Friday, January 23, 2009

"Raven"Like A Lunatic

Hello to you too, Mr. Raven in the backyard. I'm not sure why he is looming around the branches of our super-tall Spruce trees. Maybe he is scoping out the after-Christmas gingerbread houses and rotten apples I just threw out. Around town, we refer to these birds as "dumpster chickens" because of their filthy way of life in the city. They are most commonly found at McDonald's, Burger King, or any other place that frequently dumps food remnants into a dumpster. Sometimes we call them "soul chickens" or "Spirit Birds" as well. That is because the Native Alaskans believe that at some point after death, the human soul enters a raven and can then guide and be with the tribe forever. What they then say happens when a raven dies, I'm not sure! It is that belief that has earned the raven a place on the State's protected species list as well. In any case, ravens in the city are fat, grossly dirty birds.

On the flip side, ravens are amazing creatures in the wild. They have mimicking capabilities. I have heard them "bark" at my dog, Tigerlily while we walked our trapline. Sometimes they whistle. Mostly tthough, their sound is just a throaty "caw" similar to a crow or a deep clucking. The most amazing time to hear them is when they have found a fresh animal kill. I don't quite understand what, other than God, directs them to kill sites, but they seem to appear as soon as an animal is killed. After they find the site, they just seem to multiply in the sky. From six to a dozen black birds, soaring high above the blood on the ground; circling and calling loudly. Calling: yes, calling to stir the other forest inhabitants. "Aww-Aww-'Freshly killed moose below,'" they say, hoping to reach the ears of a wolf pack or a hungry bear. They repeat this ritual for hours at times, scarcely ever swooping down to peck at the meat. Ravens prefer to have someone else do the dirty work. If they can call in a hungry carnivore to rip the hide and make a mess of the carcass, they will gladly wait. Then, and only then, does the ravens' feast begin.

It is a shame to see the raven in such a negative light around the cities. Instead of scavenging after bears and wolves, they scavenge after humans. They are pecking at the remnants of OUR meals, and living a very poor life due to that. I once asked a lady from the Alaska Bird Observatory about the lifespan of the raven. Though I don't remember her exact answer, I wasn't surprised to hear that city birds die much sooner than those in the wild. Not because they have a rougher life, but because they have high cholesterol, heart disease, and other nasty illnesses caused by their custom of eating our table scraps.

Well, consider yourself a little more educated on the most common bird in Alaska. And if you come to visit this Great Land, and you share a french-fry or hamburger with a raven, just remember, somewhere beyond the city lights, there are moose who dread the sound of the raven's cry. It means death to them, but life to a wolf and to the ravens there, who know nothing of our human filth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

WOW, what a heat wave! A ninety degree difference from last week's -50, temperatures climbed to 40 yesterday! Even more significant, according to this article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, it has been 87 days since the temperatures here in the heart of Alaska have risen above 20 degrees. With this information spinning through my head, I have to laugh a little about the national news coverage of the "cold snap sweeping the country."

Go ahead, Outsider's, blame us for your "arctic cold front." However, this picture just tickles my funny bone:
According to the accompanying CNN article, these ladies are "enduring the cold" which is hitting Massachusetts at 20 degrees. LOL, we haven't had 20 degrees since October! Now I will recognize that the humidity level near the east coast and the wind in the mid-west contribute greatly to a cold feeling which is more than ambient, but, there is nothing like the way your lungs fail to open at -40 and colder. Sorry you're cold, Lower 48ers, but I can't deny that your misfortune comes at a time of great pleasure for us!

Of course, as the title of this post indicates, this "heat wave" is not all fun and games to those of us who now have to drive to work on wet roads which are still so cold that the melting snow immediately freezes over. I am sure as my husband drives to work at 5am, that he will be praying for his safety. I am sure he will pass a half a dozen motorists whose cars will have slipped off the roads. His patrol should be quite eventful as well. Ahh, weather sure is a complication to our lives here in Alaska. Still, it amazes me to no end!

On a personal note, I haven't had the chance to enjoy the weather myself at all! Two days ago, I woke up with a sore throat which quickly turned into some sort of strange flu. I ache all over, feel chilled to my bones, then in the next ten minutes, I sweat harder than I would after running the
Midnight Sun Run! I sent Judah and Paris out to go sledding this afternoon and the 30 degree weather felt like -12 to me. Pregnancy is adding to my discomfort. Oh well, it will pass: probably about the time the temperatures fall back below zero!

