Posted tagged ‘memories’

Alaskan Wildlife

June 16, 2013

A huge pod of Orcas showing off.

A huge pod of whales showing off.

Who doesn't want to see a real whale tail?

Who doesn’t want to see a real whale tail?

Last week I finished my blog post with a promise to post wild life photos taken in Alaska. Well, I keep my promise but these photos are a tiny fraction of what Alaska has to offer. Also, all of these were taken in their natural habitat. They were photo opportunities, lucky happenstances of being someplace at the right time with a camera ready to point and shoot.

Boreal Owl Denali NP

Boreal Owl Denali NP

I hope you enjoy them.

One time I was on a tour of Resurrection Bay, near Seward, AK, and a huge pod of Orcas swam very close. The captain cut the engines and announced we couldn’t move again until they left. The day was cold and drizzly and very overcast. Most of the passengers stayed inside the cabin drinking hot coffee and cocoa.

I’d brought warm rain gear and headed out to the deck and watched that family of about 15 Orcas of all sizes romp in weather they obviously enjoyed. Never got a photo. Too entranced with the show. That lasted for about 40 minutes until they did something like a synchronized “farewell” and took off.  AMAZING!!!

Dahl sheep enjoying warm temps at the roadside in Denali.

Dahl sheep enjoying warm temps at the roadside in Denali.

As I mentioned last week, photos such as these and lucky happenstances while traveling or in life can be the fodder that feeds a writer’s creativity. For those not writers, these sightings and memories of them either captured in our brains or by a camera, might inspire a painting, a collage, a mosaic, a screenplay.

Or perhaps most special of all—inspiring others with your memory and retelling. I think that’s part of why I was so happy to learn my friend and her sister loved their trip to Alaska and at least my friend hopes to go again. I’m sure she will. I’ll bring her with me.

And that concept inspired elements in the first two books of my Dessert Dames series, but most especially a chapter near the end of the second book, More Than a Trifle, that takes place in Alaska, in a very special place one of the friends decided would be the perfect place for her second marriage—starting it in a place new to both Katy, the friend getting married and her future husband Aidan.

You can see bears anywhere, even in Anchorage.

You can see bears anywhere, even in Anchorage.

But Katy brings her closet family and friends with her to share the beauty of that place and her second chance at happiness. I loved writing those scenes and all the time I wrote them I was surrounded by photos I’d taken of that place on several different visits to Alaska.

Have you ever listened to a friend or family member talk up a place they visited and then got lost in their photos? What did you do with that feeling? Those memories the photos or story embedded in your brain?

Caribou near Fairbanks

Caribou near Fairbanks

Bald eagles are abundant and always hungry.

Bald eagles are abundant and always hungry.


Dreaming of Alaska

June 9, 2013

Whales of all types visit Alaskan waters.

Whales of all types visit Alaskan waters.

I had lunch this week with a friend who has just returned from in her words, “the most incredible, awesome, fantastic trip ever. What a beautiful state!”

Then she handed me her numerous photos and proceeded to tell me all the things she loved about the state.

I salivated at her memories—because, of course, I love that state also. Not only for its beauty and awesome sights, but most of all because my oldest son has made that state his home. Part of my heart will always be there.

But I also developed a serious case of lust for one of her photos. I found it incredible that she was able to get such a shot with her little camera. I want a copy of that photo. If she gives it to me, you will surely see it on this blog.

Why do I want it? Because while I’ve seen mountain sheep while I’ve been in Alaska on various trips, I’ve never been close enough to get a photo such as she did.

Waterfalls everywhere during snow melt.

Waterfalls everywhere during snow melt.

Where did she take it? Why Denali National Park which is a place everyone should see/visit.

And lucky woman that she was, the whole time she was in the park the weather was perfect and she had great shots of Mount McKinley or Denali as it is sometimes referred to. That mountain peak is so huge and high that it can create its own weather systems. Thus a visitor might be enjoying a sunny warm day in the Park but never glimpse McKinley because its peaks are shrouded in snow clouds.

And shroud is a great word to describe the clouds that can hide that beauty from a person’s view.

But all this reminds me of a note I received from my son recently. He was talking with a co-worker whose mother was reading and loving my book Fireweed which is mostly set in Alaska. Anyway, the co-worker’s mother wanted this message relayed to me. She loves my Fireweed book and wondered if I had been raised and lived a long time in Alaska. The mother said it reminded her so much of things she’d done when she and her husband first moved up there.

