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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Afognak Landscape

There were some HUGE clouds the last evening we were out there - if you look closely the white blob on the far shore is the dead whale we still thought was a boat

Here are some of my favorite landscape photos from our trip to Afognak.  The clouds on this trip were stunning.  Patrick

Nora contemplates a flat calm ocean

I could not decide which version I liked better - with or without Nora

View from the cook tent through the trees

If you look closely you can see Nora, Stuey and Zoya hanging out in the 'landscape'

Whaler at anchor on the 'bathtub' beach

Swamp and mountain view from our hike to the far end of Afognak Village

Thunderhead over Spruce Island

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finding my writing voice

MOUNTAIN VIEWS (Weekly Kodiak Daily Mirror Newspaper Column)
By Zoya Saltonstall

 "FInd your writing voice, or get your money back" the online writing class ad read. It was one year ago, and  I had been casually scanning for distance writing courses which could fit my schedule. My first thought  upon reading this sales pitch was "I didn't know I had or have a writing voice. Did I ever have one? What did it sound like? "  Perhaps I saw  glimmers of my writing voice, but it was a very shy,  voice which was more comfortable disappearing into the shadows.  

I signed up for the class. We  met  weekly on the phone, from the comforts of our own living rooms.   Our teacher took us through various 5 and 10 minute writing prompts and we had chance to read our work, and share feedback.  We wrote about our grandmothers, mothers, adolescence & childhood. We wrote about details in pictures, moments frozen in time and as our pencils moved, the memories were stirred. 

My writing shell gradually came off. There was no grading. No pass/fails. No A's or B's to worry about. Just my style of learning. By the end,  we called our group the writing sisterhood. 

The stories--they  were just waiting to be told. I was amazed at how effortlessly they came. And by the end of the class, writing seemed like a good use of time, instead of something that should be done only when the house is clean. 

                                                                          ___  ____  ____
Months had passed since the writing class and  I was curious to try writing an occasional piece in the newspaper. Having kept a family blog for 9 years, I wondered how different writing a column would be from blogging. 

 When I hit send on the final draft of my first column this spring, I thought "What in the world have I done?" My heart raced. This is good for me, I reminded myself. LIfe begins just outside my comfort zone, right?  THe newspaper arrived, my pulse raced again. Then, I slowly peeled open the paper and took a peek. There it was-my first column published.  It was exciting to see my word in print.  

Thus begins a new writing adventure.  Heres to writing with a very specific weekly deadline. This is new for me-but good. It gets my fingers flying on the keyboard and doesn't allow for writing stage fright.    Heres to my husband who graciouslessly reads over my final draft to give me his honest critique.   To the  readers who have given me kind words of support-thank you. Your encouraging words help fuel my writing time. Thank you, Kodiak. 

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

Dead Whale

We got back last night from our camping trip on Afognak - lots of stories and pictures to come.  I thought I'd start with one of the weirdest things we saw while on Afognak.  A great big dead whale that floated up on the beach across the bay from our camp.

We first saw it 2 days ago but thought the white blog was a boat and crew tending a subsistence net.  It even moved around a bit like a boat.  Then yesterday we boated over and discovered the blob was a great big dead whale.  Someone who seems to know whales tells me the small tale and side flippers indicate that it is a fin whale.  It certainly looks pretty 'fresh', and we all wondered why it died.

It will not be long before the bears find it!  When it starts to smell it ought to be a bear magnet, and there will be some great bear viewing here before too long.  Patrick

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gardening at the Baranov

Last weekend my Brownie Troop helped plant the Baranov museum garden. With the help of Pat Holmes, Deborah Carver, Sue Jeffrey and Vickie Vankek, we planted over a hundred flowers into the garden beds. 

Dig the hole, add the fertilizer, add some water, then put in the plant. By the end, the girls had the routine down to a science. Afterwards the girls enjoyed hot cocoa and cookies as they learned about the history of the Baranov Museum gardens.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Gross Anatomy

Kodiak Daily Mirror Column article-Published May 15th

Gross Anatomy: noun- the branch of anatomy that deals with the structure of organs and tissues that are visible to the naked eye.

 If there was one thing that semi-prepared me for Gross Anatomy class in college, it was growing up in a fishing family. 
Frankly, commercial fishing is "gross" in the more standard sense of the word. The strong smells of rotten herring and rotten clams in old bait containers was a regular part of the job.   Going along with the  the wrath of  Mother Nature in the form of   rough storms, ocean swells and tall  waves sure tested my staying power. 

