Saturday, December 22, 2012

a morning visitation of bohemian waxwings

The other morning I was at my front table looking at the light.  Days are clear and cold here but the sun is blazingly beautiful.  Our loss of daylight goes quickly and I enjoy studying the sudden and swift shifts of projected sunlight - the darks and lights reflected on the snow which creates a pink glow to the grounds.

I noticed flocks of birds circling across the street and had seen these birds often around town but in smaller numbers.  Later that evening, my husband told me that they were Bohemian Waxwings.  I quickly grabbed my video camera and raced out the door.  Walking across the street, I watched the several flocks come and go, rest on several neighboring trees, and often, in one sudden swoop, they would take off and do this incredible dance throughout the sky.  I stood and observed for over fifteen minutes with my bare hands exposed to the frigid temperatures and I hardly noticed the uncomfortableness.

These moments are precious and magical to me.  It was a morning visitation from the Bohemian Waxwings and I had managed to be at the right moment, the right time when they arrived.  The next day, I saw a considerably smaller flock across the tree but they didn't stay long.  Happy Solstice!

Friday, October 26, 2012

altar art

a tribute to my mother and father
Pictured above is the altar that I am displaying at Out North Contemporary Playhouse in Anchorage for the celebration Dia de Meurtos that is currently open to the public.  The altar is a tribute to my parents.  You can see the many pipes that my father smoked and collected.  (Ken, my husband, made the beautiful wooden showcase to highlight the pipes and it is the first time shown in public.)  My mother, Jacqueline, was an avid knitter and a master seamstress.  One of her sweaters is featured in the photograph as well.
detail of the altar
My parents met in Switzerland during WWII.  My mother was born in the French part of Switzerland, Lausanne, and as a war bride, my father wound up taking her back to the states to his home town in Albany, New York.  I was born there too and several years later we moved to the Jersey Shore.  My father was an historian, a linguist and free thinker.  He studied theology where he obtained his PhD at New York University.  The bottom photograph shows them lounging in the countryside of Switzerland.  They were both superlative mentors/parents in my life and I love having the opportunity to dedicate a tribute to their couple.
my parents in Switzerland

Monday, October 15, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

a manifest gift

Never in a million years would I think to be butchering and quartering a moose; removing fat from the meat, grinding it and packaging it into sausages and other cuts made into potential romp roasts, crock pot flanks, fajita strips, and steaks.  Some of the meat has been store processed into specialty jerky and moose bacon. At the end of the harvest, we yielded four hundred and seventy eight pounds of moose flesh!  This took us a week to complete in between our other work.

preparing and prepping the meat
As an artist, I cannot say I enjoyed the entire process but remained neutral most of the time, almost in awe by this activity; seeing the immense heart of the animal, the fantastic ligaments that hold the flesh intact on it's legs, the tongue and the deep, rich burgundy color of the moose revealed it's dense and powerful aura of life.  It is very easy to be hypocritical in this matter especially if you are a meat eater but it was the awful blood shot caused by the bullet which was unsettling to me.
flying into the hunting area, 20 miles northeast of Farewell Lakes, the party stayed at an unnamed lake off the South Fork of the Kuskokwim River
There are restrictions to what you can hunt; the age of the animal, the antler size for example can sometimes make this activity slim picking and am told that these animals often starve to death after many years in the wilderness.  Licenses and permits are expensive for hunters.  If you get a bear for example, once you skin it, the hide and skull must be turned into the Fish and Game Department.  I often hear that it is the idea or concept of going out and experiencing the pursuit that makes it interesting while many times people come up empty handed.  Salmon fishing is accessible to all Alaskans making it an easy bounty and hunting game is the trickier circuit.