Glacier have deep crevasses in incredible blue.

Glacier have deep crevasses in incredible blue.

I was humbled and thankful to that reader for taking the time to send the message through my son. I got that message just before I left for the writers’ conference last weekend. And guess which of my books sold the most copies in the book sale there?

Right. Fireweed.

And how did I get those details correct so they would please a long time Alaskan resident?

My son gave her the perfect answer. Good research, long visits, and lots of phone calls to him and his expert friends.

I would have added one more item. Reviewing often the haunting photos of the state I’ve taken over the years or friends have shared with me from their trips. Photos help you relieve the moment. Find the essence. Feel the emotion and air. Smell the atmosphere.

And days can be moody and haunting...

And days can be moody and haunting…

They are memory’s friend.

Have a great week. 🙂

A Blizzard, A Loss & Super Bowls

February 3, 2013

This morning.

This morning.

Two years ago today at this exact moment my son Jimbo died.

We’d had a terrible blizzard the day before when the hospital called me that he’d turned critical. In fact they’d done a code and brought him back to life but he was on life support. Since I was his emergency contact they asked if he had an advanced health care directive. I did. Then they asked since it wasn’t safe to drive could I fax it to them.

I could and did.

Maybe half an hour later the doctor called again and suggested I get there as soon as I could, especially if I hoped to see him conscious because he’d had another episode.

Of course, I couldn’t get there at that time. Everything even the malls were closed. I live in a rural area and the winds had created a drift of 5-6 feet in front of the garage. We couldn’t open any doors to the outside because of the drifts.

Yesterday morning

Yesterday morning

The nursing staff told me they’d call with updates until I could get there and I should feel free to call whenever I felt the need.

The rest of that day and all night, I watched the weather bulletins, checked road condition reports and closings, an prayed for the snow to stop and the winds to calm. I thought about Jimbo as a baby, all the happy times and difficult times of childhood, teen years, adulthood.

I waited to hear the sound of snow plows and shovelers. Finally the next morning about 10:00, the plows and shovels arrived and made the first swipe through. My SUV had 4 wheel drive. I bundled up, watched and waited. When I judged the remaining drift in front of the garage was about just below my rear bumper but 6-8 inches beyond was pretty much clear to the pavement, I kissed my hubby, said I’d call when I got to the hospital, gut in my car, started it, hit reverse and pure motherly determination plus good tires got me through what remained of that drift.

Friday morning

Friday morning

Driving to the hospital took a long time. Most side roads were still unpassable and the few main roads were one lane, sort of, both ways with huge drifts on either side. In open areas even though the winds had died, drifting was going on. I was so thankful for my plucky car.

When I arrived at the hospital, I had no trouble finding a parking spot though not much of the lot was plowed. I found where my son was located—the ICU (this was a hospital I wasn’t familiar with) and asked at the desk exactly where my son was.

I could tell in the woman’s eyes I wasn’t going to like what came. She told me to wait and his nurse, the one I’d been talking with the day before, would go with me. In a moment she approached me gave me the most recent update.

It wasn’t good. She asked if I had anyone with me. I shook my head.

She took my hand and led me to my son.

Yesterday monring

Yesterday morning

I walked to his bed and looked carefully at this shell of my beautiful boy, my handsome son. I knew immediately they kept him on life support until I had a chance to see him. His life force was gone. It was up to me to set him free.

But first, I held him in my arms.

Doctors came and talked in hushed tones. A chaplain came and asked if I needed help in making decisions.

Of course not. I signed papers.

So I held him in my arms again while they turned off machines. He never took one breath on his own.

He watched the Super Bowl from above to see him team win that year.

And I’ll be thinking of him while I watch the game today.

About two hours ago

About two hours ago

Bloopers, Keepers, and Wowsers

October 21, 2012

Midnight sun in Alaska

Last week I posted photos of my plane ride above a glacier and into one of its deep crevasses. I hope you took away from that post and those photos what a beautiful state Alaska is. I hope you also felt the respect and love I have for my son.

But my trips to Alaska left many impressions on me. They helped to shape the setting for one of my books, Fireweed. In Better Than Dessert a good half of the book is set in Alaska. And most recently, More Than A Trifle has several key chapters which are set in that beautiful state.

