. Wondered how we could be one of those people that are used as an example and gets decluttered by the professionals.

I have been doing this a lot lately, reading those magazine articles on living simply, and minimalism.

This is my current predicament.  I have stacks of this and
piles of that. Where does it go? How do I deal with it? Surly others must have this same problem, hence all those articles dedicated to solving this one issue. What to do with all the crap? The last thing I want to do is compartmentalize it into more plastic storage containers. Their solutions don’t fix my problem.

As I type and think, type and think, I realize writing this post is a last ditch effort of procrastination.  I will tweak this though and instead use the word accountability. Writing this post, explaining my actions, will hold me accountable for this process. This blog will force me to tackle my problem head on.

I must say, this is such a huge subject for me personally. It reaches down to the core of my soul, agitating it with emotions and facts, until I am a confused pitiful mass of wet laundry. My creativity suffocates under the weight of it. I cannot leave my soul cowering, wet and soggy just to get mildewed, and have to go through the whole agitating process again. I must cram all that weight into the dryer; add comedy and satire to lighten the load. But where will I put it when it comes out light and fluffy and folded neatly? Where? Back in the laundry basket to get rumpled by children looking for clean underwear? On top of my dresser, because the drawers are full. In a plastic box, wrapped in acid free paper, labeled neatly, and shoved into the Attic? Maybe a cute wicker basket perched atop the printer?

Yes, I am overwhelmed. This touches on guilt, and sentiment, latent environmentalism, definitions of family, love, and together time, responsibility at its finest. Accountability for our behavior is the lesson I try to keep in mind.  Why am I doing this? I have to explain it to each one of my children, my parents, my husband, my friends, the World Wide Web, and now myself.

What is it that we need to be truly happy? How many possessions do we really need to feel successful? What are we obligated to keep for posterity?  These are age-old questions; I am not the first to ask them.

No this is much too LARGE a topic for one blog post. So, I am doing a segmented series. 

Please join me, for this is my crazy journey. Have a peep see into the consciousness of Katy. I would have the same problem no matter where I lived. But living here makes it a little more complicated. Here meaning Pennock Island of course. Also, though, here meaning Ketchikan, here meaning Alaska, most certainly here meaning The United States of America, but also when your brain is like mine, it is also meaning here on this Planet. 

This will be a comprehensive explanation as to the how and why I make most of the decisions I do every day. I am not perfect; you will see how much of a hypocrite I am. How I struggle with the concept of freedom and responsibility. I think most people should ponder all of these things as I do, maybe everyone else does it more than I do.  (Those are the feelings of inadequacy that feed the feelings of guilt.) Maybe though, other issues such as health, or safety, overwhelm them too much.

Which brings me full circle to... “How lucky! How truly ever so lucky of a ducky, I am!” (Borrowed from a favorite, Dr. Seuss) I am living here on this fine planet. I have all of my basic needs covered; shelter, love, safety, and health.  I am so lucky I can dwell on my petty issues of garbage and guilt. I hope, with all my heart, truly, truly we can all be so lucky. Then maybe, just maybe our issues of guilt and garbage can disappear, and our souls can dance freely in open spaces, and not be balanced on top of a pile of junk.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chaos to Stillness upon opening my eyes

This morning I lay awake in bed. My eyes pressed closed. I am thinking maybe, just maybe I can eek a few more minutes out of my dream. It is Saturday after all. I don't have to get up at a certain time; I am aloud to be still in bed, pretending I am asleep. 

Last night I had told myself I would wake early and finish the taxes before anyone else woke up. Before the day "started." I am almost finished; it shouldn't take too much longer, IF I am not interrupted. Then, I will reward myself with a walk. Maybe even a shower. That would be nice. I even imagined my husband all happy and smiles. Yes. That was my downfall.  Planning my morning like that. Thoughts of taxes ebbed into my subconscious thought and disturbed my slumber. 

As I lay there snuggled down deep other thoughts....more urgent reminders of to do lists come to mind...    Birthday parties, today!  And Tomorrow! I am not prepared! I need to focus.... Maybe I should just forget the taxes until Monday. Valentines is coming too. How many days do I have left 3! Well...oh yes there is another Birthday! Jeez how many birthdays this week, 3, am I forgetting anyone? No. But, I should write those Thank you notes in the Valentines that is a good idea, an efficient way to multi-task. Yes, that's good. It's too late to do home made Valentines, I'll have to buy some today, I promised myself I wouldn't do that this year, Oh well. Feel good about the Thank you cards that is good.... wait there is that house project! When am I going to be able to finish that? I have to get that under control.  There are piles of stuff everywhere. I just need to get rid of the piles then I could focus. Taxes first, then House project, (flip to right side, squeeze eyes tighter, snuggle down deeper, clear head, clear head, relax, go back to sleep, escape for just a few more minutes! Where did that dream go?) OK, Birthdays first, then Taxes, Valentines, and then house project. The house project can is my least priority. I just can’t start anything else until that is done. Oh, I need to grocery shop for Birthday dinners and Valentines, I'll do that while I birthday shop today. When am I going to go shopping? Uggh! Who am I kidding I have been laying here over an hour, I am not going back to sleep. I slide quietly out of bed. This is what greets me out my bedroom window.