Noah carrying the antlers back to camp
When I moved up here from Los Angeles, I never had a clue about subsistence living.  The Native Alaskan has been fishing and hunting for centuries. I am not a hunter and don't promote this activity, however there are reasons for hunting that exonerates this action.  At the time of the killing, Natives give thanks for their reward from the land and feel that this capture was intended for them.  There is great reverence and respect to the fall of an animal.  I feel this way too and give great thanks to the creator for providing us with a life while deepening my spirit.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alaskan portages

pre fall floor mosaic
After five portages; two very long land portages and three lake channels, we arrived at Lonely Lake on the Kenai Pennisula.  It took us close to three and a half hours to arrive to our final campground.  It rained all day and evening on Friday and continued to be overcast most of the time, but we enjoyed our company and had great fun chatting and touring the other lake islands during our four day venture.
our campground at Lonely Lakes
Below is a glance of the exquisite grasses that grow in Alaska.  I love these types of Alaskan wild reeds.  The water channels were incredibly winding, muddy and narrow.  On the way back home, the creator turned the fall colors up a notch.  It was wonderful magic; golden brown lily pads and other scattered leaves arranged in the perfect aesthetic greeted us at each lake site.
lake grass 
Below, you can see who is doing much of the hard work rowing while I am quietly looking around for tidbits of inspiration.  I find that being outside is physically challenging.  It takes me a long day to immerse into the wilderness, finding the terrain entirely different from what we experience in our daily domestic existences.  It is a natural treasure to be in nature, to be absorbed and foremost it is a great cleansing for the mind.
Ken rowing in the background while I am observing

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August Ennui

At the sports park, I often take my dog Blue for frequent walks.  She doesn't go too far or demand much from me as far as throwing sticks or balls.  Blue likes to sniff, eat the grass and while we walk around the perimeter of the field, I get to peruse and observe slowly what is around me. I forget that it is okay to linger, to watch, sit in the grass and play.  

This time of year, I love observing the Alaskan grasses.  I often take this environment for granted.  This short film piece was taken the other day while I set up a tripod and filmed myself in certain locations around the area.  There were the tall grasses that I played with by rolling over the ground or jumping from behind the tall reeds.  For several years, I have been looking at this one particular grove of trees.  They are formidable in appearance and mystical to me; standing together so elegantly and aligned perfectly to each other spoke of the aesthetic that I look for in my art.  When I pieced and edited the project, I was taken aback at how small I was in comparison to the largeness of this forest.  They remain dear to me and I promise I will never look at them the same way.  These trees are remarkable, strong, enduring and fantastic.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

minute clip feeder

During the past year I have been taking some video clips of our two bird feeders.  The Chickadees come and go, never stay long enough for me to entirely observe them,  but I  pieced together a short collection of their activities.  I love watching them flit in and out, making their short journeys to the feeders to grab some seeds while launching back to the branches, some resting while others disappear from sight.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

small treasures

small native American baskets made from the original rye grass material
Last Wednesday, I attended a Native American Basket Weaving Workshop.  It was sponsored by the municipality of Anchorage and I chose this as part of a community assignment to complete for a course I am taking that will secure my K-12 teaching credential.  It was held at Russian Jack Springs at the Lidia Selkregg Chalet.  I found that (formally) Lidia Lippi was born in Florence, Italy and then married Fred Selkregg during WWII.  She became a activist and environmentalist, a doctor in the field of land management where she fought for watershed properties in Anchorage.  Recently inducted into Alaska's Hall of Fame, she passed away in 1999.  Russian Jack Springs was discovered from Jacob or "Jack" Marunenko, a Russian emigrant, around 1930 and while he homesteaded the property, it was bought out during the war and actually used as a prison and rehabilitation center for alcoholics.  It was soon turned into a recreational park.  

