Close to a Year

“Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” is an often quoted statement. In a way, I completely agree. Life has been chaotic, amazing, trying, exciting and sometimes just plain busy. It’s been almost an entire year since I’ve last written. Even just a mediocre sparse update about how I’m ‘busy’ but good overall. I think there is probably a multitude of reasons for this sabbatical. Some of which are; I got even busier with less down time during 2015.

My class homework with WildernessFusion became even more time-consuming than previous.

Shaun moving to Alaska and living together meant I was naturally busier with more outside social things and have had less drive to write.

Time sped up. My days have been constantly fuller be it work, people or just trying to catch up. Time seems to be moving quickly and often at a rate that I sometimes find hard to stay present with. Working multiple jobs often feels like this to me.

Some days there simply isn’t enough time for all the things. The phone calls that have to be made by 1pm because of the time differences, the bank/business/store errands that have to be done before they all close – but working later into the day means there is only a couple of hours to get to everywhere at the most traffic dense time of the day.

In addition to all the practical reasons, I’ve also been struggling with ‘what’ to write. Often I simply don’t want to share what’s been on my mind because it’s not always happy or nice – and/or I don’t have the energy to create an ‘adventure’ and ‘fun’ post with all the details and all the cool pictures (which takes hours to sift through, reduced the top choices to a more reasonable number that I can again try to trim so I don’t spend just 24 hours alone uploading large picture files) that while I love when I can crank one of those out for all that want to know what I’m up too – sometimes the mental energy just isn’t there (which has been a lot in the last 2 years). I often have the image that I’m pathetic and shallow if I openly discuss whatever challenges and trials are happening in my life when I also have all these amazing things going on.

Simply stating this feels a little gross, I’m sharing the stuff that I dislike about myself and are my ‘reasons’ for not writing or posting picture adventure posts. But Alas I want to work on my writing and this is one of the few avenues that I can seem to find some words in.

It’s 5:30am here and I’ve yet to sleep much. Shaun and I both have today off and there is a list of things to be done, hikes to be had, dogs to be walked and our lives to be lived. Something I actually enjoy more often than not these days.

~ J

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Back From Europe – A Quick Update

I have been stateside for a few days now – I can finally get my brain settled enough to do an update tonight! I (obviously) survived my trip to Europe with the Gardners. No fevers or muggings were had. A train or two may have been missed but not the planes! I did get patted down in the France airport (like searched – hands in uncool places) while Kathy & Dave just waltz through..I clearly looking threatening here with the freckles and pants that used to fit and now are just über baggy…

The trip was AMAZING. I am so, so beyond THANKFUL to Kathy & Dave for taking me with them and making this possible. I also very grateful to Kathy’s Sister and her Husband for allowing to stay and showing us around.

We arrived in Paris – and then on to London after a subway and then train through the Chunnel just in time for ‘Dinner’. We  had left Chicago around 8pm the day before! I fell asleep before dinner and then woke up at 1am (London time). I finally figured out that the strange bird calls I was hearing were the Jackdaws (within the Corvidae family – looks similar to a crow) and the wild Ringneck Pheasant. We stayed in England for about 8 days. During that time pubs were visited, the Stonehenge was experienced, a Castle strolled around, the Highlands explored with the help of Kathy & Dave’s Nephew and lets not forget London.. Tink’s a Disney whore – that place is intense! Pictures and details are coming…at some point in the future. Monday Morning after a rather packed weekend found the 3 of us dashing with our luggage in the London Underground on our way back to Paris. Once checked into the Hotel (not as easy when all the signs are in French) we strolled out into the French night to check out the Louvre (weird triangle building that the De Vinci Code talks about). It was pretty cool. The next morning had us up early and on the cobblestones hunting breakfast out. The entire day was spent on foot (and occasionally subway) touring about in the older part of Paris. Notre Damn was visit – well worth it I might add. Crepes consumed and plenty of coffee to fuel the weary. Before dinner, we did the Eiffel Tower during a rain/wind storm..in the dark… Was quite exciting. Dinner was wolfed down. Desert followed later at another vendor with Irish Coffees (really strong ones I might add). It was late upon return to the hotel – I was unable to fall asleep so I started the journey back to the states in traditional Joannie Miller style – totally sleep deprived. 6am came quickly (I just simply got up – was already awake) and the trials of travel started anew. Almost 12 hours of flying (I barely slept) had us in Sunny San Francisco – it was disgustingly hot. Customs and then a packed flight to Seattle – an hours worth of down time and back on the plane again finally landing in Anchorage around 10:30pm. 28 since the flight from Paris officially took off. It was a tad surreal!

