Bent Icicles

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You know it's been windy when your icicles don't hang down straight. A good few days of Northwest 40 followed by Northeast 50 will do that, we learned. The wind is a vital part of the landscape and life we've chosen, and even when it changes our plans, we find ways to appreciate it.

Last week we wanted to fly to Kodiak to visit friends and family before heading off on another jaunt to Minneapolis. Tuesday was clear but with a stiff Northwest breeze. Watching the whitecaps building on the rising tide, we doubted a plane would come. The mail plane, a DeHavilland Beaver providing once-weekly USPS service, did make an appearance, but the pilot decided, when he was about 10 feet off the water, that it was too rough to land, so he pulled up and flew away to wait for a better day. Wednesday, the weather switched to Northeast, with blowing snow and zero visibility. 

Thursday brought waves from one of the highest tides of the year, 22.4 feet which, combined with storm force winds, completely obliterated the beach, surging up into the grasses on the bank. A 30-foot driftwood log drifted in on the waves and rolled against our shores while long-tailed ducks and otters floated, buoyant and graceful. Five or six bald eagles congregated on the other end of our beach, and soon ravens circled over to take a look, wondering if something interesting had been stirred up by the storm. 

Our animal neighbors seem to be unperturbed by the storm, even in their element. And we, too, are more than happy to be exactly where we are. Knowing that travel in Alaska, especially in winter, happens according to mother nature’s schedule, not ours, we have left many days’ buffer between our trip to Kodiak and the next plane – a 737 to Anchorage. Eventually the wind and snow will subside and the plane will come, but for now we are happy to be given a little more time to soak in the unique energy of our ever-changing home.

The wind also gives us the not insignificant gift of more time to get our home buttoned up properly before our absence. Leaving isn’t just a question of locking the door behind us and walking away. It’s about timing everything to be wrapped up by the time the plane comes but not too much before. We drain the water system in the house, because even though we have used pex pipes that can expand with water freezing in them, the fixtures don’t like it at all. We found that out last year, losing a nice Delta faucet to freezing. There are the ashes to empty from the wood stove and the firebox to stock up, making sure nice dry wood is ready to kick on when we return. The old 4-wheeler must be maneuvered under the house, the back-up generator stored with fuel stabilizer, and maybe most importantly, we have to remember to pack the almighty list generated from projects that need more parts or materials needed for the next improvements. There's nothing like being your own designer, engineer, carpenter, plumber and welder, or maybe more appropriately, jack of all trades and master of none. Working at the art of living in remote Alaska and sustaining ourselves, we are all the while following in previous footsteps and learning from those currently around us.

Our house is ready to hibernate, leaving us ready to go. And finally the weather clears for a brief window before the next storm system rolls in. In to town we go, loading the plane with a lower unit from one of our outboards, an empty propane tank, and our personal gear. The wind-induced home time has slowed and centered us,  and the feeling is only amplified by the calm flight over Kodiak's fjord-like bays and snowy peaks. We don't feel rushed, just grateful for the wilderness and its attendant weather. It's all about waiting for the perfect timing.

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