one of the books available to peruse during our workshop
Often surprised with the hidden gems in Anchorage that I stumble upon, taking for granted the history of place, the roots of where I live and the people around me restores my sense of station.  The two unfinished baskets pictured above are made from the natural rye grass material that the native people used to weave their baskets.  The rye grass was harvested in bundles when soft and when dried, the strands were split into threads to complete the weaving.  Some baskets are extravagant and beautiful, embossed with silk and wool embroidery.  The native people would use these baskets for functional purposes to gather berries, dried fish and nuts.  Shown below is my own creation made from rattan strands.  I chose rattan that had been soaking in onion skins and complimented it with a natural berry color threads.  The instruction was invaluable and I learned a great lesson that day.  At times we had to soak our beginning creations in a vat of cold water to keep the strands supple and workable.  Eventually, you discovered the process of weaving by absorbing part of the heritage too!   My basket will be used for study and take me to another arena in my own personal art making.  
my humble Native American Twined Basket 

Monday, July 2, 2012

summertime stretch

Intermezzo, mixed media on board, 12" x 12", 2012

Summer is usually a high energy time for me; sunshine, long hours and uninterrupted periods in the studio gives me an abundance of new works.  Shown above in this art piece,  Intermezzo, I am playing with mixed media, which is usually an interim work used for study, play and a rest from painting.  Below, It is just the way it is, is my first experimentation with cement and wood, one of my more sculptural pieces and is my favorite test to date.
It's just the way it is, cement and wood, 2012

Hand Study, oil on canvas, 10" x 12", 2012

Next month, August 3rd on the 1st Friday event, I will be showing new paintings called Painting Hands at the  Alaska Humanities Forum.  It won't be a huge exhibit, but it entertains the notion of working directly on the canvas surface and letting the paint speak for itself.
Seemingly Unfinished, Painting Hands, oil on canvas, 38" x 26", 2012

Below is the painting called Summertime Stretch, my newest work, with cement hands and painterly gestures of outstretched hands this art work entails a stencil of my own arms.  I continue to make other works and look forward to more three dimensional creations.
Summertime Stretch, cement and oil on canvas, 38" x 26", 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

a ten year's best

View of the valley while entering the Knik Glacier
Dehaviland Beaver, Canadian made circa 55

For our tenth year wedding anniversary gift, Ken decided to put me on a float plane.  Taking off from Lake Hood, (one of the largest float plane centers in the country), this Dehaviland Beaver was made in Canada and is one of a kind.

  Ken completes four surveys a year in this plane, spending close to seven days cramped up, wearing uncomfortable head phones with sometimes warm and stuffy air (although I was told you can open a window at one point while flying.)  This is the highlight of his work as he camps out in remote areas in Alaska and knows the state intimately through these journeys.

It was an hour and a half tourist ride for me and two Australians couples who accompanied me.  I grabbed for the co pilot's seat and they didn't seem to mind, since they wanted to sit together.  Without  the head phones on, the sound is deafening; you could ask questions to the pilot while he also gave out some information on the settings.  We flew four thousand feet up; amazed at the valley and the Knik Glacier presented a tremendous view.
Me in the co pilot seat

 While flying, I snapped several pictures.  One person commented on the photography and I remarked that you cannot take a bad picture.  Pictured below are two of my favorite shots of the Knik Glacier.  They are like abstract paintings but somewhat better I have to admit!
like a painting - glacier view from above 

another glacier study from above

Friday, June 1, 2012

wrapping around NYC

at the Metropolitan, New York City

This past week, I visited New York with a friend from my graduate school days from Long Beach, California.  We decided to stay in the city and focus the week on viewing art.  We did just that!  Our experiences ranged from exhaustion, delight and to extreme surprise; staying at the Jane Hotel reminded us that visiting New York was a feat if you wanted to do it on reasonable costs.  Our hotel room was barely a large closet with bunk beds and a bathroom to share (with how many others, we didn't want to know! You would tepidly visit the bathroom hoping you wouldn't see the other users.)  However, the shower was amazingly wonderful; the establishment gave you sweet robes, fresh water and the downstairs cafe hosted a substantial breakfast for a good cost.  We  decided that we would do this experience all over again.  
Roman sarcophagus, Metropolitan Museum, New York City

Above, was one of my favorite Roman sculptures.  This work of art is amazingly full, rich in detail and is exquisite to behold.  The city is crammed of wondrous adventures and eye candy of bustling life.   I find that when I experience the presence of antiquities, it is easier to examine these works than the raucous behavior of contemporary art.  These masterpieces are old and established.  I found myself dreading and at the same time loving visiting the modern art facilities.  Once at the contemporary art spaces though, I found myself diving into the void and by turning my psyche around, I would just let it wander.  It is a hard thing to do but I would compare it to a little bit like falling in love.  Try it.