The trials of travel were well worth it. I cannot say I wanted to come back…I was ready to set out backpacking and see more! I think my body was grateful to be in a less crowded place with cleaner air though…

Since being back, I’ve only begun to realized how ‘peopled out’ I am. As a fairly introverted person who really likes her quiet and ‘alone’ time – Europe is a fucking populated place! Other than some texts and as minimal phone conversations as possible – I’ve been hiding from Humanity. Dave had to go on a work trip and then Kathy left two days later – so I even have had the whole place to myself the past 2 days. I interacted with dogs and their people only!

Hopefully I will sort through all the pictures in a timely fashion (one can dream anyway) and post them with the details of the adventures!

~J

5 Years Now Without Mom

I read the ‘4 Years Gone’ write up I did a year ago basically to the day, and I am struck by how much things have changed – and how much they haven’t. I could just copy/paste most of the words again for this year. The emotions, the thoughts, the memories; very little is different in those areas, even with another year for perspective. That in itself is a little scary. Makes me want to rage at those who quote that insufferable phrase ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. Dumb fuck who wrote that was clearly in-denial or hadn’t lost very much. I rarely feel angry, except at shallow empty words thrown in my face to ‘console’ me (but only them, in reality). Then the extraordinary pissed-off redhead temper comes out in force.

As you may have guessed, I don’t feel any less grief this year then I did the last 4. I do however feel more sadness than anger (or at least I believe I do) with the world. I also find myself looking back at my experiences with people those first few years, and having much more anger now than I did then, at the level of shit I went through. All it takes is a misguided statement made by a family member or friend and I feel the slow burn of angry pain that they still don’t get it. Maybe my increased sadness is that they and most of the world never will and its unfair of me to want them to be able to grasp the faintest idea of it.

Last year I attended a Tracker class with the 3 women who many know as my ‘Element Sisters’. Though I was around people and not trying to shove everything down, I also didn’t share much – and what I did share was mostly through the girls. Tracy, Linda and Afsoon’s support that year was the beginning of me not trying to hide 24/7. This year, the Healing School I have been apart of ran the 3rd class during the corresponding weekend (the dates are set when we sign up). So not only was I in another class, but this time it was even more hands-on with the emotions of life. Instead of fading into the background and only letting people know the significance of the dates via my Sisters, this year I had to do it myself and beforehand. Instead of standing on the edge of the 130+ group of classmates – many whom I didn’t know – I was in the middle of a very close knit group of 13 that I have worked with before. Not only did I not sit in silence all day, I shared my experience with classmates and friends, many of whom are quickly becoming true family.

I keenly feel the lack of contact from most people in my life, particularly this day. Lorien, best friend, person that Facebook says I am ‘In a relationship with’ and many people do believe that (which is totally okay by us) and the first person who ever sat with me in the long silences always makes contact this day. Even if its just through text. This year I had more people than I honestly know what to do with make contact with me. Interestingly most were not actual family members – or even old friends. I also shared my experience with feeling for the first time since the first weeks of 2009. In class, while words can be important and are often used to jumpstart an event, its the feeling, the emotion that we are most concerned about. I was the ‘group project’ to experience past events – all 12 classmates and the 3 instructors at the same time. Those of you who really know me, will realize that it is close to the last thing I would ever want to do, share ‘feelings’ while actually in contact with a shit-ton of people in person! But I did. Many may think that the ‘talking’ part is hard. Its not really, I’ve had to tell that fucking story over and over again. For family, for friends, for police, for doctors, and lawyers, therapists and teachers. I’m so not in touch with my emotions when I talk about the days leading up and shortly after Mom was killed, that I learned to ‘fake’ some reaction so as to not upset family or alarm the doctors for the first few years. In the past I’ve been accused of not caring, being a cold heartless bitch and having ‘something really really wrong with me’ because I can’t talk and feel at the same time very well. Clearly the world isn’t as ‘aware’ as they think they are about things like PTSD. The worst part was never how I felt talking about it, but how the other people felt. The shock, the disbelief, the looking for the silver lining, the inability to grasp, and of course; the wondering of how I ‘didn’t know’, which eventually leads to questioning of my intelligence, the darkness I must have to attract such people. The ways in which I am broken that I could be a part of such evil – even as a bystander. My grief, anger and pain I sit with everyday. Its the rest of the world and their judgements, their dismissal and lack of awareness that is so fucking impossible to be with.