Lookin South

Looking North
The quiet Stillness of the water calms my Chaotic thoughts. My mind is averted to my surroundings. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Burns Supper

Ketchikan does not have a lot of things. You will hear me rant in future blogs about the disadvantages of living here. We don't have professional sports teams, big music concerts, or fancy restaurants. What we do have though, is the Misty Thistle Pipes and Drums. We have our very own bagpipe band! Believe it or not, we actually have two bagpipe bands! The firefighters recently started their own band of pipers.  I am partial to the Misty Thistle though, because my daughter is one of their dancers. Misty Thistle web site

Bill Urquhart Pipe Major followed by Rob Alley

Every year the Misty Thistle celebrates the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns at The Burns Supper.  The event is a traditional one, resplendent with Scottish tartans, dancing, dialect, and yes, the smell of Haggis. 


Robert Burns was an 18th century poet that has written hundreds of poems and songs. Works attributed to Burns include "Auld Lang Syne" and "A Red Red Rose." He perpetuated Scottish folk lore and enjoyed writing with a Scottish dialect.

Last Saturday, we braved a whipping wind storm to go celebrate the life of Robert Burns at the North Tongass Community Club.  Kilts flapping, and cheeks rosy, we were greeted with warmth, laughter and the tenor of bagpipes.

 A whirl of color
Here in Ketchikan we celebrated Robbie's Birthday with a BYOS (Bring your own Scotch) dinner. There were just two rules; First, upon concluding a toast, empty your glass.  Second, every one's a Scotsman. So, in honor of the great Scott, we recited poems and gave toasts in the best Scottish accent we could muster.  As the evening progressed, the dialects improved, and the toasts became more frequent.

The Misty Thistle Pipes and Drums accompanied four young dancers as they kicked up their heals to an energetic highland fling and a real sword dance. We were entertained by the sheer endurance of it. When the beat hastened so did the dancers feet. When they were finished, the audience was invited to dance. There was a whirl of color as people twirled, out on to the dance floor. Those that didn't dance stomped their feet to the beat of the drums. Hearts thumped and brows were wiped as we prepared to tucked in to dinner. But first...

The haggis was paraded around the room, to the raucous din of clapping, hooting, and the blowing of bagpipes. After everyone had a chance to smell the haggis, an ode to the haggis was read by Rob Alley. The ballad was thick with dialect, and written by, none other than, Burns himself.

bringing in the haggis
 Address to a Haggis

Finally, we feasted on Turkey, turnips and potatoes, salad, slaw, and yes the mighty haggis.  It was a loud and delicious event.

So no, We do not have a sports arena, concert hall, or elegant dinning establishments in Ketchikan. Here we have highland dancing, the Misty Thistle Pipes and Drums, and the North Tongass Community Club.  Here we brave the snow and cold in the dark of winter, to gather together in dance and song. Here we watch the sport of highland dancing, whilst we listen to a live concert of bagpipes and drums, and feast upon the savory haggis.   Here in Ketchikan we celebrate life and enjoy the feast of The Burns Supper.  To Ketchikan!

(Don't forget to drain your glass!) 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

To Blog or not to Blog

My name is Katy. I live on the water in rural Alaska. I do not home school my children. They are boated across the Tongass Narrows everyday into Ketchikan. My kids attend public school.

I live a strange and different life. Most people upon meeting me ask a ton of questions; How do you get to town everyday? What do you do with your trash? Where does your water come from? What elevation is your  house at? Are there days you can't go into town?  Where do you get your wood from? How do you do it? People are immediately interested. So... maybe I should write a blog.

I have always felt that writing is very personal. That it is for my eyes only. An opening into my soul that I don't want others to have access to. I wrote a journal from the time I was 12 until I married my husband. My mother always warned me, "If you write it down, people can read it." So of course I would never write a blog. Then the whole world could read it.

I have come across Blogs here and there upon my wanderings in the web. They remind me of news letters. Blogs will follow themes, have written articles with beautiful pictures and even advertisements. Some Blogs are advertisements themselves, they are a great marketing tool, leading people to retail shops. Some Blogs teach you things, with step by step demonstrations. Some Blogs are political, encouraging comments and debate. While others are merely a way to share photos with the family. All Blogs are paperless. Blogs are a forum for sharing. It is a free, paperless forum.

