Friday, December 21, 2012

One afternoon of a cold winter's day,

two children asked their mother if they could play in the new-fallen snow.

The children lived in the city and had no wider play place than a little garden before the house, divided from the street by a white fence. Their mother bundled them up in woolen jackets and wadded sacks, and a pair of striped gaiters on each little pair of legs, and worsted mittens on their hands. Out they ran, with a hop-skip-and-jump, into the heart of a huge snowdrift. When they had frosted one another all over with handfuls of snow, they had a new idea.

"Let us make an image out of snow," said the older sister. "It shall be our little sister and shall run about and play with us all winter long!"

"Oh, yes!" cried the little brother. "And mother shall see it."

"But she must not make her come into the warm parlor, for our little snow sister will not love the warmth." So the children began this great business of making a snow image that should run about. It seemed, in fact, not so much to be made by the children as to grow up under their hands as they were playing and talking about it.

"Here is the snow for her dress. Oh, how beautiful she begins to look," said the boy as he came floundering through the drifts.

"We must have some shining little bits of ice to make the brightness of her eyes. She is not finished yet," said the girl.

"Here they are," cried the boy. "Mother, mother! Look out and see what a nice little girl we have made!"

 Their mother put down her work for an instant and looked out of the window. She was dazzled by the sun that had sunk almost to the edge of the world so she could not see the garden very distinctly. Still, through all the brightness of the sun and the snow, she saw a strange, small white figure in the garden. The boy was bringing fresh snow, and his sister was moulding it as a sculptor adds clay to his model. 

The longer she looked, the more and more surprised she grew.

Just then there came a breeze of the pure west wind blowing through the garden. It sounded so wintry cold that the mother was about to tap on the window pane to call the children in, when they both cried out to her with one voice:

"Mother, mother! We have finished our little snow sister and she is running about the garden with us!"

 Why, if you will believe me, there was a small figure of a girl dressed all in white, with rosy cheeks and golden curls, playing with the children. She was none of the neighboring children. Not one had so sweet a face. Her dress fluttered in the breeze; she danced about in tiny white slippers. She was like a flying snowdrift.

"Who is this child?" the mother asked. "Does she live near us?"

The older child laughed that her mother could not understand so clear a matter. "This is our little snow sister," she said, "whom we have just been making."

Just then the garden gate was thrown open and the children's father came in. A fur cap was drawn down over his ears and the thickest of gloves covered his hands. He had been working all day and was glad to get home. He smiled as he saw the children and their mother. His heart was tender, but his head was as hard and impenetrable as one of the iron pots that he sold in his hardware shop. At once, though, he perceived the little white stranger playing in the garden.

"What little girl is that," he asked, "out in such bitter weather in a flimsy white gown and those thin slippers?"

"I don't know," the mother said. "The children say she is nothing but a snow image that they have been making this afternoon."
 "This little stranger must be brought in out of the snow. We will take her into the parlor, and you shall give her a supper of warm bread and milk and make her as comfortable as you can." But the children seized their father by the hand.

"No," they cried. "This is our little snow girl, and she needs the cold west wind to breathe."

The father laughed. "Nonsense," he said.

"Come, you odd little thing," cried the honest man, seizing the snow child by her hand. "I have caught you at last and will make you comfortable in spite of yourself. We will put a nice new pair of stockings on your feet and you shall have a warm shawl to wrap yourself in. Your poor little nose, I am afraid, is frost bitten. But we will make it all right. Come along in."

So he led the snow child toward the house. She followed him, drooping and reluctant. All the glow and sparkle were gone from her.

"After all," said the mother, "she does look as if she were made of snow."

A puff of the west wind blew against the snow child; she sparkled again like a star.

"That is because she is half frozen, poor little thing!" said the father. "Here we are where it is warm!"

Sad and drooping looked the little white maiden as she stood on the hearth rug. The heat of the stove struck her like a pestilence. She looked wistfully toward the windows and caught a glimpse, through its red curtains, of the snow-covered roofs, the frosty stars and the delicious intensity of the cold night.