Surviving the rigor of piles of challenging  science courses during college was a similar feat.  Just when I thought it would never end- getting pounded by my metaphoric big waves and feeling like I may not come out alive- I did. And not just alive, but more determined than ever.   
                                                                         _  _  _ 
 Rochester, NY, summer of 1996-The first task at hand in  Gross Anatomy class lab was to turn our cadavers over from their backs to their stomachs.  This was when the art of respecting the human body officially began.  We were to do everything with our cadavers in a thoughtful, caring manner. 
 "If I see anyone disrespecting these cadavers in any way, you'll be out of this physical therapy program so fast you won't even know what happened to you." Dr. Beattie politely threatened us. He was  our very attractive, typically  jovial anatomy professor who was always seen freshly showered in a set of clean blue scrubs.  His words rang strong in minds.    The jokesters of our 80 person class toned it way down for those 8 weeks. On day 1 of lab,  my classmates and I were armed with Vapo rub under our noses and the false notion that it could hold off the strong smell of formaldehyde. The formaldehyde ended up permeating our entire beings for 8 weeks. 
  In groups of 4 around our bodies with scalpels in hand, we made the  first incision  on the backs of our cadavers to peel away the skin and expose the fat. Every day was routine with the  goal of exposing  muscles, nerves, organs and arteries and see how elements of the body fit together-like a big puzzle. The work became, automatic and quite monotonous.  We guessed what kinds of lives our cadavers had-their first names and how they died. What jobs they had. Our imaginations and conversations wandered. We pondered our own mortality.  
 There were the  exams  that  lasted an eternity.  Small pins put into tiny structures throughout with questions on a sheet. "If this nerve were severed, name all the functions of the hand which would be lost." 2 minutes per station, then "Switch!". One girl fainted. The lab assistants  were Cornell University Vet students. This meant our questions about muscles or nerves were often greeted with , "In the horse, this muscle does this, and in the bird, this muscle does this…." They unintentionally left us feeling only worse about our knowledge.  

On the last day of class we had a memorial service of sorts and learned the real names, occupations, age and cause of death of our cadavers.   The names that we gave our bodies are the ones which stay with us-Pat, Rosie, Herb, Bernie…Rosie, who had suffered a stroke which explained why the muscles on one side of her body were smaller in mass than the other. Bernie, who had corn in his esophagus at time of death-he had suffered a heart attack during a meal. Herb who had black lungs from years of smoking. We learned small bits of their life stories. 

                                                                ---  ---  ----
Its been sixteen years since college, and I've been back in Kodiak living and working as a physical therapist.  Standing on the edge of the ocean cliffs in Fort Abercrombie  -I watch the rough seas on a walk after work. Being on those turbulent waves in a fishing boat and scrubbing sea lice out of metal bait containers isn't a requirement of my being now, as it was then. My father passed away in high school and I no longer am on fishing boats. But the ocean is forever a part of my soul.    

The people who entrusted their bodies with us-it was an amazing, profound  gift. Now I understand why Dr. Beattie was so strict. These were generous souls who gave their bodies to further the knowledge of science. 

The summer of Gross Anatomy was about far more than just gross anatomy. Our professors wanted us to learn the science from the cadavers, but what has really stayed with us was the art and journey of the dissection experience. 
 In this way, the lives of  our cadavers and the gift of their bodies to science will forever be  a  part of our life stories.  

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

Kate's Baby

Zoya's weekly newspaper column~ was published May May 8th, 2015

Royal Birth and Mothers Day

The past week, the world was abuzz with the birth of the newest addition to the british royal family- Princess Charlotte was  born.  In lieu of the royal baby's birth, social media was abuzz with talk of the  glam squad which helped her leave the hospital looking like she had a day at the spa. And then there is the rest of us moms who are rather in awe of the whole scene. 

 Baby George finally had a sister. My 9 year old daughter, Nora, was thrilled-a moment she has been waiting months for-she is fascinated by the royal family.  My kids and  I watched the replay of Princess Kate stepping out of the british hospital to show the world her bundle of joy.  

"Why isn't she tired? Thats kind of weird." my son Stuey remarked with furrowed  eyebrows as Kate walked out on the hospital stairs and presented her baby to the world.   It seemed very weird to me, seeing Princess Kate all dolled up so shortly after birth. But then again, Kate is a princess. And such a grand appearance with new family would be part of her role. 

 Mommy bloggers everywhere went crazy. From criticism and jealousy about Kate looking so good to compassion for Kate having to put on a "show" so quickly after giving birth. Many women spoke of how she was probably glad to have that appearance over with and retreat to the comfort of her own home and many attendants to help her. In my curiosity I informally asked local moms and they felt mainly compassion for Kate. 

When I told my husband, Patrick,  this week I was writing about Princess Kate's speedy postpartum public appearance, his reply was along the lines of, "Why does her giving birth matter? They don't  even pay taxes." With so many waiting with bated breath in Kate-mania world, for some odd reason it does matter.  At the end of the day, Kate is a woman, a mom with very real social pressures (yes, different from the rest of us, but there nonetheless). 

As women, we all face these pressures to look healed, be recovered quickly in the days, months and weeks after giving birth. Whether it be from family, social media, friends, partnersthere is pressure. And a lack of appreciation for the time and space truly needed to recover from birth. 