Chakaia Booker's tire sculptures, Chelsea

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the things we think about

Matisse's The Piano Lesson

As an artist, we do lots of different things to get by to do our craft, to have the freedom to think and respond openly.  Aside from teaching college classes I substitute teach to make extra money to travel.  Today, I was at Service High School filling in for the choir teacher.  Her classroom was this theatre arena laced with chairs in a semi circle that grew in tiers and in the center was the Grand Piano.  This setting took me back to my piano teacher named Mrs. Corio who lived in Neptune City on Slyvania Avenue in New Jersey.  As a fifteen year old, my mother would faithfully drop me off at her home every week while I had my hour long lesson.  I taught myself how to read music early on in my childhood.  We had a modest standard Baldwin piano growing up.  When I lived in Los Angeles, I bought a Haddorf with ivory keys.  My former husband owns it now in lieu of my absence.

 Art is puzzle solving, an engagement of the mind focusing on the unconscious level; more or less it can be termed as the abstract piecing together ideas into forming concrete tangible statements.  Piano lessons taught me about discipline and applying the mind while reading a barrage of flats, sharps, tempos and at the same time learning how to touch the keys and translate the feelings that were present in the piece.  Playing music put me in touch with a variety of waltzes, Russian and Hungarian folk polkas and fantasy melancholic landscapes.  The piano taught me great drama, expression and it was when I had my first recital on stage.  My mother was always present at these affairs.  When I played my recital piece it was a fast and furious display of memorization and it was also to be my last formal music performance.  I loved looking through the foreign language of classical music books that our piano bench contained holding the mystery of an obscured beauty in papers.

How often we take these experiences for granted and I realized today how I had long forgotten Mrs. Corio.  She was a good teacher and possibly one of my first unrecognized art mentors.  While she was strict, she also had a great sense of humor; am not sure if she liked me (or if I liked her either), but she enjoyed extending her knowledge, was sincere, and passionate while passing on her skills of what she knew about music.  Who could have cared?  Today, I thought about the piano that I grew up with in our household.  It was an instrument of learning.  Years ago, I had learned that Mrs. Corio died of cancer.  Presently, I don't miss the piano though because  I opted to become a painter.  This activity is more of a natural expression to me but the notes, signs, and symbols that I learned from reading music often appear in my canvasses today.     

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

like dreamscape meanderings

from the artist Valdimir Kush

The past few days I was thinking about writing on the concept of strength. Where does strength come from? Physical strength can be built and worked by maintaining a regiment of diet and exercise. That takes practice, will power, concentration and constant energy. How is that done? Why are more people prone to this successfully while others fail miserably? What about mental strength? What keeps us going; the drive to do, the strive, getting something and having to go somewhere, this state of achievement. Can this be taught? Is it dependent on our backgrounds, our genes, luck, chance and how we were raised? I was brought up with the rugged individualist ideal. We worked for our adventures and discovered our lives through accidents, by doing, finding out and making lots of mistakes.

from the artist Hieronymus Bosch

Shown in this entry blog are surrealist paintings done as a final project from my drawing class. Students were shown surrealist paintings from artists such as Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo and Dorothea Tanning. For warm ups, I read stories and myths aloud to them as students drew what they experienced or felt by using symbols forming the concept on the narrative. We worked with a live model. Students then could attach these elements to the figure drawing building the concept of storytelling and showing how surrealism works in expressing dream states and altered realities . Finally, they were asked to copy a painting from a surrealist master's oeuvre. Included in this post are their responses to the assignment.

from the artist Valdimir Kush

Monday, April 2, 2012

sunshine planters with great expectations

I started watching Dicken's classic Great Expectations last night on PBS. It is hard to grip the English cockney at first, but you soon tune your ears into the brogue. It is beautifully set in England; the characters delightful and engaging ringing true that the Brits are truly masters at their theatre craft. I look forward to the upcoming episodes.

