So I don’t get to have a fur hat, but I can still enjoy my Alaska vacation as long as I wear everything in my suitcase at once. It’s not even that cold here, according to our friends Scott and Kevin, whose credibility on the matter is beginning to wane. This year, Alaskans have to travel to Atlanta to visit their winter. Whether you think ten degrees is warm or cold depends on which direction you’re approaching it from. But it’s cold enough for me. Scott and Kevin are the people we used to visit down the valley in Oregon who had emus and pigs and alpacas and trout and sturgeon and sheep and peacocks and ducks and goats and a slope of wine grapes AND the ability to put it all together in splendidly edible form, plus day jobs. All that. You never knew what they’d be up to at any given moment: rendering lard, or stripping milt from live trout, or making cheese, or knitting a tractor out of steel wool. They’re right handy folk.

So we couldn’t wait to see what they were doing in the new digs in Alaska. There is no garden. The house is relatively small. They’ve confined themselves to (1) dog and (1) cat. How were they planning to make our Alaska visit perfect?

Well, the first door past the bathroom opens to the hangar, and just past the ice cream freezer and the beer fridge there are a couple planes in it, and we got in one of them and taxied out to the runway and into the air to pop up a valley and peer at two turquoise glaciers and watch the snowy mountains pink up in the sunset, and got back in time for dinner and some of the wine they made when they still had grapes, taking care not to disturb the moose on the taxiway. There’s some Alaska for you. What else?

I’d brought a bird book and binoculars. Things seemed strangely quiet in the bird department, so I consulted the internet. There are five birds wintering in the Anchorage area. They’re all named Hank. Ha ha! Just kidding. They are named raven, raven, raven, bald eagle, and raven. I put my book back in the suitcase. What else?

We went up a beautiful snowy path through the mountains and watched Kevin attempt Ski-Joring, which is having your dog pull you on cross-country skis. It probably works better if your dog is not a German Shepherd bred to round up the group by dashing back and forth from one person to another, and who has not already been trained not to pull at a leash. I’m just guessing. Also, Kevin and I have an equally tepid grip on verticality. What else?

“We could go ice fishing.”

Scott hadn’t done that yet, himself. He’s only been here a year. But he did have a virgin ice augur he wanted to try out, and a chisel, and a few sets of Carhartts that stand up by themselves in the garage and probably walk over to take a pee a couple times a night, and an easy walk to a lake. We pulled a sled of gear onto the ice. “Do you think it’s really thick enough to stand on out there?” I queried, and Dave shrugged. “Either way, we’ll have a good story,” he said, with a gallant arm thrust forward. “Ladies first!”

It was thick enough to land a 747 on. Scott augured away in a stiff polar wind. I was in heaven. For someone with a sturdy Viking chromosome and a need for discomfort that is not of the spiritual variety (I like cold: I hate anxiety), this was the ticket. Snowy mountains reared above and the ice was cracked into partitions a foot deep. Snowball jellyfish lurked below. It was fascinating. I tip over on dry land for no reason at all. What could go wrong?


Really, I have got to quit smashing my head. I’m afraid to go to Kaiser to get my glasses adjusted again for fear they’ll enter an advisory about domestic violence into my medical record. This time, the glasses were in no danger. I was flat on my back with the birdies tweeting. My Viking chromosome was splayed out with me, all uff da, his little horned helmet rolling around with a micro-clatter. Scott, who has some medical training, was trying to peer into my eyes. That’s easy to do. They’re small and set close together and you can take in both of them in one glance. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Flurdo piffling blurgit imminy,” I said, but he wouldn’t take my word for it, and checked my pupils again. I guess that’s where the brain goo leaks out, if it’s going to.

I don’t know how many cubes a day you’re allowed to keep when you’re ice fishing, but Scott and Dave had reached their limit after a few hours, and we went home with a goose egg.

I should probably put ice on it, but I don’t want to.