UPDATE 01/16/09: It's nearly 50 degrees at my house today! Another problem is occuring: Our stash of ice cream and crab legs had to be relocated from the front porch to the freezer! :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seven Weird or Random Things...

Shane tagged me on his blog and I am supposed to list seven weird or random facts about myself, then tag seven others who are to do the same on their blogs. Trying to stay on theme with my blog, here it goes:

  1. If I step on the snow beginning with my left foot, I must leave the snow from my right foot.
  2. Lynx chili is pretty good and I know because my dad made it for his own retirement party.
  3. I can't swim: I just don't know how, and this is not very smart since there is so much water in Alaska.
  4. The longest I've gone not owning a Brittany (Spaniel) was the first year of my life.
  5. The longest I've been without a shower is 10 days while on float-hunting trip during which time I shot my first moose.
  6. (slightly off topic, but funny) When we first got married, my arm muscles were bigger than John's and I owned more firearms....Now he has a couple more guns than me.-and FINE, he's managed to gain some muscle too. :)
  7. I was 18 years old before I saw a black bear in the wild...and I shot him!

Alright, that was everything you really didn't need to know about me and now I am tagging: My Sister-in-law, Jennifer (Because she's the "survey queen"), Rebecca (Because she'll probably do it), Gretchen (Because -45 for the last week and a half is driving her to boredom), Jennifer's sister, Lauren (Because she's the "survey queen's" sister), Crystal (Because she's online all the time), John's Aunt Kristi (Because she might be up to the challenge), and James (Because I just don't know anyone else who might keep this thing going).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Cold New Year's Day

Global Warming!? Well, I am sure I know nothing of it. And if it has a grain of truth, I am totally for it! As temperatures reached -50 degrees at my home, I was barely able to see a neighbor's fireworks through the lingering ice fog outside. Today, we are having a slight heat wave, with temperatures RISING to -28! That's in Fairbanks, actually. Here, it has only risen to -40. When it comes to it, anything -35 or colder feels the same: FRIGID.

So, what do we do when it is this cold? I could point out the number of Alaskan babies born August-October, but that's pretty much a given. What really occurs is a whole lot of cabin fever. My kids are sharing germs, arguing over toys they received for Christmas, and wearing so many layers of clothes that they each weigh 10 pounds more than usual. My dogs are mad at me for forgetting about them when they were outside. Don't worry, the dryer was on, and despite their "bird brains," they had enough sense to huddle together under the vent. This kept them plenty warm. Moses must have actually forgiven me because he keeps ringing his bell to alert me that he wants out yet again. Crazy fool, doesn't the air choke his breath as it does mine? Mrs. Jones is not as forgiving: she is huddled in front of the electric fireplace (which is not turned on) and sending evil glares my way.

As for me and John, I assume, we are like most spouses who are forced to deal with the in and outs of life at sub-zero temperatures. Meaning, we are frustrated that elements of our home are not functioning properly, that one of our cars decided it would rather be living in Florida and is refusing to run, and secretly knowing that our utility bills will arrive with a whole new stress of their own.

Still, this isn't the worst of winter. No, after all, we are warm, at least. We are saving money because I am not driving anywhere, using gas or spending money on groceries and the like. In fact, one would think I could accomplish a lot of household duties during this period of self-inflicted "lock-down." However, THE DARKNESS DRIVES ME INSANE! Sure, every light in my house is on, the sun is shining somewhere above the fog, but the dreary, dim light that stays so flat for only about 5 hours is very depressing. Somehow, it is even snowing right now. Tiny crystals of dry ice flaking from the sky don't even cheer the mood. They are menacing, in a way; taunting me to realize that this winter is far from over. 6 months pregnant, truly not long to go, but the months of January and February in Alaska seem to drag like the tip of a snail's tail.

Ahh, I will survive, as I always do. And When March finally does pull through, the fresh smell of Break-Up and the sunshine will rejuvenate me once again. I will not be thinking about today: it's darkness, its depression. I will only see Alaska and its winter beauty. I will see the dogsled teams mushing in the daylight, the sun sparkling on the hills, spend a day with my family enjoying ice sculptures, and as I absorb it all, a twinge of guilt will touch my heart as I recollect today's dark feelings. I will realize that there is no where else like Alaska. There is no where else where a person's body can sway with the seasons like this. There is no where else that I can show my kids how boiling water freezes in mid air. And there is no where else I'd rather be right now.............

Well, Hawaii was great in January...