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Friday, May 30, 2014


Horsemanship (noun); The art or practice of riding on horseback. 

The lesson began with a seemingly simple instruction of walking Smokey up and down the arena-from one end to the other with him listening to my stops and starts. WIth the long purple lead rope in hand, i gave a little tug, clucked with my tongue against my cheek and started walking forward-hesistantly. He wasn't budging. My sweet Smokey wasn't buyin' it. I turn towards Smokey, perplexed.  Becka, my teacher, reminded me how Smokey can tell who is in charge. "You can't turn your whole body to him. That shows weakness.  You need to stand up taller and walk forward more confidently for him to take you seriously." What? Isn't he supposed to take all humans seriously no matter what?  

"In charge," I think. "In Charge. In charge of a thousand pound horse." My posture straightens and I stride off ahead like I have an important meeting to go to.  With nose slightly up charging ahead, its a very "non-Zoya" way of walking.  Smokey takes me seriously and he follows alongside. 

I'm a body language junkie, so this is right up my alley.  I love analyzing handshakes, eye contact, personal space, arm position in humans. As a PT, I work with lots of new people and am into reading into what their body language is telling me what they want/need from me. So bringing it to back to horses- yes, the trotting, posting is exciting, too but I never imagined I'd be so fascinated with learning how to read Smokey and how well Smokey can read my intentions. This is the part of taking lessons which I didn't expect to enjoy.  

When I told my sister Ella I was taking lessons, she had a slightly feigned, yet curious excitement. This happens on occasion, where i"m super excited about something and shes not. I think at times we expect each other to be excited, because we are twins after all!  

A few minutes after I told her about the lessons, she texted back and replied, "Oh I just got really excited for you about your lessons. I was thinking about you doing jumps in your fun horseback boots and gear." I chuckled to myself because jumps were seriously the farthest thing from my mind and I wasn't intending to buy an ounce of extra gear. But I liked her little spark of enthusiasm for my lessons. In lieu of jumps, trotting, cantering being the "exciting" part of lessons, I'm plesantly surprised by how fun it is to build a connection with Smokey. 

Yesterday was my second horseback lesson-since childhood, that is. I don't remember a whole lot from my childhood lessons aside from spending the bulk of the time grooming the horse. And never being good enough to jump. Funny how those moments stay strong in ones mind.  

As I squeezed my calfs against Smokey's  barrel of a chest, Becka encouraged me to "bring my energy forward, as if I'm going to take off running" to help bring Smokey to a trot. I squeeze more, and more. Slight weight shift forward, 'shoulders back' becka guides and then I finally feel Smokey respond. It takes the right cues all together-in unison.  Smokey starts to pick up his pace and a second later he is trotting.  The trot is effortless and coordinated and feels beautiful. 


Monday, May 26, 2014

Buckin' the Salmon at Crab Fest

Here on a glorious Memorial Day Weekend, Kodiak kids spent time on bucking' salmon, bucking' bulls and other seriously fun, inflatable  times. 

Alas-for the first Crab Fest in god knows how long, there weren't carnival rides. The community first got wind of this news sometime last fall and we were all in shock wondering how it would affect attendance and the energy at our annual Crab Festival. As crab fest got underway, we didn't hear the shrill screams from the assortment of upside down/inside out mechanical rides and I wondered how Crab Fest would weather this loss. 

A "Tons of Fun" group in Anchorage saved the day with bringing over lots of blow up fun of all varieties. They truly saved the day in Kodiak. The bucking' bronco ride was a favorite of mine to watch; as Stuey mounted and attempted to do rodeo moves as he has seen-he didn't last long. Nora's approach involved holding on for dear life…hugging the bronco to death. It worked-as she stayed on the bronco for a wicked long time. I appreciated her tenacity. 

Kids of all ages were jumping, bucking', sliding, climbing away this weekend and the weather was a balmy 65+ degrees which really helped matters. I tried to picture the weekend with 40 mph winds and rain, and had a hard time imagining it being as much fun. If that had been the case, I would've titled this post "Slip Slidin' Away…".

Stuey vs. the salmon!

My little Russian Babushkas' (even though Babushka means grandmother in Russian! That can't be right…I always thought Babushkas meant kids. Thanks to the Baranof Museum for this fun booth at crab fest!)