But it is the new sunshine and light that invigorates me. Last week, I decided to do some experiments with old soil and work it with flower seeds that we didn't use from last year's planting. We get some beautiful sun and heat in the front rooms of our home suggesting a greenhouse space and we have often used it in the past for starter plants. It is very early in the year to plant though but I decided to test it out anyway with a few of my pots. After two days, all of the pots have sprouted with tiny green sprigs. These modest beginnings are religiously observed every day with optimism and happiness.

This time of year reminds me too that I have five weeks left of college classes; soon to resume three months of working full time in the studio, focused reading and upcoming summer trips brings great openness to my psyche. This May, I will traveling to New York to see art and family with an old grad school buddy from Los Angeles. Ken and I will be doing our annual research for our trip abroad to China for next winter(which is yet too far away.) I have an artist in residency to teach in Xi'an, the funerary home of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses. We have been wanting to go to China for some time; the art dense, deep, centuries of brilliant ceramics, contemporary art and the exquisite forest steppes landscape shaped by dynasties of the old and new will be sensational. We caught a whiff of this sensibility last year when we travelled to the northern area of Sapa, Viet Nam which bordered China. I felt like I had been transported into another time realm.

My planting brings to mind the things that I have yet to do, the possibilities of new things to see with surprises and changes. All this cultivating is done with careful tendering, watering and good sunlight, not to mention the work that brings the joy of fruition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

copping an art feel

Once a month, I go to the library and peruse the film rentals. Their foreign film section is rather large and you can find films from Middle Eastern, Indies to classic silent films, art, music and documentaries to European standards. (I usually pick up French films to brush up this language I learned years ago and am in fear of losing; possibly my French has waned in years and would like nothing more but an intense three month immersion in Paris. Helas alors, I have other travel priorities!) But often though, I have scored several times by picking excellent films wonderfully filled with content that is deeply satisfying to me.

Last week, I rented a Danish film called The Inheritance by the director Per Fly, Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Barton Fink from the Coen Brothers (which I have yet to see.)

The Inheritance was a ritzy showcase of gorgeous visuals with gorgeous actors along with their gorgeous dysfunctions. While it was slick, I enjoyed it; the acting quite good and throughout the show, the architecture shown in several homes with interiors filled with art murals and abstracts excited me and gave me hope for contemporary painters and the art world. That aspect alone sated my film whims, but it was Cassavetes' film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie that stayed with me after several days of viewing it. It starred Ben Gazzara who was the over the top star playing a casual cool, aloof strip joint owner. I loved that it was set in sleazy Hollywood; feeling the wide dirty boulevards of the strip, that balmy fuzzy sea air and elements of the crazy fast life of city freeways made me nostalgia for the west coast. Cassavetes uses random, gritty scenes and jumbles his settings that often seem askew. He films actual situations and lets them fly, usually setting up for funky and disjointed scenarios. Nevertheless, he leaves you thinking about his films and what will happen to the characters in the story. There is really no beginning or ending, but pure living as it is. His films are raw and candid, his characters engaging in their ordinariness.

Films give me a good dose of art; the cinematography and places/countries/cities from where they are filmed are feeders of time for me. This is what I do when I cannot get into the studio and teaching classes becomes all consuming. I watch and study films, do a bit of reading and try to add significant impressions to my blog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

drawing from thin air

My blog entry consists of works from a Beginning Drawing Class A105 that I instruct on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I enjoy teaching students who are open, interested and that take risks. It isn't easy to teach concepts that are mercurial and that do not easily translate, like perspective, movement, space or line. Usually, I am so close to my practice that I don't understand the confusion on a student's face when they exclaim - well, how do you do it? This class is composed of eight students; I teach each one to find their voice and results bring a variety of art expressions. Many of the works that are presented in this blog are far beyond a beginning drawing status and students have completed some very complicated studies.