By year 2 I had stopped calling people. Asking for people to sit with me (Lorien never had to be asked, but then I moved away) or be supportive. Some friends would take it upon themselves to be around in any way they could. Something I am very grateful for and applaud for dealing with my despair. It was a strange feeling to be the one who explained to the new people in my life (Shaun, classmates, etc) what the days leading up to the 4th meant to me. It was even more surreal when even after I explained that there is only ‘dark and twisty’ on that day that I found myself accepting them in my experience of it. – I will write up another post going into more detail for those interested.

I wish there was a positive spin I could put on things from the kids and Dad. But I am not really privy to their experience with this anymore. I texted the ones who have cell phones, reaching out in between the madness of driving through snow, DC traffic and flying to Alaska. To the younger kids it is probably more of ‘another day’ in the time span of not fun days that makeup this time of year. I can’t really say how they are doing other than just getting by. I like to think I have moved from the space of surviving to living, but some days I am not as convinced. Or maybe it is more of perspective, that in my own way I do live; in the moments possible, and when not, I survive.

I do know that the various places the boys and younger kids are, Mom still smiles. I watch my brothers as they mature, and even with their anger and pain and their struggles, at their core they are amazing young men. Every single one of my 8 siblings is unique, with their own talents. I hope for each one that one day they live, fully and lovingly, their own lives.

I see my Mother in every red sunrise and sunset. I spy a cardinal on a branch and think of her. A waterfall. The Mountains. Roadtrips. All these things she loved. All these things she inspired us children to love. Thinking back to one of the many gifts she bestowed upon her loved ones, I don’t think love was the biggest one. Or even hope. But maybe was inspiration. I have countless (literally, I forget the them often) stories of the people out there who were inspired to do and be more in life from knowing Mom.

Even in death my Mother somehow inspires people to live more fully. To laugh more often. To love more fully. To nurture and care for the lost children. Below: Early 90’s in Alaska, with (I believe) a baby Jeremy. She didn’t let things like having 3 young children, 9 dogs and winter keep her tied down. She had fun anywhere she was.

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

In one breath I can go back to my last day with Mom. The brightest most beautiful light. The hope. The love. The laughter. 5 years ago in the space of a moment. And in the same space, the 5 years is also an eternity of hell. Of pain. Of a deep black hole of grief that never goes away. A breath of love and an eternity of hell in just one moment. I walk in both worlds, as they are both true. It almost feels as though it should be strange, that just a breath of love can inspire someone to live through hell for eternity. But then that is the type of love my Mother inspired. Not strange at all. Beautiful.

~ J

Shaun’s Visit to Alaska

As some of you know, I’ve a guy in Maryland – Shaun, whom I’ve been spending time with whenever I am on the East Coast. I met him during my short living stint in Princess Anne, MD in the Summer of 2013. I had major doubts that I’d see more of him when I ended up moving on from Maryland. Due to my WildernessFusion classes however, I would be on the East Coast every 3 months for the next year. Deciding to see where it might go, I made my trips a little long so I could stay in Maryland before/after class.

My September visit went well, along with December’s. I extended an invitation to Shaun to visit me in Alaska in late December after I got back from my West Coast trip over the Holidays. Flights in late winter/early spring are cheap (not many people want to see Alaska in the messy month of January…). I truly didn’t think he would take me up on it — not soon at least, more like next year or even more likely ~never. Imagine my surprise when I booked a mid January flight for him! He was able to get 10 days off work and experience Alaska in the winter – complete with the Chinook Winds that brought the temps up to a balmy 36 degrees most of the time. Shaun was a little nervous of freezing to death initially, and thought it humorous that the Eastern Seaboard was having a mini ice age while we were above freezing most of his stay.

I picked him up from the airport and promptly bombarded him with the dogs. Kathy & Dave wonderfully opened their home to him and everyone enjoyed getting to know each other. There was however an adjustment period for Shaun for the trials of living with Beagles – he missed lunch a few times due to leaving his sandwich where the four-leggeds could reach. I helped him find a decent pair of boots at REI — on sale even — the second day. I don’t think he took the damn things off the whole 10 days.