The mother had gone in search of the shawl and stockings, and the boy and girl looked with terror at their little snow sister.

"I am going to find her parents," said the father, but he had scarcely reached the gate when he heard the children scream. He saw their mother's white face at the window.

"There is no need of going for the child's parents," she said.

There was no trace of the little white maiden, unless it were a heap of snow which, while they were gazing at it, melted quite away upon the hearth rug.

"What a quantity of snow the children brought in on their feet," their father said at last. "It has made quite a puddle here before the stove."

The stove, through the glass of its door, seemed to grin like a red-eyed demon at the mischief which it had done.

from "The Snow Image and Other Twice-Told Tales" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A long time ago...

there lived two woodcutters, Minokichi and Mosaku. Minokichi was young and Mosaku was very old.

One winter day, they could not come back home because of a snowstorm (it was not a day for swimming...)

 They found a hut in the mountain and decided to sleep there.

On this particular evening, Mosaku woke up and found a beautiful lady with white clothes. She breathed on old Mosaku and he was frozen to death.
She then approached Minokichi to breathe on him, but stared at him for a while, and said, "I thought I was going to kill you, the same as that old man, but I will not, because you are young and beautiful. You must not tell anyone about this incident. If you tell anyone about me, I will kill you."

Several years later, Minokichi met a beautiful young lady, named Oyuki (yuki = "snow") and married her. She was a good wife. Minokichi and Oyuki had several children and lived happily for many years. Mysteriously, she did not age.

 One night, after the children were asleep, Minokichi said to Oyuki: "Whenever I see you, I am reminded of a mysterious incident that happened to me. When I was young, I met a beautiful young lady like you. I do not know if it was a dream or if she was a Yuki-onna..."
After finishing his story, Oyuki suddenly stood up, and said "That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can't kill you because of our children. Take care of our children... " Then she melted and disappeared. No one saw her again.

 story "Yuki-onna" by Lafcadio Hearn
stills from Kwaidan (1964) directed by Kobayashi Masaki

Saturday, December 1, 2012


welcome home!! I forgot that you were going to Hawaii. I bet you loved it. There is nothing, nothing to bring joy like sun, sand, and sea. And I can't imagine what a welcome relief it must be for you after, well, the cold and dark of Northern Alaska. I love saying Northern Alaska. I mean as if Alaska was not far enough- you are living in Northern Alaska, which somehow adds a dimension of even more remote, more frosty/snowy! How was the trip? Did it do your soul good? Any especially memorable experiences? I pray that you did not meander about in that dreadful hat. When I go to Mexico, I don't try to escape the sun on my skin. I convince myself that a week in the sun is not going to ignite the oncogenes that will bring about my demise.
Anyway. I hope you had a wonderful and rejuvating time.

Thanksgiving in Hawaii.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A lifelong dream is being realized, apparently




I'll get my tools...

 Yes, here it is...

 ...the knob was missing

Now you can cook your pumpkin seeds

 and we can watch our movie

And so they did.


But Wait!
Aren't they eating their own CHILDREN?

They're eating the children!




Story and photos by Joe
"They're eating the children" ~Greg Lydon

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Have you ever felt like a toaster in a cheap suit surrounded by a room full of robots?

This New Yorker cartoon spoke to me. It seemed to be saying: Look Dee, IT'S YOU!

toaster= idiot

cheap suit=what I buy from Value Village

robots=graduate students

You will see what I am getting at.

OK, I am a graduate student, so I guess that makes me a robot too. After all, a toaster is a type of robot. It's a machine programmed or otherwise wired to perform a certain function with a certain amount of accuracy. Robots like the ones above, however, are supposed to be more sophisticated and autonomous, with complex circuitry that allows them to do lots more things than simply make toast.  Although the humans in Battlestar Galactica tend to refer to their robots (called cylons) pejoratively as toasters.

So far nobody has accused me of being a toaster.  Or a cylon (I wish!). What is my point here?

