I am so sorry not to have told where I went and when I would return-- I thought I'd be able to visit from Skagway and would check in after I arrived-- but my motel did not have internet-- And, like a delay from a canceled flight resulting in a five hour layover, I decided to make the most of it, and stay unplugged for a few days and totally tuned into the people I was with. I was at the Northwords writers' symposium with some really smart, thoughtful, articulate and kind people-- Kim Heacox, John Straley, Kathleen Dean Moore, Howard Weaver, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Dan Henry, Jeff Brady, Marcel Jolley, Dave Hunsaker-- Katrina Pearson from Epicenter Press-- and that's just the so-called faculty-- but the thing about Northwords is that the participants are as diverse and wise as the instructors, and it is small and so intimate and consists of all panel discussions rather than lectures, which means it feels like one long conversation about stuff that matters. Really matters-- I mean, at least one session was a tad tense, thanks to the passion about the topic-- global warming and the role of the writer in shouting from the tree tops to save the earth, and how we can do that most effectively-- actually, it was called The Righteous Rant-- Anyway, five days in Skagway was an enlightening, sometimes challenging, and ultimately heartening time-- but now I am home, and the nice thing is the conversation hasn't ended-- because tonight in Haines Shelly Sloper is giving a talk at the library on one of the topics writers spend a lot of time thinking (and writing) about-- how to live a meaningful -- and dare she say-- happy life? (Yes!) Shelly is a Haines High grad earning her PhD in psychology at the Claremont Colleges down in California. It is amazing what can happen in just a few days--While I was away, my arugula, peas and lettuce have sprouted, and the grass-- or the tangle that passes for it in my yard- needs another weed whack-- The hummingbirds (and opportunistic warblers) have drained the feeder, the seasonally large tides have redrawn the driftwood tidelines, the river is swollen and muddy. This morning when I walked Pearl all I heard underneath the moving water, the singing thrushes, chatting terns, whistling eagles and exhaling sealions, was the song we sang the last night of the conference-- (I did well in my kumbaya sing-a-long debut. I'm learning to be touchy feely. I honestly am )-- Leonard Cohen's Brokenhearted Alleluia. But this is what drives some of my colleagues crazy-- I skipped the grimmer lyrics, and instead only sang the alleluia chorus. Which on a morning like this, seemed proper.