Within the first 24 hours we had a nice sunset – albeit around 4pm but still beautiful.

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

Dave took us shooting at the range in Chugiak. Shaun thoroughly enjoyed the automatics and the bird rifles where you shoot the clay targets launched into the air.

Shaun geared up for shooting

Shaun geared up for shooting

Dave is a wonderful teacher and very knowledgeable about most anything gun related (or just most anything). Both he and Shaun had a good time going over the different guns. I took photos mostly.

Shaun trying out a Revolver

Shaun trying out a revolver

I did shoot a few rounds, but the AR-15 was way too long for me and I couldn’t hold proper form with it… According to Shaun, it’s ‘fucking awesome’ that I shoot guns. Bows are more my style, but guns are good too once in a while.

Dave overseeing me using an auto-rifle

Dave overseeing me using an AR-15

Back to the automatic! Note how much better his form is than mine… Damn hard being a small person sometimes.

Shaun with the AR 15

Shaun with the AR-15

While the guys were getting the skeet-shooting thing set up, I was taking pictures (surprise ,surprise). The mountains came out for a few minutes while the sun set. Great view and a good day.

Sun on the Mountains

Sun on the Mountains

By the end we were a tad cold as it was around 20 with a wind chill. Shaun managed to actually hit the freaking clay targets. Never even shot this type of gun before, but hits the moving targets more times than not. I hit nothing…

Dave giving Shaun a rundown on the skeet shooting rife

Dave giving Shaun a rundown on the skeet shooting rife

The next few days were mostly cloudy and not particularly pretty. One afternoon Shaun and I took a few dogs to Powerline Trail which is at the base of Flattop. The setting sun lit up our grey snowy world for a few glorious minutes.

Sunset view from Flattop Base

Sunset view from Flattop Base

With the Sun below the mountain peaks the world became every shade of grey with black and white as the ‘colors’.

Back & White peaks

Black & White peaks

With the warmer temps from the Chinook Winds, the snow was slushy and one would sink beyond the knee if one stepped off the packed trail. It was a good workout, made pretty by the Moon showing her light now and then.

Moon over Powerline Rd trail

Moon over Powerline Rd trail

Even more crappy weather a few days later meant very little hiking was had. The warmer winds melted all the snow and it turned everything into a slick, ice-coated mess. Even going into town was more than we wanted to deal with some days. Dave’s company had some Aces Hockey tickets that weren’t claimed. Shaun and I experienced our first Hockey game – with Alaskan Amber Beer. It was more fun than I thought I’d have, they really do slam each other against the walls and get into fistfights!

I introduced Shaun to Anchorage Sushi – lets just say we ate a lot, A LOT —  along with some of the bars in downtown. Bars in Anchorage are a tad different from what they are in Maryland, particularly the run-of-the-mill tourist ones. Shaun had a great time and I enjoyed getting back to some of my old haunts. Sadly, the scene in Anchorage for dancing has greatly deteriorated and not much was found.

The wildlife was showing up in style for Shaun’s visit. Moose, Eagles, Owls hooting and of course the Lynx. We saw 4(!!!) crossing the road — Kathy was green with envy. Before everything turned completely slushy, Shaun and I took a couple of dogs to the Conner’s Bog dog park. Shaun was pretty close to decent sized moose. River collected snowballs in her fur – poor thing could barely walk by the end.

The weather often concealed the views, but beautiful Sunsets were still happening.

Breath taking Sunset from the driveway!

Breathtaking Sunset from the driveway!

We made big plans to go to Fairbanks – and more importantly the Chena Hot springs outside of Fairbanks. Originally, Kathy & Dave were coming along with all the dogs. I’m not sure who was more horrified by the prospect of 4 adults and 4 dogs in the same 4-Runner for 800 miles of driving – Dave or Shaun. The weather turned nasty and plans had to be cancelled, much to their dismay. Later in the week, Shaun and I decided to drive up without the dogs for two nights. River was not pleased…

Headed to Fairbanks!

Headed to Fairbanks!

We started out in rain that lasted up until the Valley. Then the skies cleared in places and sunlight was had!