We study simple objects and complex still lives with several objects using shading and cross hatching. The above drawings give you an idea of class projects.We also study landscapes. Students use photography to apply to their studies; observing how nature arranges itself and simplifying our subject matter is never an easy thing to do.
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Simple objects with light and shade are integral. Once light and shading is developed, this concept forms our pictures on how we see things into recognizable and successful imagery. This is a great example of a MacDonald's french fry carton looking like it needs to be filled!
Interiors are never easy, but the class develops a quick understanding on how line divides and forms a room.
A complex still life study comprises of two or more objects. We start to employ colors, one at a time. Later, students build their compositions by using two colors.
This is a very sophisticated study by a sophomore in high school. Emma has decided to take my class and does some startling works. Printed drapery is an achievement to handle in drawing!
After spring break, we are going to see "Pina" at the Bear's Tooth Theatre, the documentary on the life of the dancer Pina Bausch directed by Wem Wenders. We will start drawing the figure shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

portabella passing

Arriving in San Francisco late in the afternoon brought back memories of dusty gray air but the sunshine streamed through it and redeemed the smog/fog okay to bear. I had come to scout overseas possibilities and couple my stay with a day or two looking at art.

On Sunday, I took the Bart from Millbrae to Powell Street costing $8.50 round trip. Years ago, when I worked in Los Angeles in the fashion industry, I frequented San Francisco. This was the city I had thought about moving to but now I was getting off at my destination and I hurried to MOMA. (I had recently watched "Milk" with Sean Penn and James Franco who both acted beautifully. The film was informative and brought back the San Francisco of the sixties movement, beat poets and Hare Krishna.)Once at the museum, I scoured the exhibitions, cramming my already tired eyes with quick assessments of wonderful photography shows along with the Bay Area greats, just next door to artist masters such as Matisse, Picasso and Max Beckman. It was the two photography exhibits that I found the most appealing. One featured Francesca Woodman who showed an astounding aesthetic at the young age of 22. Woodman committed suicide at that age but her maturity and skill of piecing self portraits was astoundingly refreshing. You had to enter each piece intimately to examine and scrutinize the content frame. The other photography exhibition was a retrospective of Rineke Dijkstra (her photographs pictured above and below). The artist gave you the information in large glossy colorful prints and most of it was an easy read; the artist astute to our "quick fix" needs as observers. Her portraits showed young Israeli soldiers - the same boy in uniform contrasted in his regular everyday clothes. Other pictures told stories of a young woman starting from ten years in age gradually developing into a mature twenty year old woman. Each photograph was huge - close to 10 by 7 feet, cosmetically presented, a fairy tale image of glorified pop. This was not dismal portraiture no matter what subject matter concerned. Another series of works was a strand of bull fighters after a bout in the ring (seen above). Each matador wore a dishevelled look stained with blood and grit.
I left the museum more inspired by the photography exhibits than anything else presented. It was a rewarding and invigorating treat always welcoming life's surprises. As I exited outside, a sumptuous fill lingered on Market Street, as I watched people, I checked out the flower stalls pausing briefly, quaint shops and singing minstrels guided me back to my return place.

At the airport, I gobbled a grilled portabella mushroom sandwich peppered with feta, pesto, grilled onions, tomato and lettuce. This huge mushroom spread on the bottom bun, amazed and suddenly realized however, that I was in one of the food capitals of the world - no matter where!

Friday, February 3, 2012

time out of mind

The past loomed in front of me as I tried to doze off late last night. Unexpected recollections popped up from old haunts of long ago.