Cowboy future?! Yikes!;)

Nora CLINGS onto the bull!
The kid "monster" truck rides. So fun for them! I see four wheeling in Stuey's future.  He was a natural. 


Last ski of the season?

Looking back up at the North Bowl and the Hot, Hot sun

Today I went for what may well be my last ski of the season.  There is still plenty of snow - the run in the North Bowl is still 1000 feet vertical.  And ironically the skiing right now is still better than it was all winter until March when we finally got some snow.  But the sun is hot and melting the snow fast and I am off on another archaeological survey.  And when I get back we are all off to Afognak Island for a family vacation.  So by the time I get another chance to ski the snow might be all gone in the North Bowl.  If so, this will be the first time 1996 that I did not go skiing on Pyramid in June.  Still I'm thinking I'm not going to let that happen!  So expect at least one more ski out of me.  Patrick

Top of the run into the North Bowl today looking down into the Green, Green world down below

Some Pictures From the Sturgeon River

Grass lands along the upper portion of the river

Matt, Paul and I had a spectacular trip and the Sturgeon River has some of Kodiak's prettiest country.  Here are some photo from the trip.  Patrick

Dawn after a hard frost - we had some frost every night of the trip

Alder and willow along the river and if you look closely you can Karluk Head in the far distance

Lower river scenic - spectacular weather for the trip with only one very brief sprinkle

We did all of our cooking on the woodstove (the stove is unusually hot in this picture) 

The water level was VERY low and we had to drag the boats a lot

Floating the canyon on the lower part of the river - I had to walked the bluff tops looking for old housepits

Matt and an awesomely big and pretty Willow Tree

Sunday, May 25, 2014


For months Stuey has been saying, "I'm hungry!".  All the time. This led to moments of mild annoyance from Patrick and I, as it seemed we couldn't get enough food in him.  Just as we are cleaning up, or eating ourselves he says he is hungry once again.  He has recently learned to say, "Can I have an appetizer"  which he has found gets more sympathetic, productive results from me.

A few weeks ago Nora asked if I would measure her growth on the wall in the closet where we track her growth, even though we just measured them 2 months ago.

Somewhat reluctantly, I measured them, re-measured Nora and Stuey  and was so flabbergasted. Since March they had both grown considerably-over an inch. I was humbled. Here they've been sprouting up right before my very eyes but I didn't know. Stuey's growth spurt seemed to coincide with a period where he was particularly challenging...and in retrospect I wonder if he was tired and could almost feel this growth. Friends the past month have been commenting on how much the kids have grown and now I know why!

The other night I did a book shelf clear out where I cleared out big chunks of picture books to make way for chapter books.A big basket of unread picture books sits ready for the thrift store.Titles such as "Are you my Mother" and the Berenstain Bear books which I've loved since childhood stay. And they will probably always stay. At least for a long while.   Nora was in agreement.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Back from the Sturgeon River

Yesterday I got back from an archaeological survey of the Sturgeon River and Lagoon.  Because the river does not flow out of a lake we dropped our rafts and gear at the headwaters of the river and then landed on the Karluk River and hiked 11 miles overland to our gear.  And so began our float trip.

Matt VD and Paul C accompanied me on the survey.  Paul guides in the area and knows it really well while Matt is helping with a land management plan for the area and needs to know where the archaeological sites are located and their current condition so that they can be better protected.

Since there is not a lake at the head of the river I did not expect to find many prehistoric sites.  But we did!  And unlike the bigger systems with lakes, most of the sites we found upriver dated to about 1000 years ago.  Even at the lagoon we found very few late prehistoric site (250 to 700 years old).  It looks like the Sturgeon River and Lagoon was a hot spot 1000 years ago.

REALLY low water levels in the river meant had to do a lot of dragging to get to the lagoon.  But I'll leave that part of the story to another blog post.  Patrick

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunny Days at Home

Saturday was a spectacular day.  Practically no wind and it got up to 77 degrees which broke the old record by almost 10 degrees.  I wouldn't be surprised if we broke the record high for the month of May.   It was a good day to hang out in the neighborhood.  Every photo in this blogpost was taken within 100 yards of the house.  Even the last one of Stuey in the kayak was taken directly in front of the house.