3 weeks after giving birth to my first child, I sensed this pressure. Day in, day out, I  was  enjoying sitting in my recliner chair, nursing my baby girl and  resting. A family member was visiting with us and she and Patrick would take daily walks together. They always asked me to go and I politely declined.  Patrick later told me that our guest mentioned she was concerned that  I'd "never lose the baby weight I had gained." That was really the farthest thing from my mind at that time. 

The reality of the hours and days after childbirth, is  women  don't have the support team like princess Kate will have when she retreats to her country cottage to heal. For the bulk of women in Western Culture, we're on our own. In general, the Western culture  doesn't value rest, and intensive community support  during those first 2 months. Those critical postpartum days are  a sacred, cherished healing time, where the mother needs to be well supported. A time for going "in". 

In many cultures around the world, there is a 30 or 40 day period where a new mom is pampered in this postpartum time-she rests, is taken care of by friends and family. Her pelvis is wrapped with a long cloth to help promote healing and reduce pain.  She is fed warm soups and foods to help her replenish her Chi or life energy after childbirth.  This helps restore stability to her pelvis, give her the rest she needs with adjusting to life with a baby, and not deplete her very limited energy reserves.  This is a sacred stage of a stage of motherhood and it is cherished, not pushed through. These acts help truly help a mom into the transition into motherhood. 

Every step of Princess Kates' journey is watched with anticipation by mainstream media.  Who attended the birth? Did she use an epidural or go natural? How long after giving birth did she go home? 

Princess Kate will literally be treated like a princess in her postpartum days, weeks and months. She has nurses, midwives, nannies, etc attending to her every need. With the new moms in the world, I wish for them to all have a dab of royal treatment from friends, family, community. They have earned it-the time after birth is one of healing, recovering, bonding and receiving. 

This Mothers Day, lets reach out with extra support to these amazing women who are in the days, weeks and months following childbirth.  Whether it be a plate of dinner, some warm soup, a note of support, cookies, a hug…every token of support will be remembered. Act by act,  this will make the postpartum time easier for moms in our  island community. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A few that got away

Nora creating beach art on a Girl Scout outing to Buskin Beach

I was looking back through our computer iphoto files and found some photos/events that never made the blog. So here they are!  Patrick

Bonnie's Visit and a hike to Near Island

Patrick's 50th birthday party back in March

Stuey and Nora in the St Mary's Spring Musical

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Playing Hookey

Yesterday morning my friend Dale emailed, and asked if I wanted to go skiing in the mountains behind Bell's Flats after he got off work at 4PM.  Initially I thought, 'I can't do that - that's when I'm supposed to be at home with the family'.  But then I thought, 'Wow, it's a beautiful day and supposed to rain for the rest of the week - maybe I should'.

The offer made me realize that I have become locked into a routine.  I go to work in the morning, then a quick ski afterwards, then home for house chores and family time.  Certainly not a bad routine - but maybe I should be mixing it up a bit more.  In the old days before family I used to go for evening skis all the time.  And what's the difference, in terms of home life, between going for a ski in the evening or off to a meeting?

And so off we went up to the snow and it was spectacular.  An hour and a half after leaving the car we were tearing off our climbing skins and getting ready to 'shred' the slopes.  It was a gorgeous evening and we did 4 runs.  The snow was perfectly corned up and the sunshine warm.  In the distance you could see the sea -  on both sides to the East and the West.  By the time we quit skiing there was a sun dog around the sun presaging incoming weather.  I was home by 9:30.  Patrick

Dale's son Perry was also up there enjoying the day on his "sno' cycle"

Sun Dogs telling us that rain is on the way

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wet Snow

Generally at this time of the year we have some of our best skiing of the season.  The snow pack is at its deepest and you can usually still ski from the road.  But not this year - this year it looks like we'll be losing our snow a month earlier than usual.  On Pyramid I usually ski through the end of June while this year it looks like I'll be lucky if I'm skiing at the end of May.

Still, there is snow on the mountain, and up high it even snowed some more on Friday.  Of course it also rained hard to the very top of the mountain on Saturday.  I'll just have to get it while it lasts.  Patrick

Spruce Cape in the Rain

Yesterday afternoon we hiked out Spruce Cape in the rain.  When we left the house it was actually pretty nice, but then a squall moved through and it started to rain.  Still no one seemed to mind, and Stuey and Nora built log forts in the trees out by the beach while I took close up photos of dandelion blossoms.  I did not realize that dandelion flowers have so many pollen stamens as well as petals.  Sheba and Tank ran back and forth and explored the beach.  We hung out in the rain for a half hour or so and I finally had to convince the kids it was time to go home.  It just goes to show that on Kodiak you can't let the weather 'rain on your parade'. Patrick

Two! Noras in one photo