Sunlight on Snowy peaks

Sunlight on Snowy peaks

The road to Fairbanks is a pretty quiet place, only a few stops along the way to gas up or get snacks. In the winter, the number of people out gets close to zero for most of the drive. Sadly I had forgotten the cable to plug in a phone for music… no CDs this day and age in the 4-Runner, and you lose the radio stations (the ones worth listening to anyway) pretty quick. It was a rather quiet drive. Probably a testament to our early-stage relationship that after 800 miles (round trip) in silence or conversation, we weren’t sick of each other!

Pines in the snow

Pines in the snow

The clouds came back, creating a black and white view of the landscape.

Right outside of Cantwell, we spotted a small group of Caribou! I was driving, leaving Shaun to scramble for the camera or phone or whatever might capture the Caribou as they trotted away.

Caribou!

Caribou!

One young buck got separated from the group and went back the way he came, snorting and tail up in the air.

Caribou Tail

Caribou Tail

Shaun had a great time snapping photos, including candid shots of me driving…

Me driving

Me driving

Winding through the snowy hills.

Winding through Hills

Winding through Hills

We stopped at a few lookout areas to get photos and stretch our legs. Shaun’s plaid shirt camos him right in with the hills.

Shaun blending in

Shaun blending in

It was still Chinook weather, a balmy 30 degrees with a breeze.

Joannie looking out

Joannie looking out

King of the selfies took this ‘acceptable’ shot of us – as I think of it!

Together on the AK Hwy

Together on the AK Hwy

Being a solar energy type of guy, Shaun really enjoyed seeing the various Wind Turbines and other green energy that Alaska has and continues to grow.

Wind Mills

Wind Mills

About an hour from Fairbanks, the sun was officially setting, lighting up our otherwise grey world with bright colors.

Sunset outside of Fairbanks

Sunset outside of Fairbanks

Every few minutes the detail of the colors changed — Nature’s slide show.

Pink Clouds

Pink Clouds

Another random photo of me – the setting sunlight giving my rather pasty face color!

Candid Driver

Candid Driver

Sunset selfie on a smartphone.

Sunset Selfie!

Sunset Selfie!

After getting a quick dinner in Fairbanks, we made it to Chena that evening, more than ready for a hot soak. I cannot describe the feeling of being in a large outdoor hot-spring pool in Alaska during winter, other than ‘blissful’. We soaked for a good hour or so before stumbling out in a daze of overheated goodness. The hot springs tend to really take it out of you. Sadly there was too much low cloud cover to see the Northern Lights in the valley where the Chena resort is, but our time spent wasn’t hindered in the least. We had gingerale and hard cider to kick back with while watching Game of Thrones.  The next day – after sleeping in, another long soak!

Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs

Even with the low clouds it is a beautiful way to soak the aches out.

Shaun disappearing into the Steam

Shaun disappearing into the steam

The large outdoor pool is more like a large pond. When the steam blows over it, you cannot see the rock walls or even the buildings sometimes; it leaves one feeling like they are in another world.

Soaking

Soaking

Shaun had never been in such a place and was pretty enchanted with it.

Happy Smile

Happy Smile

He had a pretty hard time not smiling the entire soak.

Selfie attempt 1

Selfie Attempt 1

We had my Olympus Tough Camera — which is apparently hot-spring proof and not just water-proof!

Selfie attempt 2

Selfie Attempt 2

A better self shot picture! Having the whole place to ourselves most of the time was awesome, but also meant that any couple shots were left up to us to take…

Contrast Shot

Contrast Shot

The camera has a few different settings, including a high contrast one. I gave Shaun the camera, and like most boys with a new toy – he got a little carried away…

Underwater Selfie

Underwater Selfie

Of course when you give your guy the camera – the random shots of you happen…

Underwater shot of me..

Underwater shot of me..

My response of course was this.

Classic Joannie

Classic Joannie

Shaun had a LOT of fun with the whole underwater photographing thing.

Getting Hot

Getting Hot

He got this rather interesting one of me out of the water but as seen from underwater.

J on the rocks

J on the rocks

Towards the end, we were pinking up quite well. Not wanting to be too hot spring-drunk (its a thing, trust me) for the drive back, we decided to do the geothermal tour before driving. Chena Hot Springs is run only on their geothermal and generator energy. No power lines or anything of the sort go out to the Chena Valley. All the food has to be trucked in unless they can grow it. The history of the place is pretty interesting – having had many types of owners and managers – including the State at one point. The owners hope to one day run the resort completely on green energy and be able to supply most of the food they serve themselves. For now, it is a smaller supplemental project with promise.