Stuey and Nora set up a lemonade stand in the yard and for a while there it was like a lawn party.  Neighbors dropped by for cookies and lemonade and stayed to talk. I made some chocolate chip cookies, which usually help sales significantly!

N and S with our friend Heather. 

Pouring the lemonade....

Meanwhile, two doors down from us we had a rare experience of seeing  a Raven who is from an Anchorage Bird rescue center. The Raven's handler was staying just two doors down from us-they were in town to do a presentation at the wildlife refuge.   The Raven is 10 years old and had an injured wing when she was just a few months old.
Mill Bay Beach...Patrick loading up Nora. Stuey stood on the cliff and took lots of pictures!

Then, it was his turn in the boat! :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

These are better (not glory) days

For the last couple of days I've been pondering whether or not I was disappointed not to make it back to my 30th high school reunion.  Would it have been worth the long trip to see people I once knew very well but had not seen in 30 years?

This morning I saw pictures from the first night of the reunion and it reminded me of the Bruce Springsteen song 'Glory Days'.  Not many of my old classmates look like they 'could throw that speedball by you' or 'turn all the boy's heads'.  It really does look like Springsteen was right when he said:

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye

Looking at the pictures I also realized that I probably do not have a lot in common with the people I went to High School with.  It looks like most of them are bankers and lawyers.  Very successful people who would not be all that impressed that I'm an archaeologist and feed my family with deer I chase down and butcher, or that I get to ski a lot. I'm not sure they'd really get the whole Kodiak lifestyle.

So already this morning I was thinking it might not have been such a bad thing that I didn't go to the reunion.  Then I went skiing and was struck by the gorgeous day - bright sunny skies, kids playing on the beach as I drove by Mill Bay, and ocean all the way to the horizon with a blue, blue sky.  I got up on the snow and realized that I'd much rather be up in the mountains on a sunny day skiing than listening to stories about 'Glory Days'.  And then on the way home I listened to another song by Bruce Springsteen - 'Better Days'.

These are better days baby
Yeah there's better days shining through
These are better days baby
Better days with a girl like you

It might sound corny but it is true - these are better days.  I know I can't go up the mountain quite as fast as I used to do it but that does not mean I am any less happy.  These are better days - it's true.  Patrick

My tracks on the mountain this morning - already above 70 degrees!

Around the house and lawn

It's not even 9 o'clock in the morning and it is already almost 70 degrees outside.  The record high for today is 68 degrees and I think we already busted it.  We set a new record high for yesterday too.  It's been super hot and sunny for over a week now and it looks like it will continue.  There is a HUGE high over the State of Alaska and it is keeping all the lows and rainstorms at bay - they feel the high pressure and just skirt around the state.

We've been spending a lot of time on the lawn reading books and even eating dinner.  It almost makes it seem worthwhile to mow the lawn.  Now that it is nearly summer the sun is coming up before 6AM and bathing the house with light.  We eat breakfast in the sunshine.  By evening the sun is on the other side of the house and it does not set until almost 10:30 PM.

Next week I'll be in the field doing an archaeological survey.  Let's hope the weather stays the same!


Friday, May 16, 2014

Fog=No High School Reunion Trip

Stuck. In. Kodiak. :)

This weekend Zoya and I were supposed to fly out East to attend my 30th High School reunion.  But we got fogged out in Kodiak.  It was kind of amazing how foggy it was out at the airport and yet so sunny at our house.  Normally when a flight is cancelled the weather is bad and you sort of expect it.  This cancellation caught us by surprise.

So I don't get to see my old classmates for the first time in 30 years and Zoya doesn't get to rock out to Boy George and other 80's rockers.  Oh well.  Now we get an unexpected stay-cation.  The weather is great, and we are on vacation.  Kodiak is not a bad place to be stuck.  I am far happier to be fogged in rather than fogged out!


Driving home in the fog - our plane has been cancelled

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snow, Fog and Sun

A couple of views from near the top of Pyramid from the last couple of days.  It has been very sunny with fog down low that burns off during the day.  The panoramic photos below were taken on different days.  One shows the fog on Afognak Island while in the other it is all clear.  In both you can see the snow capped volcanos of the Alaska Peninsula on the other side of Shelikof Strait.  On Kodiak the snow is disappearing very quickly.  In years past I've seen more snow on Pyramid in mid June.

