A collection of essays, outdoor adventure stories, ruminations, wordplay, parental angst, and blatant omphaloskepsis, generated in all seasons and for many reasons at 64.8 degrees north latitude

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Emery Isthmus

Over the rivers and through the woods,
To Yentna and Skwenta and Rohn,
Jay really likes to pedal his bike
Through the deep and drifted snow.

Dodging the overflow, skipping the flu,
Helping his friends along,
With no icy bath on the trail to McGrath
His prospects were looking strong.

To Ophir and Cripple, Galena, Nulato,
Then waving the mushers home,
With unfrozen feet to Unalakleet
And Koyuk and Elim and Nome!

We have a little project. 
We made it out of clay.
And when it’s dry and ready,
With our project we will play.

Project, project, project,
We made it out of clay,
And duct tape, yarn, and hot glue
Also borax – that’s okay?

Project, project, project,
It’s congealing in this jar.
We didn’t know we left it
In the back seat of the car.

Project, project, project,
It’s for the Science Fair.
And look, we won these ribbons!
They appreciate us there.

 Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle of the hail
Landing on our pack-rafts
As our paddles start to flail.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle on our boat
Who thought that spring in Fairbanks
Was a great time for a float?

Dashing through the slush
From the melting springtime sleet,
Fighting with the brush
That tangles with our feet.
Up the hills we climb,
The pack-rafts in our packs,
We’re having a good time – sublime!
Thank goodness for the snacks.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle through the bogs.
Oh what fun it is to hear
The bear-bells on the dogs!
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Where are all the kids?
They sure walk a lot faster now
Than I recall they did.

Dashing through the mud,
Our backpacks feel like rocks,
Sinking in the crud
Over our wool socks.
But the hot tubs now are near;
The crew begins to smile.
Tolovana’s luxuries
Make everything worthwhile.

You better watch out,
It’s not a mistake.
You better not shout
That the news is all fake.
Climate change is coming to town.

The data still aren’t lying.
The rest of the world’s awake.
They know that we’ve been bad, not good,
So vote well, for goodness sake.

I’m making a list,
And checking the stats.
Science and research
Are boring like that.
Climate change is coming to town.

Good King John was… not so good,
At least as writ by Shakespeare
And acted in the sunny woods
With armor, pomp, and fake spears.

Hither, pages, wave thy flags,
Though the troops seem skittish.
You will soon be dressed in rags,
Neither French nor British.
The Duke of Austria’s a goon.
I lost my head deservedly.
Lizzy got to stab Melun,
And did so unreservedly. 

Warfare, poison, death, deceit,
And King John starts to sing now.
But hark, Prince Henry’s awfully sweet,
So Molly’s England’s king now.

And did these feet in recent times
Walk upon Fairbanks’ theater scene?
And was a calendar of this
In charitable venues seen?

The oranges have long been tossed,
My “Yorkshire’s” hard to understand,
But I still keep part of my heart
In England’s green and pleasant land.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the white Thanksgiving a month ago
And the white Halloween,
And all the days between
Which were, likewise, filled with snow.

I’m dreaming of a white New Year
And an ironically-white MLK Day
And Valentines will be white, too
And probably right through
White Passover, Easter and May Day

I’m dreaming of a…
Look, okay, can we say that it will be non-white by my birthday?
It’s on May tenth.


Wee Washoe emery isthmus,
Whew issue America bismuth,
Whee eschew Ameer eke Erasmus
Anahata nude deer!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Giraffe costume

