It’s still cold when Chip and I ride bikes early, in the high 30s, so I have my warm booties, jacket, and a hat under my helmet. The annual June Kluane to Chilkat relay from Haines Junction, Yukon to in front of the Parade Grounds here in Haines has not happened for a few years due to Covid travel restrictions, so I’m a little out of practice for this early cycling push. It used to be my life ( I’ve ridden the event most years since it began some 25 years ago), but I think I got a little soft the last few years, riding only on nice days.
But really, the wind and the cold are not so bad– and I feel so good after being out in this beautiful world for a few hours before breakfast that it’s worth it. In the last ten days we have ridden to the end of all the roads (some more than once…) Mud Bay, Lutak and the Haines Highway to the Alaska-British Columbia border and back. As far as we can go without a passport. Saturday we had blueberry-rhubarb pie and ice cream at the 33-Mile Roadhouse to fortify us for the pedal home.
In between rides, I have transplanted pot-bound dahlias and tucked them inside the greenhouse to keep them out of the wind. They were from Stephanie, who grew hundreds, maybe thousands, on her flower farm. Last fall when she left for Washington to be in hospice care with her sons, her friends dug up the tubers and saved them. I also have a geranium and peace plant I promised I’d care for, and give back to her if by lucky chance she returned. And a statue of St. Francis too. He is made of plaster and we were afraid he would not winter well outside. Stephanie died in February, and now her dahlias will be smiling at us from porches and decks all over Haines, and no doubt mulitpy and be passed on and on. I have some for my daughters. I offered to return St. Francis to Steph’s kids for the estate sale, but her daughter told me he’d be happiest in my garden and to take good care of him. I will.
I have also been busy writing obituaries– former mayor Mike Case died in the Palmer Pioneer and Veteran’s Home, he was 90 and a good man and a good mayor. Lynda Walker, a former business owner and also a city councilor died in Oregon. She was 79 and had raised her step grand daughters after her step-son died. The girls told me she taught them everything a mother would: how to cook and clean and do you your taxes. She advised them to save, and always have a “What if Fund.”
Because you never know.
The third obituary was for a friend who lives in Cordova. Her husband was a great outdoorsman, a wildlife trooper, who drowned while duck hunting. He was 44 and leaves her and two little girls whom he adored. He liked to walk them to school.
I hope the Walker girls never need a “What if Fund”. I hope nobody does. But a good mother, a good grandmother, knows it’s a wise move.
I hope that wasn’t too heavy. I just thought you should know this.
Now I am off to Juneau to cook dinner for my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. They are so busy working and training for IronMan’s they can hardly stay awake. They run, bike and swim through their days. I’m even bringing groceries from Haines just in case I can’t get to the store. Usually, people wait and shop in the city for all the variety and freshness we don’t have here. Thursday morning I head to Anchorage for a state arts council conference and awards ceremony, and stay until Sunday afternoon. (So you won’t hear from me. I will fill you in after I return.) This is the first one that hasn’t been over Zoom since I became the Writer Laureate. What’s even better, is that during the first Covid spring, I joined a writing workshop with Orion Magazine, and the women in it have kept meeting monthly ever since, and we are friends now– new friends that met only over the internet- and one of them is going to be flying through Anchorage and so we will meet face to face. We are having breakfast in the airport! I love happy endings, don’t you?