Monday, May 31, 2010

Playing Catch-Up and Reflections on Time

Here I am, blogging after an absence of almost two weeks.  The past few weeks have seen a fair amount of rain . . . I can remember walking with Chico through the valley to the trail leading to the base of Pyramid last week and noticing the ground was just littered with dead earthworms, driven from the water saturated ground.  I think the fact I was looking at the ground instead of the beautiful vistas all around me  demonstrates a certain inward thinking, an internal taking stock and prioritization.  The addition of Fire Fighter I school has really crunched my schedule - finding time for another 25 to 30 hours a week when I already work 80 hours is a tall order, and it will continue until August.  Also last week there was a huge ball of baby bairdi crab by the dock, maybe three feet across comprised of thousands of crabs.  Around this time of year this a common sight if you look closely along the shoreline.

I suppose they think they are bunching together because there is safety in numbers - to me, it looks like an underwater buffet table . . .
You can see the crab ball was just a few feet off shore in just a few feet of water.
I cooked breakfast burritos and basic breakfast potatoes for Goldfish out of the Pioneer Woman cookbook, another great recipe that I really should have cut in half - we had leftovers for days.

The good weather finally showed up and everyone got out to play.  Lots of activity at the boat launches, pickup games at the outdoor basketball court, folks walking and jogging and riding their bikes.  We even have a few jet skis out here - of course the riders are wearing a drysuit or arctic neoprene because the Bering Sea is still cold, no matter how inviting it looks.

This goes to show that you can go by something a hundred times and still see something new - I really like how the Mariner fleet, rafted alongside the dock at work, look from the base of Bunker Hill, everything just ties together into a nice composition.

We brought Chico out a couple times to Morris Cove to see the horses and check the beaches.  Such a beautiful pup!

The horses look like they had a good winter.  I know the cattle on the ranch on the next island to the west eat seaweed sometimes, said to have the same protein value as soybeans - I wonder if horses ever try that?

Anyways, I have to get to bed.  Lots more to blog about but my head seems empty tonight - or perhaps too full . . . . cheers, I'll try to post more often! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Always Trust Your Instincts

A month or so ago I kept finding the bird feeder in the front yard knocked off the stump, with all the seed gone.  We do get some pretty severe winds from time to time, certainly capable of blowing it off, but thinking it might be something else, I drilled a couple holes in the base and nailed it to the stump.

As you can see, my suspicions proved correct - I looked out in the yard this weekend to see the culprit licking seeds from the tray - cheeky monkey!

The really funny part was how upset the birds got - the two on top of the telephone pole were shrieking and dive bombing the fox the whole time, eventually driving him off.

We talked about "The Time Traveler's Wife" at Book Club tonight - great book and super job hosting Elaine!  Okay, almost midnight, off to bed for me - good to talk with you this afternoon Dad, cheers everyone!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Rites of Spring

May has been fairly kind to us, despite my occasional grumbling about fresh snow on the mountains. Goldfish cooked a fantastic meal for Cinco de Mayo - or Gringo de Mayo, as our Mexican friends refer to it, as none of them celebrate it.

I'm sure you've heard of First Fish ceremonies; they vary by region but they all have the same premise: the first salmon of the year is something to be celebrated and honored in order to ensure future strong runs. It is a bit early for that "first fish", but like many others we are getting close to that "last fish" in the freezer. We're fortunate that we still have a bit left of a couple species of salmon, three species of crab, some rockfish, some cod and some halibut left in the freezer but I'm working on cooking up the last of it this month and next to make room for this year's catch. These are sockeye fillets with onion, garlic, lemon pepper and a bit of butter, grilled in foil.

I grilled the fish in the driveway, just delighted in the weather, relaxing in a camp chair.

Real ugly neighborhood . . .

From my perch I could also watch the antics of the ground squirrels as I soaked in the sun.

It appears they are enjoying May as well - love is in the air!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the great moms in my family (dog moms count too!), and all the island moms - Sharon, Jane, Sandy, Dabee, Elaine, Kristine, Sandra, Nancy, Kris Ann, Becky, Lauri, Melanie, Susan, AB, Sonya, Alena and many others - and the blog moms and Facebook moms - have a very well deserved and happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day . . .