That graduate school is challenging. That sometimes you feel out of place and out of time, like a machine built in the last century (which I was), and you wonder what made you decide to forgo having grandchildren and letting yourself go for a life of papers, classes, teaching, statistics, grant writing, data entry, seminars, grading papers, and the ubiquitous departmental social gatherings? and all this in addition to the lab and field experiments. For most of my life I WAS a humble toaster--I did the same job day in and day out, boring as it was, and knew little else, but it paid the bills. Now I'm in the world of the sophisticated machines, the ones with the big circuits and complex functions.  I'm not saying it's all bad. But it's approaching midterm and I'm pretty well tired at the end of each week. I sometimes forget what day it is. I even sometimes forget to make myself toast in the morning.  The other day I nearly got in the car wearing bike gear. If my helmet hadn't smacked the door I might have driven off to school and gone to class dressed in bike shorts. These are the kinds of things mothers with small children are prone to do. I feel for those moms, for they are the ones that have to divide their brains into 18 thousand compartments to remember all the little details of childcare and logistics and such.

Add to that I went for an annual exam and my doctor recommended I get a booster shot for tetanus because I'm around other students all day. This shot was not just for tetanus, it was more like a vaccine cocktail for several different diseases (diptheria and whooping cough--wasn't that supposed to have been eradicated along with TB and polio way back when?). By the end of the day my arm was sore like I had pitched nine innings straight. Next morning the pain had spread to my upper back and shoulders, making turning my head and generally moving about difficult, so I cancelled all my appointments and stayed home on the couch. I went to bed thinking a good night's rest would help. This morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck. Vaccines are supposed to protect you--why do they nearly kill you in the process? I decided it's because I'm getting older and, perhaps, a bit more frail. I dislike that word, frail. It makes a person sound like a little wafer--thin to the point of being transparent, and unable to survive for long outside of a protective container. So I decided to stay inside my protective container another day. By this evening the mack truck feeling has dissipated, I'm far less sore, but it represented a setback for me. Graduate school is like a treadmill--you slow down or stop and you're on your ass before you know it. Finally this evening I had the strength to grade some papers. And, I found out I had left out some details I should have gone over with the students on Tuesday. Oh, well, it's not a major problem. But. With my frail toaster brain, I worry that I might miss things an average robot would have caught.

But the fact that I got most of it right must mean that I'm an above-average toaster.

"Now then, baboons—what is a corpuscle?"

"That's easy. First there's a captain, then there's a lieutenant, then there's a corpuscle."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's Harvest Time in Alaska...

And look what we got this year!  On the left is lettuce grown by our next door neighbor. She grew her lettuce directly in the ground. In the forest.

On the right is a lettuce plant grown by me.  Yes, there IS a lettuce there! Look closely.  Second board from the top, kind of near the oval shaped knot.  I planted my seeds in mid-May in raised beds warmed by black plastic mulch that got at least ten hours of full sunlight. We had rain at least once per week through the growing season, and in warm weather I supplemented with hand watering.

Here's everything else I grew.  The entire yield from left to right: salads, carrots, potatoes, cabbage. The orange thing on the right that looks like a bigger carrot is a pencil.  Needless to say this year even the moose didn't show up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our 4th Autumn

Summer sure went fast.  Faster than Simon's antiquated yellow truck.

Faster than whatever Joe just saw

Faster than Simon was able to start the truck


So fast I was only able to grow micro-vegetables

And we only had one afternoon to pick 20 lbs of mushrooms

but woo hoo! a dozen wok loads for the freezer

Joe and I had just one weekend for a getaway south past Denali

 past Turnagain Arm
 to Seward and Homer

so fast that by the time we got home again the leaves were turning

and the skies are getting dark

 and you can't just pretend fall isn't happening when fireweed looks like this on the way to the outhouse

We'd driven through every kind of weather and saw full on summer down in Homer

only to come back to ripe fall in Fairbanks

a neighbor gave us these nice tomato plants just before the frost 

Winter is around the corner.
But we have wood. And skis, and sweaters. And wine. And lots to celebrate.