Nora looked at the photo of fog on Afognak and noted that, 'Afognak is 'a FOG nak' and foggy for a reason.


Friday, May 09, 2014

"Is my feet on the right feet?"

Some recent kid quotes from the past several months. I write them down on the calendar as they happen and have been meaning to transfer them here for some time.

"Mom, do bad guys have kids?" -Stuey

"Is that milk dirty?" -Stuey    as I pour him milk from the carton. (What he meant to ask was it old or expired.)

"Is my feet on the right feet?" -Stuey as he puts his shoes on the wrong feet. 

"You have to help me. Its in your contract for being a mom" -Nora

"This apple tastes like Maine" -Nora when eating a green apple. 

"If you have a bigger mind, you can imagine bigger things, right?" -Stuey

"Can I have an appetizer?" -Stuey as he sits on the couch Friday night waiting for dinner. Patrick and I couldn't believe he asked this! 


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Bear Tracks

While skinning up the mountain to go skiing this afternoon I came across some fresh bear tracks.  It looks like the tracks of 2 bears walking one behind the other. Since both bears seem pretty full grown I am thinking it is a sow with her full grown cub.  Normally sows with young cubs do not come out of hibernation until June, and then stay up high until early July and the end of mating season.  The big boars will kill and eat a sow's cubs if given a chance so basically it is best for the sows and her young to stay up high and avoid them.  The big boars come out earlier in April, and that is why bear hunting season is in late April to early May - the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would prefer that hunters harvest the boars and not the sows.

My guess is that sow came out early because she is done with this particular cub.  It is time for her little teenager to make it on his/her own, and for her to get back on the dating scene. Patrick

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

38th adventures!

I love birthdays.  Especially one with as many surprises as 2014 had!

This year on the morning of my 38th, Patrick noted my birthday excitement. He smiled as he sensed the spark in my step and commented, "You love your birthday, don't you?". I sure do.

This year I took the day off of work, which I think I'll do more of on future birthdays! I went out to Java Flats with my girlfriend, E. Java F. is a fun small restaurant a 20 minute drive out the road. To outsiders, 20 minutes is no drive at all, but for some  Kodiak folks, its a small trek/adventure to drive for 20 minutes. There are always tall stacks of 4 or 5 varieties of home made cookies to enjoy as well as lots of sandwiches, burritos, coffee and tea. 

 I tried a new sandwich which had an incredible combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, carrots, hot sauce, and smoked salmon-all on a warm croissant. The combination of flavors was really wonderful together and so exotic!

We then ventured for a beach hike over to "Sometimes" island-an island which is available for hikes only on low tide. I've never been over there…have driven by hundreds of times in my Kodiak existence! There is a nice trail on the island, beautiful look outs and man it was fun to explore someplace new here in Kodiak. Just a reminder of what new adventures there are to be had right here in our back yard. 

Ella and I enjoyed lunch together, then around evening time, she and I met up with a small group of friends at El Chicanos. We spent several hours laughing, enjoying margaritas and nachos and then a Neopolitan birthday cake. The chocolate layer is a rich, heavy brownie-so YUM! 

My birthday  ended with  reading a box of old letters as the rest of the house slept. That was an adventure in itself.  More on that later….

Ella and the cake

No More Easter Bunny & Room Makeover

This Easter, the kids took it upon themselves to go up in the attic, find the old plastic eggs, fill them with old candy in preparation for Easter day. This is the official year of "The Easter bunny doesn't exist"!

That said, Nora and Stuey enjoy the egg hunt tradition, so we did have 2 friends over to dye eggs and hide the plastic eggs outside. 

Holding up a completed puzzle

egg dyeing in progress 

Last summer Stuey moved into Patricks old, old bedroom. Since that time, Stueys things have been perched on top of, or alongside of Patrick's things. It hasn't seemed quite fair for Stuey to not have his own official digs, so Patrick agreed to start clearing out his room. I took this photo as the "before" pic. Its a work in progress. Now the bookshelf is gone and Stuey has more breathing room. "After" pic to come later.

The "Before" Picture

Summer fire pits continue in record breaking warm May weather. Last week we had a record breaking day of 65 degrees. Really lovely and makes it feel like July in Kodiak!