My children write, they write beautifully. I always think Wow, I am so glad they wrote their stories down.  I love reading them. I love sharing their stories. That's when it occurs to me...That is why we write, to share. To share the news, recipes, self- help, love, revolution, escape. I am sitting at the library encircled by the written word. On my lap top, I am reading. Newspapers, periodicals, reference materials, signs, fiction, non-fiction, It surrounds me. We crave information and it pushes us to be better...better gardeners, better cooks, better at finance...better  people. We use words to escape from our lives, take us to another place if only for an hour, a day.  So, yes it would be great to share my story in a blog. It would be my magazine. My free, paperless news letter. My opinion.  I would be in control of the pictures the articles, possibly even the advertisements. Ohhh,  I like that! I should definitely write a Blog!

I am not a writer by trade, I actually have a bachelors degree in child development.  I do like to write. I find it cathartic. When there is something that comes to my mind I write it down, It is hard for me to focus on anything else until it's out.  But then what?  Do I share it?  It is intimidating, the idea of putting it out there on the web.  People will judge what I do and how I write about it. I make spelling errors. What am I afraid of... ? That no one will read it... actually that people will read it and not like it. I could never write a Blog! Nope.

I will use prose and pictures that capture my intention, in a way that invites people into my world of predicaments.  I will be able to write friendly so someone would feel as tho they were sitting down drinking coffee with me, sharing ideas. I am not a journalist, but I do have a lot of opinions. So, there is something I want to share with the world. Something only I can share. My Life. My Opinions. Is it interesting? I think so... Yes, I will certainly write a Blog!

Now that I know I am committing to the idea, Who am I writing for? Is it a Blog for Moms? Yes. No. Maybe? I am a Mom. I am a Mother of three. Everything will be written from my perspective, a mother's perspective. Will it be sappy and all about my beautiful I don't think so. They are a huge part of everyday, but they live and breathe in this town too, they have their own privacy needs. I will do my best to respect that.

I am also a consumer. It will be a blog for consumers, about products.  I use products every day. I feel very strongly that everything you purchase is a vote. It is a vote to keep making it, that it is a useful and desired product. Purchases should be made with thought. Yes.  I  hope to share good reviews of things I personally have discovered, enjoy using, and feel are worth the purchase.

I Love to cook! The Blog will be for cooks and all about cooking....  I will always share wonderful recipes. I promise I won't share any of the bad ones. I am always thinking and growing and learning about nutrition, health and food.  It is a subject I love. I love to eat. I love to be healthy. It is a journey we are all on.

It will also be about this house. It is a huge project. We are re-doing it. This blog will be about drywall, mud, and paint, insulation and tile, bathroom fixtures and boardwalks, ramps and appliances. How do we move a gigantic Wolf stove in and out of the house? Stay tuned and you will see pictures and hear the story.

It will be about my perspective of the predicaments we get into living life here on Pennock Island.

So who is my audience? Anyone who is wondering what it would be like to live on the water, in the weather, in rural Alaska.  Anyone who is craving a little vicarious adventure. The adventure of boating my kids to school and back everyday. Heating our home with a wood stove.  The adventure of living outside a small community of 14,000 that considers itself the 5th largest city in the State. The adventure of having a committed, loving relationship with a man who is only here half the time. The adventure of trying to start my own business, run a house hold, make friends, keep friends, live on a budget, fish. The adventure of raising 3 intelligent children without television.

Will I write a Blog? Yes, yes I will. Why? Because life is a growing, changing, process and this is a way to chronicle that process, that life, my life.  To share...with others, the exploits, the mishaps, the love, the laughter! It is a wonderful way to break down stereotypes, and open minds to the wonder of something different, to the realization of something that is the same. Because it is easy. I am amazed by the process of a Blog. It is so easy, all you need is a computer, access to the Internet, and a good name.  We are so fortunate to live in the age of technology, this age of information.  It is literally at our finger tips. Because I need validation. Yes all admit it.  I am on this planet, making these choices, living this life, I want my experience validated. Some people might argue that my children are proof of the choices I have made.  But no, I disagree. Each of my children are their own, individuals. They have their own story to tell, their own perspective and it is not mine. It is vulnerable to share, to open myself up to the world.  but I want people to know what it's like.

It was fun picking out the name. I like the name. There were soo many possibilities.  Pennock Island is where I live. Predicament is defined by Webster as a condition, or stateespecially : a difficult, perplexing, or trying situation. Which is what we are constantly in. A trying situation. 

Thank you for reading my first entry. Hopefully you will embark with me on my Blog experience. Read, enjoy, comment, hopefully laugh, and return and take part in this pennockpredicament. 

Our House on Pennock Island 2010