From Poo Poo Point to the Palouse

 

Opa's 91st birthday. From left: Opa, Oma, Veeka, Susan and me.

Opa’s 91st birthday. From left: Opa, Oma, Veeka, Susan and me.

Lately I’ve been realizing I must update my social media accounts, which all have pictures of me in some cool Alaska locale. However, I am Down Here but I’m inbetween jobs, so it’s hard to categorize what I am right now. I’d like to stay in academia but I may have to go back into “the industry,” as they call it. Yes, I’m working on several unfinished projects but in terms of living as a freelance writer, been there, done that. It does not pay the bills. So I’m blogging part time for getreligion.org and I hope to return to teaching. I am not wild at the prospect of being an adjunct, as there are already lots of them around here and it’s not the happiest existence. There were great professorial spots elsewhere in the country but I chose not to apply, as I so wanted to move closer to home. And so we are here.

Atop Poo Poo Point. Notice the gorgeous view to the west of us.

Atop Poo Poo Point. Notice the gorgeous view to the west of us.

And so I’ve been networking with some old friends and new contacts. Was on the University of Washington campus speaking at a journalism day for high school students when I walked into the offices of the Mass Comm dept. I saw this on the door of the department chair.
SAFE ZONE – This is a safe place to talk about lesbian, bisexual, queer, intersex or transgender issues. Disrespectful or prejudicial language or actions will be addressed.
Seriously, folks, what are the chances that the ultra-lefty UW campus is a hive of anti-gay sentiment? I could see this on the door of a counseling office or psych department, even. But journalism? Why not something about this being a safe place for all opinions, as journalism is a place for truth seekers? This department chair had made up his mind as to which issue was uppermost for him.

The WSU campus and Miss Veeka.

The WSU campus and Miss Veeka on a fall day.

Two weekends ago, I attended a conference of local college professors (the Pacific Northwest Association of Journalism Educators) meeting in Pullman. Now Pullman is in the far southeastern corner of the state. Veeka and I drove east four hours to have dinner with a friend in Spokane, then south for another 90 minutes to Pullman, a small town that houses Washington State University. I’d never been to WSU and it was a nice campus albeit in an isolated spot. One of the broadcast journalism profs was from New York and she was wryly commenting on how there is so little to do there. No kidding. I got to the journalism buildings, wander about campus, then quickly dash east a few miles to Moscow, to see the University of Idaho. All this was in the “palouse,” a huge area of rolling hills and farmland over lava from ancient volcanoes. Eastern Washington is so unique because of the sand dune nature of its farmland. Most breadbasket regions are flat, but not here. On our way back, we stopped by Palouse Falls, a waterfall in the middle of nowhere that appears in the basalt canyons that bisect this territory. There is such a beauty to this region that

Veeka in the foreground; the Palouse Falls in the background and lots of rolling hills all around.

Veeka in the foreground; the Palouse Falls in the background and lots of rolling hills all around.

you don’t see in places like Kansas where there’s no topography to speak of. Tons of winter wheat grows here along with vines, which was the reason we stopped at several wineries on our way to Walla Walla, to spend our last night in the region with a friend. It’s not the Napa Valley, but the state has some 700 wineries, so it’s getting there. A lot of them were getting started when my family moved out west in the 1970s and some of them have lovely show rooms. We discovered one winery in Benton City that produces not only Gewurztraminer, my favorite kind of wine, but also ice wine, an unusual drink where you let the grapes sit on the vines well into winter and where the weather must be 17ºF or lower three nights in a row before you harvest frozen grapes in the middle of the night. I am not making this up. The Canadians produce this stuff, but I was glad to find a winery nearby that does so as well. They were nice enough to open an hour earlier for me on Columbus Day as I was trying to get home and didn’t want to hang around until their official opening time of noon. Later that day, we were in Ellensburg, where we dropped by the home of my niece and Veeka’s cousin Carley and her cutie pie daughter Brynley.