giraffe costumegiraffe costume
giraffe costume

When my kids weren’t yet old enough to know what an internet browser was, let alone to worry about their image on social media, I used to post about them with impunity.  After a certain point, that seemed unfair, so I granted them veto power.  Now the twins are eleven -- and I find myself writing my first kid-requested blog post. 
This tale is about Halloween.  I’ve mentioned Halloween before.  I’m strongly in favor.  http://latitude.nancyfresco.com/2011/11/boo.html  But, more specifically, this tale is about a giraffe costume.
In other households – or so I imagine -- kids want to be ninjas or superheroes.  They decide this sometime around October 30th.  Parental responsibility includes either a last-minute trip to buy something pre-printed on brittle, scratchy nylon, or frantic rummaging through boxes of old clothes.  In our house, however, Halloween involves multiple fabrics, hot glue, paint, pens, cardboard, pipe cleaners, yarn, elastic, ribbons, wire coat hangers, old wigs, a seventy-year-old sewing machine, and eons of lead time. 
Thus, it was September when Molly made an important announcement: “I’m going to be a giraffe.”
“Um… okay...”  Inwardly, I sighed. This sounded even more difficult than past efforts.  Sure, we’d done some mammals over the years (mouse, bear, cow, hare).  We’d managed a marsupial (kangaroo), an amphibian (tortoise), an insect (ladybug), and even a member of the phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish).  Nonetheless, a giraffe seemed like a tall order (pun blatantly intended).   Last I’d checked, Molly didn’t have a six-foot-long neck. 
“A REALISTIC giraffe,” Molly added.
I filed this in my “to do sometime safely in the future” mental bin, perfectly ready to procrastinate.  But my kids were having none of it. 
“We need to get going on making costumes,” Molly reminded me at the beginning of October, a note of anxiety in her voice.  When I told her there was still plenty of time, she shook her head.  “I want to win the costume contest at school,” she explained.  She said it earnestly, without a trace on egotism.  Molly isn’t a pushy kid or a grandstander.  She was simply stating a life goal.  “This is really important to me.”
Lizzy’s proposed cat costume sounded a trifle more manageable than the lanky ungulate, although she, too, wanted it to look realistic.  No black sweatsuit paired with paper-triangles-glued-on-a-headband for her.   She was going for the full meow.
So we went to JoAnn’s fabric.  There, thankfully, we found relatively cheap giraffe-print fleece, fake fur, and a speedy employee at the cutting table.  We headed home with our fuzzy haul.

The remainder of this story might involve parental frustration, childish demands, and impossible tasks pawned off on me.  But… it doesn’t. 
I did end up sewing a good deal of the cat costume, because the fur was thick and hard to coax through my antique Singer.  However, Lizzy designed her cat, worked with me at every step, and made no complaints.  The result was simple, warm, and cuddly.  She was pleased from the tips of her fuzzy ears to the end of her furry tail.
As for Molly, she was adamant that she wanted no help – no help at all. 
At the start, she did a brief Google search for giraffe costumes, and scrolled through the image results critically.  “None of them are very good,” she said.
“None of them?” I looked over her shoulder.  “Well, it’s pretty hard to look like a realistic giraffe…”
“Mine will be better,” she reassured me.
I did not find this calming.  “Your costume will be better than any giraffe costume that anyone has ever made?”
She thought about this.  “Well, would every giraffe costume ever made show up in this search?”
Ever eager to offer advice about online privacy, I quickly explained the difference between public internet pages, advertising, blogs, public Facebook posts, and private Facebook posts.  I explained how a search engine such as Google sorts images via associated text and tags.  “So,” I concluded, “if I posted a picture of your costume to my blog, and tagged it as ‘giraffe costume’, then yes, anyone could find that image.”
“Okay,” she said.  “If it turns out good, and I win the contest, then can you put it on your blog, please?  And tag it, please, so that other people can find it?”
“Yes,” I said.  “Of course.”
She designed her costume.  She did all the cutting, sewing, taping, glueing, molding, and trimming.  She set the zipper herself.  She – after finding out that they were called “ossicones” -- made her very own set of ossicones. 

And she won the school contest. 

She gave away the prize (a stuffed toy) to a younger child who wanted it more ardently, returning home with nothing but a few pieces of candy, a giraffe costume carefully packed up in a plastic bag, and an expression of deep and abiding contentment.

Giraffe costume.

cat costume

realistic cat costume

I wasn't sure whether Molly remembered requesting this blog post, but the morning after Halloween, on our walk to the school bus stop, she asked me, "Did you put pictures of our costumes online?"  I assured her that I had -- then realized that her question had been expressed in the plural.  Costumes.  Thus, this addendum. 

Cat costume.