Being the only two people on the current tour of the geothermal energy, Shaun got to ask many detailed questions of the operations and how the various steps worked. He got a few photos with his phone, like the one below. It was very interesting to me, but sadly I understood very little of the way the various machines worked. I also enjoyed seeing Shaun light up at the different types of green energy and how it works.

Greenhouse at Chena

Greenhouse at Chena

After the tour, we meandered around the resort, checking out the various tourist attractions – which include an ice museum, sled dog kennels, a small Reindeer herd and cross-country ski trails!

Then it was back on the road, bad weather was supposed to move in that night. Shaun helped drive the first leg as the roads were still in good condition. Around the halfway point the clouds had caught up and were dumping snow/sleet. When the 4-Runner hit ice and slid all the way across the highway it became my turn to drive. Shaun handled the ice impressively and we escaped without damaging the Gardners’ car! The rest of the drive was slow, very slow going. What radio we did have in places reported the highway being shut down behind us and ordered all none-essential personnel to get off the road.

Made it back in the wee hours of the morning — in one piece but strung out. Most of the snow was gone in Anchorage, but ice was coating the roads and driveways. The rain/sleet washed all the gravel and sand from the driveway and I had a heck of time getting all the way to the house. Shaun enjoys telling this story – I seem to have made an impression on him while handling the 4-Runner sliding backwards down the steep driveway and road, once resulting in doing a 180 spin – controlled I might add. Two bags of sand and 4 attempts had us parked in the driveway. We basically slept the next day away and only went out to get this photo during a small cloud break.

Sunset Rainbow

Sunset Rainbow

A day or two to recover and to let the roads clear; I took Shaun, Pete & River out to Portage Glacier with stops along the beautiful Seward Highway. It was very windy along the Turnagain Arm, but sunny in spots. The Sun was beyond bright and beams of light danced on the choppy water.Sun on the Water

Sun on the Water

The Seward highway is a beautiful drive – summer or winter. Mountains, water, jagged rock face, big sky feel that makes any sort of sun/moon activity even more enhanced. The wind often whips through, funneled by the mountains on both sites. This particular day it was blowing at around 50mph and brought the temps to about zero in windchill terms.

Sun-kissed landscape

Sun-kissed landscape

Beluga Point is one of my favorite spots.

Shaun on Beluga Point

Shaun on Beluga Point

At Beluga point we climbed about on the rocks, almost got blown off a few times during the process but the view was well worth it! It was a interesting challenge to keep the camera steady enough while maintaining my balance to get a nice shot.

Braced and taking shots

Braced on Beluga Point

Within the valley where Portage Glacier is, the air was calm. We were the only people around which meant Pete & River got to run free. The Glacier is receding and not terribly impressive – but still a gorgeous area.

Portage Glacier

Portage Glacier Entry

Portage Glacier has been receding for the last 20+ years, you can barely make it out in between the mountains, and chunks of it float out into the water. It is still a pretty stop along Seward.

Mossy Carpet

Mossy Carpet

After Pete almost fell in the water, we went for a short walk around the park. Mossy carpets and trees were everywhere – only visible in January since all the snow had melted. The dogs had a great time romping about and the silence of the park was wonderful.

River on the trail

River on the trail

Shaun had a great time seeing what Alaska looks like without snow.

Shaun looking more like a woodsman

Shaun looking more like a woodsman

Green gems hidden in the woods.

Moss Evergreen

Moss Evergreen

We walked to the Freestone ponds, which are gravel pits that Girdwood uses. The icy blue water turns ordinary gravel pits into blue enchanted ponds…

Freestone Ponds

Freestone Ponds

I looked for pretty rocks (something I am sorta known for) and snapped pictures. Shaun was a good sport and posed for me.

Shaun by the Pond

Shaun by the Pond

Pete quickly had Shaun throwing a stick for him, even though we tried to keep him out of the frigid water, Pete insisted on swimming for his stick. I love this shot of the them – a man and his 4-legged friend.

Pete retrieving

Pete retrieving

River was not to be left behind, and splashed through many of the shallows.