Brynley and Veeka

Brynley and Veeka

Brynley is talking now, so the two girls played together.
Compare all this with Fairbanks, which had its second snowiest September in history this year. They closed school in Fairbanks because of it (which is very unusual). Note the link says schools are never closed in the Denali borough, home to the just-renamed mountain. Usually it’s in the 40s during September – as it was last year when we were there. Looks like all that snow that went to Boston in 2014-2015 may end up back in Alaska this winter although friends of mine up there say the September snow quickly melted. On several levels, it seems like the timing was right for us to be in Fairbanks last year. My mom’s health is better than it was a year ago but my father is far more fragile. He just turned 91, so Veeka, my sister-in-law Susan and I were there to help celebrate.
Veeka/Ollie and I miss Alaska more than we thought we would. When I left New Mexico 20 years ago this fall, I had bonded in a similar way with that wonderful state and I returned there for many years. Alaska changed me more than I thought it would. I am still writing about it; just re-did an academic article on Alaska’s newspaper barons that I hope to

During one of our walks along Lake Sammamish.

During one of our Sunday walks along Lake Sammamish.

publish in an academic journal although the first editor I sent it to ripped me to shreds for not having a literature review! (For those of you not familiar with academic papers, it’s an overview of the scholarly materials the writer will use for his/her paper). I reminded him that other journalism history papers at the recent journalism profs convention I attended in California didn’t have lit reviews either. Anyway, it’s not just the landscapes but the people in Alaska who are such a mixture of darkness and light. It’s a state where domestic abuse is sky-high and sexual abuse of children is six times the national rate, especially in the villages where there’s no police and nowhere to go for help. But it’s also a state where if your car breaks down, there’s a ton of people who will stop to help because they know that getting stuck outdoors is a matter of life and death. I can see why the reality shows can’t stop filming there. Anyway, the disconnect I feel being in the Seattle area is balanced with the fact that we got to explore a wonderful place for a year. A week ago, there was a meeting of UAF alums in downtown Seattle that I got to attend. Ollie, who is newly afraid of heights, didn’t like being on the 34th floor in the offices of the law firm that hosted us but eventually she was entranced by sunset over Puget Sound. The news at this gathering is that budget cuts are continuing at UAF, so it’s not the happiest of places at present.

Carley presenting Veeka with her new bike.

Carley presenting Veeka with her new surprise bike.

On Oct. 16, Veeka turned 10 ½ years old, which pleased her to no end. We celebrated by going to a park on Lake Sammamish and buying her a small desk lamp at a crafts sale. Being that it’s officially fall, we’ve gone on some hikes. One was called Poo Poo Point (no joke) aka the Chirico Trail and it’s a steep climb up Tiger Mountain to a spot where the hang gliders jump off the mountain. Once we finally got there at about 3:30 pm, we saw two of them take a run and glide off the mountain. The views were lovely. But it nearly killed us to get up there. It’s been a really nice fall here so I’ve been trying to get out.
And then a few days ago, I got a call from my sister-in-law Susan who had been trying to find a used bike for Veeka. She works at a nail salon, where one of her customers said she’d order a NEW bike for my daughter. And so last Sunday, with an unsuspecting little girl talking with Susan and Lindsay (together with Brynley and Wyatt, age 1), Carley snuck up to the back door wheeling this 24-inch aquamarine bike. Ollie was stunned at this huge gift. Now she doesn’t want to go a day without riding her new bike. Of course she has to get her homework done first…

From left: Brynley, Carley, Susan, Wyatt, Lindsay and Veeka.

From left: Brynley, Carley, Susan, Wyatt, Lindsay and Veeka.

Family, Teaching at UAF, Travels, VeekaPermalink

3 Responses to From Poo Poo Point to the Palouse

  1. John Morgan says:

    I admit, I thought Poo Poo Point was something you made up. It does look beautiful, though. Tell Veeka Happy 10-1/2 for me. About that safe zone sign on the door of the department chair – I’m wondering if something happened that caused them to put that up. I love all these pictures.

  2. Tim Gibson says:

    Finally getting caught up with your travels. Somehow my email must have been dropped from your blog. Just the other day I began to realize that I have not seen or read any blog from you in several months so found your site again. Glad to see you and Veeka are still living the adventurous Life .

  3. I’ve been to Fairbanks 3 times and agree with your assessment. Alaska is a stunning and beautiful place that will kill you if you’re not paying attention.