Poet John Haines (and no Haines is not named after him, but that would be something, wouldn’t it? An Alaskan town named after an Alaskan poet) wrote, “Good poems come from roots.” So do good lives.
I have been reading poems and essays in the morning instead of looking at the news online first thing. It’s improving my mental health. Filling up on junk words first thing is unhealthy. I still look at the headlines later and read a few political stories, an opinion piece, a book review or three ( I want to read the new Elizabeth McKracken novel and Michelle Obama’s book really is wonderful. I must have read half of it out loud to Chip), and then an obit or two (I can’t understand how the Times could publish an obituary that was more about the subject’s more famous sister than the subject. That would never fly in the Chilkat Valley News), and a recipe (the red lentil soup was okay, but the white chili is a keeper.)
So this morning I skipped the latest on Roger Stone and the actor who faked his assault, and the real assaults in Juneau on the Alaska ferry system and the schools, and the university that educates Alaskan poets and engineers ( I will email and send postcards to the state legislature and the Alaska delegation in Washington later), and chose John Haines’ essays on poetry and place, and those good roots that remind me why I Iove this place, and Robert Frost too, who wrote the aim of the wind was song– sing the word the wind meant he writes, “a little through the lips and throat” , and Margaret Atwood’s funny poem, “February,” the time to “eat fat and watch hockey”, of “pewter mornings,” and finally after her cat brushes his tail too close to her pillowed head she shakes off the winter grumps with a wrestle of quilts and shouts “Let’s get going on a little optimism around here.” That is February.
My morning began with a golden retriever too close to my pillow.
The fire was out and the floor was freezing. (Chip is visiting his mom. So it’s just the dogs and chickens around here.) The snow plow rumbled by, and I turned a light on, fed the dogs and let them out. It stopped snowing. I tried to start a fire and gave up after two face fulls of smoke. I can light it later. I didn’t want to miss the Early Bird swim. When I grabbed my chilly swim bag in the mud room, my suit was still in it, wet from yesterday’s laps. Then, at the pool, the door was locked and the lights out. Maybe the snow kept the lifeguard away. I hoped she hadn’t slid into a ditch, or worse a moose.
It was a beautiful morning with all the fresh snow, and the blue glow of predawn. I drove home slowly on the white roads, there weren’t any other rigs but the flashing plows and graders, along the water, and through the old fort. Haines really is lovely. It must be the prettiest town in the world right now.
At home, I made another cup of very good coffee, strong and with cream, lit the fire (this time it caught right away) and read those winter poems, and then, for kicks, a spring poem, “April is a Dog’s Dream.” A dog, the poet M. Singer writes ” will make you see what spring is all about.” My dogs are Alaskans, and they prefer winter I think– the north wind makes them hop and bark. They were staring at me, tails wagging. I can’t pedal my spin bike to nowhere right now because I’m covered with a rash and hives in tender places from a cedar sauna I took last weekend. (Yes, only in February.) I bundled up, and out the dogs and I headed, a lot earlier than usual, into my favorite place in the world, just as the sky tinted gray-pink, but before the sun lit up those slabs and crystal bergie bits of river ice that beached themselves at high tide, and I hummed that song we sang in choir last night about ‘my baby and me’ and yes– why not, sing? The poets are right. “Let’s get going on a little optimism around here”(!)
I already have invited old friends for dinner tonight and even remembered to soak the beans for that white chili and they are now bubbling on the stove, and tomorrow it’s the Koot to Kat alpine adventure race over Mt. Ripinsky ( meet at 8 am at Fairweather Ski Works) and while I won’t be in it, my daughter will, and I will hang out with the granddaughters all afternoon and have them help me try to catch my friend Betty’s elusive — I have never seen her– and ironically named cat, Cuddles, to take her for a blood test since the vet will be in town, and the staff at the assisted living home where they both live are concerned about Cuddles’ urinary tract health.
Then there’s the MountainFilm Festival at the Fairgrounds at 6:30 tomorrow night, and on Sunday I’ll take some granddaughters skiing in the annual Miles Klehini Ski Classic 10K at 25 mile. It starts at 12:30 and there’s a BBQ afterwards. I will remember my friend Dennis Miles, whose obituary I wrote too soon, after his big heart stopped when he was skiing, and watch my granddaughters zoom ahead of me no doubt, so much like their mother was that age, and be grateful for the past, and hopeful for the future, and take a deep breath and exhale a song.