Sunday was a gorgeous day, spring was starting to pop out all over. I was still emotionally raw from the St. Baldricks' shaving event the day before, so I did what I always do when I have thinking to do - I headed outside. I am truly blessed in that I can just walk out to my shed, strap on snowshoes, and head up the mountain in my back yard.
Here I am maybe 1/4 of the way up and starting to get a good perspective of the neighborhood. I was going to post borrowed pictures of the event on Saturday but I realized that wouldn't fit - with very rare exceptions, I never post any one else's photos here - this is, after all, my sense of place. I chose not to take pictures on Saturday, except a couple; I chose to cheer everyone else on and soak it all in. Those that take lots of photos on a regular basis will understand. There are several places you can go to see excellent pictures: Jane posted some, Brian posted some, Katherine posted some, and there are tons floating around on Facebook. With live coverage on local TV, you can even order a copy of the DVD from Pipa.
You know you are starting to gain some elevation when you have the eagles looking over their shoulders. And speaking of eagles, over 50 folks donated "on my head" - some of them multiple times - raising over $3300 to help cure childhood cancer. Almost half of the donations were from people I have never met in person.
I am almost up to the lake above my house. Several foxes shadowed me as I dragged my fat butt up the mountain, as curious about me as I was about them. Sometimes they observed me openly, sometimes they crouched down and spied on me, apparently completely unaware their dark heads were silhouetted against a snowy background.
I learned a bit about myself in the fundraising process. Folks tend to form a shell, especially those folks of a certain age, maybe my age. There is room to move around in the shell, but not really any room to grow. Any growth is going to involve cracking the shell, and its going to hurt, at least until you grow a new shell. I discovered I don't really like fundraising, because I'm sensitive. To ask people for money, you are putting yourself out there. I'm not good at asking for things - I'm the guy who will buy the tool or figure out another way to do the project before knocking on the neighbor's door. With a cause like children's cancer, the cause isn't really controversial, it is something that is more or less universally agreed to be a problem in need of a cure through greater funding. Since the cause is so self-evident, asking people for money becomes personal; of course they agree the charity needs funding, but why now, and more pointedly, why give the funds because I asked. I'm really good at donating my money for causes, especially local non-profits, but asking others to donate is a whole different thing.
This is the view from the very top, looking toward Ballyhoo and the Dutch Harbor side. It is a great hike for anyone who hasn't made it before. This is the double-edged sword that is fundraising - you are stunned and humbled by the generosity of some people (my college room mate from almost 30 years ago - who I have not seen in the interim - gave $100, for example), and then there is the other side. It's not like I went door-to-door, but I did email quite a few folks, I put it on Facebook, and I pestered people who read this blog pretty regularly for a couple weeks. I do not check my blog stats more than once or twice a year, but out of curiosity I'm looking at them now. It looks like around 8,000 people read this blog with some regularity, from 77 countries. 58.51% of them use Internet Explorer, 21.64% of them use Firefox, 17.13% of them use Safari, and 2.27% use Chrome. DSL is the most common connection speed but 10% are still on dial-up, and 4.09% are on a T1 (the lucky dogs). When I started blogging from out here 3 years ago, Unalaska readers were almost unheard of but now that city ranks #2, behind only Anchorage, in number of hits. Garden City is #3, no idea why. And, my pig-headed logic dictated, apparently only 0.6% wanted to help cure cancer in children. That is, of course, not correct. Everyone wants to help cure cancer in children. I would even suspect that any major charitable organization would be absolutely thrilled to have a 0.6% donation rate from a fundraising appeal. But still . . . I'm not a major fundraising organization, I'm Steve. . . . .

Here's the odd thing: there are a number of people who read my blog that I have helped in the past, either directly or indirectly. So when I wrote in this space that St. Baldricks was important to me, it was interesting to note donations were pretty much inversely proportional to any help I have given in the past, with some rare exceptions.
This is the view as I work down from the ridge into the gully and prepare to follow my tracks back down to my house. Looking back on this fundraising experience, my first, I can almost equate it to the Kubler-Ross grief cycle. During my "anger" phase, I told Goldfish I was going to make "Sense of Place" a private blog, by invitation only, open to only those that supported St. Baldricks' (it's easy to do, we have a family blog that is closed and requires a log-in to access). Goldfish told me I was an idiot, and she's right - she is very wise.

I'm at the acceptance stage now though, and I have to say I am both very glad fundraising is over and I can get back to wandering around the island taking pictures, and very excited for next year when Team Emery will again raising money for St. Baldricks. To all the other shavees, I am so proud of you. If I was competitive in fundraising, I apologize. I think by getting a number out there, it did push the pace a bit and raised the bar overall, giving the event as a whole a better result.

For all you wonderful donors out there, sometime in the next week or two you'll be getting a thank you post card in the mail. That isn't me being competitive and setting the stage for next year - it's because my Mom taught me that was what you did when someone was really nice. Cheers everyone, and thank you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Really Brief Thanks - More Tomorrow!

Well, you can se we had some perfect weather on the island for out St. Baldricks' Foundation shaving event today! You can also see the Smurf Mullet is gone!
The set-up crew did a wonderful job setting up the Burma Road Chapel for the event.
25 heads shaved in all and including on-line donations and donations raised at the live event today, over $20,000 raised - an amazing display of community spirit.
Team Emery raised somewhere around $3300. Day before and day of donors I wanted to thank include Jane (again), Lori G., Gina, Cindy Scott, Max, Betty, Oliver, Lani, Ann, Sonia and Susan (for donating and for doing such a great job MC-ing the event).

The winner of a box of crab is Joe Thuet from Florissant, MO - look for it to hit your doorstep sometime next week Joe! All I ask is you email me a photo of you and the crab to post when you get it!

I didn't take many photos today, I just wanted to soak it all in and enjoy the event. A friend is going to share his and I will post a bunch as soon as I have them - I got a sneak preview on his wife's Facebook and they look great!

I have a few more thoughts to post on the event and fundraising in general; maybe tomorrow or when I have the photos to post. Thanks so much to everyone, on-line and in the community, that worked so hard to make this event a success - thanks especially to Brian Rankin for spearheading the effort and seeing it through to a great conclusion! Okay, heading to bed, cheers . . . .