Sunday, February 28, 2016

Seal Dreams

It's not just Otters and Orcas in the seas of Prince William Sound.  There are patches of seals sunning themselves on the ice flows as well.  This little dude has smugly claimed the best spot on the flow.  It's not easy to jockey for position when your primary source of movement out of water is similar to an inchworm.  That silly seal smile is well earned.

Seals seem to have a naturally wary expression.  The world has not been kind to them.  Orcas try to eat them,  Polar bears try to eat them.  Humans have a history of comitting seal atrocities.  Unfortunately those wary looks are also well earned.

The little fella on the left looks the most trusting I think.  Curious about what where to get a floaty boat instead of a giant ice cube I suspect.

This is about as warm and cozy as it gets in the life of an Alaska seal -- August.  They have to come close to the glacier to find a nice ice shelf to rest on these days.  Alaska continues to warm up.  In just a few years, there will be nowhere for these little guys to go.  2014 was recorded as the warmest year on record for Alaska.  Until 2015.  Then it was the warmest year on record.  And 2016?  Yes, just 4 days ago we posted another warmest day on record at 46 degrees Fahrenheit.  Climate change is all abuzz about the devastation that a 2 degree increase in temperature will have.  The Arctic is averaging 7 degrees above normal these days.  In general, us humans don't like change, particularly change we didn't consciously choose.  We aren't going to like life in a warmer world where land masses shrink, droughts and storms ravage and claim more lives -- and let's face it, when the going gets rough international conflicts get worse.  Economies crash.  But we shy away from the little choices that do change it.  The power to make changes in in the small changes of masses of people.  You CAN turn out the lights when you leave a room, turn off the tap between the start and finish of brushing your teeth, unplug electronics when not in use, walk a bit more, eat a little less meat.  Those little gestures multiplied by 7 billion people can literally change the world (well, the percent of the 7 billion who have running water and electricity at least).  You can't control others, but you can do your part...along with all the others who quietly do theirs, it adds up.  As for the seals, they can do nothing but look and hope the noisy creatures they see from time to time start making good choices.

But on this day, there was sunshine and a cozy ice flow to enjoy it on.  The skies were clear, the views crisp and outstanding.  If seals pass down history from generation to generation, they would know that this site has always been a good place to rest ones flippers.  The glacier has always been generous, providing a place of refuge.  Maybe the seals look up at the mountains, snowcapped peaks, and clear blue skies, and realize they are in a special kind of place. Maybe seals dream of exploring the land far beyond the shore, as humans dream of flight.

Who knows what things seals may dream of?  I know dreams my include a safe environment, one with ice flows and sunny days for every seal.  And that's why the toaster and blender only get plugged in immediately before use, and why the water is turned off why while I am brushing my teeth.  It's not much, but it's something.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I 'otter' get a new lens

One lens does not fit all.  It's sad but true.  And being in Alaska makes me realize I need at least one, if not two more.  But that doesn't change my collection of blurry otter pictures.  But blurry otter pictures are better than no otter pictures.  At least I can show that otters appear to be even cuter and cuddlier than I imagined, and more often than not, come as a bundle!

I do believe this is how otters give "noogies."

As peaceful as this looks, just spending your days floating around in the frigid water looking cute, otters have a lot to think about.  They need to keep alert for hungry orcas, find food in the frigid waters, and fluff, comb and groom their fur relentlessly keep it waterproof and stay warm and dry.

But at the same time, they get to enjoy what we call the simpler things in life.  Floating on calm clear waters, cuddled up with a loved one, enjoying the feeling of sun on your flippers.

Waiting for a bit of kelp or other delectables to float into range, and watching the tour boats of strange and exotic human animals zoom by in large herds, never stopping long enough to enjoy the scenery like the otters do.

And like humans, I suspect there are more than a few otters out there who are "old souls."  This little guy looks to be contemplating profound concepts of otter society and environmental issues.  I call him The Philosopher.  All that AND he is still adorably cute and cuddly looking.

As the boat engines roared up and we began to cruise away, I noticed this little group, watching up with mild interest.  For some reason I thought of a modern Hollywood Rat Pack.  That's George Clooney, the handsome grey guy in the center.  Matt Damon is over to his right, Ben Affleck on the left, and Mark Wahlberg in the background.  Yup, that's how my brain works.  Who needs entertainment when you have this dialogue in your head all day.  I am pretty sure otter Matt Damon is waving a flipper as we depart.  I think I shall have to go back to visit these little guys again this summer.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Before and After

Your birthday is always hard.  I generally make sure to make no plans, so I can spend a quiet evening at home, thinking of you.  I light a candle, always lime green, because that's always going to be your color now.  All of us who loved you, our lives are divided by before and after.  And on this day, this marks the beginning of before.  I look back over 23 years, and see all the happiness of before.  I see all these people I don't know anymore.  One of them is me.  In the after those people are not the same people as in before.  They look different.  They move differently.  The weight of after crushed the essence of those people who were before.

I always know this will be an emotional day.  But this today, this year in after, I have spent a full 22 hours trying to hold the emotion at bay.  This today, this year, I am angry.  I am furious.  I go over the day that began the after.  I think of how you three died because of the actions of that one.  I am furious, here in after, with the police for not testing for blood alcohol, with the Crown prosecutor for making an agreement with the public defender before the police forensics report was even back.  I am as flabergasted , almost seven years after, that the same prosecutor charged that one not with three charges for your deaths, but with one misdemeanor.  I have spent most of this day in after trying to find sense in those choices of those people.  I remain convinced there was none.

I think I am angry today because there story needs to be told, but I don't know how to tell it yet.   Maya Angelou said "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you."  It is fair to say I am feeling somewhat tortured today in after.  It isn't really my story, but I think one day I'll be called to be its scribe.  "'Stories are important,' the monster said.  'They can be more important than anything if they carry the truth," (Patrick Ness).  Seems fitting.  I sense the story, but the thing is, all the main characters were taken too soon and it now the plot doesn't make any sense.  A lot of things don't make sense here in after.  This story has too many villians, three too many felled heroines, and so many casualties, I can hardly make sense of it, even seven years into after.

But I lay it down, for now.  Your green candle is waning.  Your playlist misses you.  Your Hollywood Undead, and your Billy Talent mix with my songs.  They mix well, like us.  I fight a lump in my throat as I watch the snippets of video from before from your Dad, the pictures I looked at with your mom.  Memory is a funny thing.  I have collected hundreds of them, but they are precious fragments of the bigger piece of art that was you.  A smile, a laugh, a toddler with arms crossed and a frown that couldn't know she was even cuter when trying to be mad.  The warmth of a hug, many many many goofy faces.  A contented sigh.  Even a snore or two.  Twirling in the first dress you ever liked.  Holding you when you still needed it.  And with your pictures, I settle into a quieter place, in a shadow cast from all your light before that spreads across all these years to after.

I can't do anything but smile when I see your face, even if it's only a picture.  That's who you were.  Happy birthday in heaven.  I hope you know how much we love and miss you here after.

"Sometimes the best and worst times of your life can coincide. It is a talent of the soul to discover the joy in pain—-thinking of moments you long for, and knowing you’ll never have them again. The beautiful ghosts of our past haunt us, and yet we still can’t decide if the pain they caused us out weighs the tender moments when they touched our soul. This is the irony of love."  Shannon Alder.