River exploring

River exploring

I love the blues and teals of the water here. I could stare at it – possibly forever.

Glacier Blue Water

Glacier Blue Water

I looked over at one point and saw Pete as he appeared to be standing on the water – he was perched on a rock just under the surface.

Pete walking on water

Pete walking on water

Closeup of Shaun.

Portrait

Portrait

The Sunset on our way back was absolutely breathtaking! The high peaks are volcanoes that aren’t always visible from the Turnagain Arm.

Mountains & Volcanoes in fading light

Mountains & Volcanoes in fading light

I drove up along Potter Marsh Rd so as to get the best view. As the Sun sunk lower, we had a few minutes of intense orange and yellow light, looking like a streak of fire.

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky

Overall, the trip was fantastic. I never did get tired of having Shaun stay – something I tend to have a problem with in terms of people in my personal space. I wish the weather had been a little less messy – more clear skies and Northern Lights – but I figure if Shaun can have an awesome time during terrible Chinook Winds weather, he’ll love it if he comes in the Summer! Hopefully he will experience the Midnight Sun soon.

Smiles

Smiles

Having a long distance relationship that spans 4 times zones isn’t easy, but while its working – we have fun. Strangely enough, Shaun is only the second person who has come out to see me in Alaska – even though I offer it to many people. His willingness to just ‘do it’ was a pretty big turning point in how I viewed our relationship (fun when I am in town – to ‘real’). I don’t get to have very many people who like me grumpy first thing in the morning – let lone find it endearing while giving me coffee.

It’s all about the People you meet along the Journey, and if you never go, you’ll never meet them ~ J

Fall Travels & Update

Well, looks like time is moving faster yet again. I’m basically fully recovered from my surgery and doing well. Only time will tell (I’m told to expect about 6 months before I can know for sure) if the procedure helped significantly. But either way I am glad to have it behind me!
River is also fully recovered from her digestion/liver issues that she experienced while I was laid up.

My last week and a half in Alaska was busy and good. There were many Moose to be seen, great sunsets and strange weather. Usually by Halloween there is plenty of snow on the ground and at the very least its cold. This year it was a balmy 40 degrees and lots of rain/wind. The prolonged Autumn weather meant I caught the tail end of the Fall color! I snapped the picture below with my iPhone before the wind storm blew all the leaves away.

Last of the Autumn Colors

Last of the Autumn Colors

River originally was going to stay in Alaska with the Gardners so I didn’t further stress her system out, but she was doing so well and made herself quite clear that she wanted to go with me on my visit to the East Coast for a few weeks. She has been bouncing around and is her usual overly social self. I arrived in D.C Friday evening (1st) – and have been staying at my family’s rental that is empty at the moment in Ocean City – River and I are enjoying the space and quiet for the time being. We visit family and friends in the area, walk to beach and sometimes the boardwalk. The first couple of days in Maryland were a little warm for the both of us with the warm front that had come in…But the windy, rainy and damp days are back so there is less panting on the beach now.

Below: More photos from my iPhone of the world’s cutest Dachshund. She really attracts all kinds of people to pet her wherever we go…

River on the Beach - Ocean City, MD

River on the Beach – Ocean City, MD

Another day on the beach – River enjoys romping across the sand like a rocket weasel shot out of a cannon. She also finds stinky fish to roll in… Which I do not enjoy.

The Sand Rat

The Sand Rat in Flight

My time in Maryland may not makes sense to a lot of people, but having the space to process some things from the last few weeks is quite valuable to me. As is spending time with my Cousin Lucy in the snippets of time we get and friend Shaun. I also have a lot of ‘homework’ to do for my healing class and some other group activities that I need to focus on now that my head is clear (or as clear as it is going to get) from the medications.

My Travel plans have changed around quite a bit since I last wrote things up. Pretty much what happens when I try to plan things more than 1-2 months in advanced… Sadly I will not be going to New Zealand over the Christmas Holidays with Carleigh as planned – she needed to cancel. As expected I’m more than a little bummed but I still plan to go, just closer to the off-season so that the tickets are cheaper! I am putting money & supplies aside just for this trip. If there is anyone who interested in meeting up/tagging along for something like this write to me. I have committed to my good Friend Linda to cheer her up during the Holiday season – since NZ was just too expensive for 10 days in Dec, we are going to adventure around on the West Coast, maybe catch a Show in Vancouver or something equally awesome.