The scent of sea breezes drifted into my psyche when I was carefree and thinking of that period of innocence, I was almost there, feeling that utter freedom of lightness. If there was trouble and worries at that moment, I didn't know it. Where did that sensation go? Jersey coasted past me. Grand vistas of the shoreline; the meeting place of first night dates, parked cars with timid conversations, afternoon dips, sunrise services, warm, humid kisses, the scent of pizza, jammed beer bars and hot boardwalk.

I was in love with the sea. It stretched endlessly for miles with waves of heat rising in rivulets above the wide beach sands; the ocean insurmountable, not comprehending the beauty of it all, I gave up and immersed into it's nothingness.

The sea was my refuge and I would escape to this landscape easily embracing the openness, the horizon always there greeting me with predictability. It was a mystery and fantasy land of tall grasses, rollings surfs, jetties, old fishing piers, white grasshoppers and lazy days. Why did I leave this paradise?

I have missed this space again and again sometimes fretting if these memories ever existed, drifting away out of sight, out of mind. How happy I am to be able to retrieve this place and at the same time how sadly I recognize these years gone by.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

manic winter months

We stayed home for Christmas this year and the weather proved to be the coldest I have ever experienced in Alaska. The endless snow upon snow is beautiful but at times I feel like I am drowning in it. Roads become like tunnels and neighborhood streets narrower; playing chicken is a thought that passes through my mind as a solitary oncoming car competes to get by. Mornings are usually difficult because I am not compelled to go outdoors, so I wind up cooking and doing studio work. Otherwise, I am determined to get out to walk, ski or sometimes ride my studded bike on the streets. My outfits consist of wearing face coverings, heavy duty gloves, large boots or sorrels and layered clothing is essential. The other day I walked with a girlfriend and we hiked to a summit close by on O'Malley Road. The sun was brazenly bright and after trudging in the snow for twenty minutes, I became warm and the below zero temperatures became unnoticeable.

In the five weeks however, during our Christmas break, we did manage to complete our house insulation. Endless, long hours and tedious dirty work amounted to Ken working and finishing this job. Hats off to Ken for his persistence and focused energy.

The library, my favorite place in Anchorage, is a great resource of travel books and free foreign films. The other day, I watched a Finnish film set in Helsinki and the environment was austere, existential and empty. It reminded me a lot about where I live presently.

My first remembrances of Anchorage are empty cafes laced with lingering iced air. Everything becomes a contest in the cold and while you fight the wind, you gingerly place your feet carefully because of the chances of slipping on sometimes slick pavement. There is an abstract sense of wilderness; you identify with the fur hats and empty cold banked curbs as a special place. Yet these things produce a remote sense of obscurity, and still begs for a foreignness of adventure. Years ago, Ken and I would sit by Earthquake Park and look out over the dark wide inlet vista that seemed to stretch for eternity. The tinkering lights on the horizon gave you some landing place of perspective. You forget people you have met at one time in the area because they become different looking throughout the year; either in bike gear, scarves, sunglasses or turbaned with the latest winter hat gives sway to another hidden persona. The Alaskan dark is the heaviest and most poignant element, but the one challenge of Alaska that I have seemed to beat. Alaska becomes an indoor place, of wood stove furnaces, fireplaces and engagements that bring you closer to one another. Upon entering my home, I find myself rushing around the house to beat the chill or to replenish the empty firewood box. I rush outside to warm up the truck, race to the mailbox across the street, rush inside from being outside. It is a fleeting place and it has become a restless place for me. My junctions to the college campus become mini field trips and I hole up before class reading and drinking coffee. After the Christmas holidays, flickering lights remain on the window sill to brighten my early morning days with optimism. I look forward to crashing early evenings spending time reading in bed but rise early to make up for any lost time.

Winter has caused me to reflect and feel Alaska; a bitter sweet sensation of living place. It is still a journey living here and it has taught me more about surviving than any other place. Alaska is an acute physical existence. You see the densely packed mountains tops and feel removed from this landscape but you know it's grandeur exists. It is the sense of nature that brings me to feeling powerless and not in control because this magnificent terrain remains untouchable.