So today, I’m posting photos—some prompted settings for these books. I hope you enjoy them.

Within the last few months I’ve read that Kodak Corporation has ceased making film which was used to capture sights and scenes that became photos such as the ones I’m posting. Then that film was developed through a process that most people with cameras couldn’t replicate, so they took their film to be developed somewhere the developing process was done.

2 AM Early June

Today we can print up our own photos or have them printed from a digital file.

Today’s process is very different from the “old-fashion” process that produced today’s photo selection. I scanned the original photos into digital files. I’m in the process now of scanning many old photos into digital files, but I’ve really enjoyed going through the albums and looking at the bloopers, the not so greats, and those that become more wondrous as years past.

And of course, the wowsers—those photos that take one’s breath away.

Early morning calm

Which makes me think that perhaps this new age of photo taking photos with its instant replay and delete or keep and print after manipulating them in multiple ways has its drawbacks. Those not so greats, the ones that time makes more charming—those may never be seen again. Lost forever in the trash bins of the computer age.

Maybe this isn’t such a very good thing. For example, several years ago on a trip to Alaska, my hubby and I took our 4 year old grandson to the zoo in Anchorage. I’ll never forget that day. I even built on my memories of that day for a scene I loved writing for Better Than Dessert.

But while I was writing that scene, I hunted up the photos we took that day. Along with the good ones, the wowsers, I had also filed in a separate envelope several that were at best bloopers. But time lent them a charming patina. One in particular our grandson insisted we take because he was fascinated with the elephants, the feeding process we witnessed, the bathing, the process of the elephant eliminating. He wanted that photo of a pile of elephant poop.

I have no idea why I didn’t tear that up when we got the photos from the developer. However, seeing it prompted a detail to add to the scene. I chuckled, smiled, and decided it would be perfect to add to the zoo scene in Better Than Dessert.Readers who’ve contacted me say they’ve chuckled also during that scene.

More Than A Trifle Alaskan wedding scene

Serendipity at work.

Bloopers in photos and in life can be very beneficial. That’s my take-away for readers this week. Don’t dismiss out of hand the bloopers with your photos or your experiences. At some point they may come in very handy.

Have you found this to be true lately?

Alaskan rainy day

Days of Life

February 5, 2012

Life is like an hourglass. It needs to be flipped over every now and then.

I used a variation of that title phrase in a recent email to a friend. Funny, ever since then it’s been bouncing around in my gray matter and made me remember several red-letter days in my life and what about the day made them memorable to me.

With the first few days that popped up, I didn’t see what the connecting thread was. However, this morning, it dawned on me–sort of like the sunrise that wasn’t this morning. You got it–another dreary day. We still have the lights on.

But I digress.

You’re probably asking and rightly so, “What’s the connection?”

Nothing earth-shattering when I tell you–life changing.

Yes, that’s the connection. In some way those days changed me, my life, my family, my world. Maybe even others beyond my immediate sphere.

Think about it for a minute. I’ll give you a few examples.

The late evening conversation I had with the man who called to ask me for a date. He ultimately became my husband; we’ve been married over 30 years. Understand this–at the time I firmly believed I’d never marry again. Been there, done that, it was a disaster. The experience gave me wisdom beyond measure and a better knowledge of myself. I was sure that staying single was my best option.

One of our first trips to Carmel and a favorite day.

On that theme, the late afternoon conversation with this same man who I’d known about 6 weeks. Talking turned into an argument over a workers’ strike that had gained national attention. He infuriated me with his views so different from mine. I walked away from him when we couldn’t agree to disagree. Before I did that, I told him not to bother to stay in touch.

He didn’t. But a few days later he showed up at my front door. We talked again–on the front porch–in view of all the neighbors. We continued the discussion after he admitted he enjoyed playing devil’s advocate. He liked that we could have disagreements and differing opinions. He respected my right to my beliefs, but he expected the same from me. And he didn’t intend to walk away.

I learned this was a man I could argue with and he wouldn’t get angry. I did respect him. Needless to say, we’ve enjoyed some friendly bickering ever since.

Other days of my life I hold dear for many different reasons. My college graduations, the births of my children, my wedding day, the few moments of consciousness before my two life threatening/altering surgeries, the day my husband “died” 3 times during a 12 hour surgery, the days my two sons died. And many more.

Another favorite day in my life in another place I love.

They have become my life of days.

Do you have some? Please share one.