Dear Friends and Colleagues:
June was one of the most beautiful summer months I've experienced in Alaska. The temperatures were in the mid-to high-70s every day, and the nights -- short as they were -- had temps in the 50s and 60s. Clear, clean air; lovely blue skies with puffy white clouds; occasional breezes -- rarely an evening sprinkle to keep down the dust.
My first Summer 2001 houseguest from Outside was able to enjoy Alaska's outdoors in the best of weather. She traveled to Denali National Park via the Alaska Railroad and took the bus tour up into the park, where she saw plenty of wildlife. Then we drove together to Seward, stopping at several attractions along the way. Outside of Seward, we hiked back up to the face of Exit Glacier, and marveled at the beauty of Resurrection Bay, on which the city sits. The next day, my guest took the ferry (Alaska Marine Highway System) from Seward to Valdez, while I drove back to Anchorage.
Two days later, I met my guest in downtown Anchorage after her trip from Valdez via motorcoach. We also took in several local attractions such as the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer, the Iditarod Sled Dog Headquarters near Wasilla, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center just down the highway from my home. On one occasion, I spontaneously drove her to the end of Eagle River valley -- a beautiful valley with towering mountains on either side, glaciers at the head, and the river braiding along the bottom. Just a couple of miles beyond my driveway, a brown bear suddenly ran across the road, his muscles rippling under his golden brown hair. Pretty handy tourist attraction, if I do say so myself!
No cow moose with brand new calves visited my yard this spring, although a pair of yearling calves (probably last year's twins) sauntered through just the other day. I've seen fewer moose this year, but the number of bears (both brown and black) showing up in areas on the edges of Anchorage or in its larger parks is greater than usual.
New Addition to Family
In early July, my son Mark came up from Oakland to visit for a spell and then to house- and cat-sit for me while I went to Seattle to assist my daughter after the birth of her first child. After a long labor, it was determined that the baby was just too big to make an appearance in the usual way, so Danika had a C-section to deliver 9-pound, 13-ounce Clarice Leslie Nicholas on July 2. I joined Danika and her husband Nick on July 8 for a 10-day stay to help out while Nick went back to work for a bit before taking vacation to be with his wife and daughter. Pictures of Clarice, her parents, and her grandmother can be seen at www.KarenLLew.com/Clarice.
End of Summer
Shortly after Mark arrived in Anchorage, the good weather of spring left, and the rains took over. Most of July was either rain or drizzle and ending up with a record rainfall for the month. The wildflowers are out in profusion, as are the perennials (planted by me and by the previous owners) in the several rock gardens in my yard. My yard has also sprouted an abundance of huge mushrooms! I doubt any are particularly tasty, but some are rather attractive: orange with cream-colored spots.
Alaskans tend to watch one particular wildflower rather closely: fireweed. The bright magenta flowers bloom sequentially up a stalk, and it is said that when the tops finally flower and then go to seed in a puff of white (somewhat like a dandelion), the first snow is not too far away. The fireweed in my yard and neighborhood have another couple of inches to go, thank goodness. I'm hoping for a little more "summer" weather on behalf of my second Summer 2001 houseguests who will be arriving on August 17.
The first week of August, I will be flying to Kodiak again. This time, however, I will not be going to handle logistics and writing tasks for Alaska Department of Fish & Game. I will be "playing tourist" and gathering information for a "Great Escape" article for Alaska Airlines magazine. While in Kodiak, I plan to fly out to one of the Alutiiq villages, Old Harbor, to get the flavor of recreational and wildlife opportunities away from Kodiak city.
I'm now freelancing (writing and editing) full-time from my home office. A lot of time was spent initially designing my logo and preparing my web site (www.KarenLLew.com) and associated professional materials. I am delighted with the logo and web site design -- for which I contracted with my son Kent, a graphic designer and illustrator living in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Back to School
In September, I will embark on the next phase of Karen's never-ending quest: I've been accepted in to the Master of Arts Program at Alaska Pacific University (APU) in Anchorage and will be pursuing my graduate degree in philosophy and religious studies. The program is self-designed and self-directed, so it fits quite well with my ideas of planning a program that includes classical studies in religion, philosophy, language, culture, history, etc. Being totally self-directed in both my professional life (as a freelancer) and in this program at APU will be a real challenge. Maybe it's just as well that Alaska's winter brings long nights and short days!