My Fall dates are as follows:

Oct 8th – 31st  ~ Alaska for work & Surgery.

Nov 1st – 20th ~ Ocean City, MD for fun/alone time.

Nov 20th – Dec 5th ~ Alaska for work.

Dec 5th ~ fly back to East Coast to prepare for class.

Dec 7th – 9th ~ NY for Healing 1 class.

Dec 10th – unknown ~ East Coast for a week or two before joining a friend for some West Coast Adventures.

Jan 1st – 15th ~ Alaska for work.

Be well ~ Joannie & River.

Sleepless Thoughts

Now that I am basically recovered (not quite dancing, but soon) I am back to my routine long nights. Its late. I cannot sleep as usual. I never sleep normally. I lay awake, summer and winter. Hot and cold. Hungry from not eating all day or too full from a heavy dinner. Sometimes completely alone – not even my dog is with me at points in my travels. Other times next to someone I love, I can hear their breathing, I am comforted that I am not physically alone, yet feel guilty that my dreams will likely wake them up. No matter the day or who is with me, I lay quietly, wishing for sleep. Alone in my head, my thoughts often silent, but sometimes whirling.

Some nights I am nothing but apathetic. Others I am filled with emotions that have no name. Often I have no words to share and no tears appear. I simply sit in the dark. Burdened with the knowledge that this is how my brain deals with the reality that is and still functions. Grateful that I still know my name.

Most often I am in silence. At times there is music or crickets and the sounds of the woods. Other times the deafening sounds of the city at night.

I think about Mom.

I think about the past.

I think about the future.

I think about the present.

I think about my family.

I think about some of the worst things that could happen to a person, that have happened to me.

I think about some of the most unlikely and amazing things in life, that have happened to me.

And I think about nothing at all.

I don’t like to complain. I hate the resigned tone of my friends and loved ones when they ask how I am and the answer is usually the same if I choose to give it, ‘tired’. I take the crestfallen look of my people who hold hope for me straight to my heart. I feel like a broken record, ‘can’t sleep, tired’, ‘nightmares’, ‘still can’t sleep, tired’. I’m pathetically predictable like that.

Some people are proud of me, that even broken I am still me. They see that while I do fail, I am as honest as I can be. That even though I am intense, I’m compassionate.  Others are horrified and sad, always worried that I won’t cope because I am broken and therefore no longer me. That I am lost, even though its through wandering that I have found my soul’s home. That I am unforgiving and selfish, even though my hardest lesson is that I have to take care of myself and not everyone else.

I watch the sunrise. I listen to the world wake up. Another day is here, another night has passed. Maybe now I’ll sleep. Either way I’m still here. Surviving. Loving. Living the only way I know how.

Don’t take your sleep for granted ~ J

End of Summer Plans

August is here. AUGUST. I was off adventuring again and the world sped up! I’m still in Alaska (till next week), wrapping up my dog training/sitting work along with the other odd jobs I do. This trip has been pretty exciting so far, Salmon fishing, Moose encounters and Seals (I think Seals are so cool). Stories and pictures to come eventually.

About the Summer plans, I have most of the ‘big’ dates ironed out, there is a few small things still up in the air so a few dates may need to be updated. Due to me having classes on the East Coast where River cannot join in, and not having an ideal place for River to stay while I am partaking, I’ve decided (along with Kathy G.) that the best place for her will be in Alaska with the Gardners and their pack while I am at the classes.

August

8th Arrive back in D.C. Drive my tired ass to the Phillips Farm in Princess Anne, Maryland.

15th (roughly) Run down to TN for a few days to put some stuff into Storage and work with some dogs, then Back to MD.

28th – Sept 5th Possible short trip to AK.

September

5th – Back in MD (if I was in AK).

7th – 9th Class in NY.

22nd – Oct 1st Tracker Class in NJ.

October

6th (ish) – Fly back to AK to get my RIVER! – Not sure if this will be a short trip yet or a work trip (3+weeks).

15th (roughly) – River & I back in MD.

Like I said, some things still have to be ironed out, but that should give everyone an idea for the next 3 months. Work wise I have random jobs lined up all over the place on the East Coast and will probably have another AK gig before the year is out.

I still plan to winter in Maryland when not traveling.

~ J