This world. This place. This life.


Zero to Hero, Day Two: What’s in a name?

Today’s assignment was to name my blog, edit my tagline, and create a text widget to briefly explain the purpose of my blog.

I named my blog “Nagoonberry” for two reasons. First, I liked the sound of the word. It was quirky, distinctive. I first heard the word “Nagoonberry” at the Anchorage Wildflower Garden Club annual plant sale. The second reason for choosing “Nagoonberry” was that naming my blog after the “Arctic raspberry” made a certain amount of sense for a blog that’s about paying attention to life in a particular location.

My current tagline is relatively recent, reflecting the greater clarity I have about the blog’s purpose: this world, this place, this life. Hidden there is a hint about the religious ghosts of my fundamentalist childhood. I was raised to believe we were in the world but not of it, citizens of heaven who didn’t participate in this-worldly politics, living this life with our eyes on heaven, not earth. By temperament and training, I look toward the future; “this world, this place, this life,” is a conscious attempt to counter that tendency.

The new-today widget says who I am: “A free-range Unitarian Universalist minister making meaning of daily life in Girdwood, Alaska.”

Thanks for following along! Two days in, and each day I’ve learned something. See you tomorrow!


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A day in the light

Yesterday I followed the light, with the help of HootSuite.

825: up and out with the dog while the sky’s still black; maybe today I will watch for first light.

913: barest hint of light; I can see the slightly darker outline of the mountain against the sky.

935: the sky has passed through several shades of blue; now I can see bare and evergreen trees beyond the town’s white rooftops, and a raven flying by.

1041: snowy mountains across the Arm dissolve into a gray-white sky; outside, two stories down, neighbors’ deep voices.

1134: A patch of blue sky has emerged between the mountains; now there are two ravens nearby, and a third in the distance.
109: blinding light climbs the ridge; blue sky, cloud-mottled, warm light, happy baby, happy mama.

315: Off to the post office in the dimming light, dragging the dog and a hand truck. Yippee! Pkgs have arrived!

437: The light is mostly gone from a dark denim sky, streaming instead from windows. Time to close blinds, shut curtains.

531: curtains shut, sky long dark, Christmas lights bright against black. Hunker down, cuddle close, welcome night.

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The light is beautiful

lightThe light is beautiful, glinting off the high wing of a small plane disappearing into the sunset on this clear winter day.

The light is beautiful, pinking the sky, glittering every frosty branch.

The light is beautiful, and in a shadowed world, I like writing about the light.

But I know that airplane.

I know its owner purchased it foolishly.
I know he makes poor choices about its maintenance.
I know I wince when I see it overhead.

And knowing takes some of the shine out of the light.

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Many roads to Affordable Care

2012-11-16 12.21.45I’m tired of everybody treating “Obamacare” as if it were the Alaska road system.

Let me explain.

Here in Alaska, outside of the towns and cities, there’s usually only one road from one place to another—except where there’s no road, in places accessible only by planes and boats.

The Glenn Highway connects the community of Eagle River and the northeast corner of Anchorage. When an accident closes the road—a frequent occurrence, given our weather and our problems with impaired driving—traffic backs up, bumper to bumper, for ten miles or more. There’s no alternate route. Waiting is the only option.

When Liesl and I lived in Eagle River and commuted to Anchorage, we’d listen carefully to traffic reports. Whenever an accident closed the road, we’d meet up at the Muldoon Fred Meyer, on the northeast side of town, for a few hours of retail therapy, waiting for the snarl to resolve itself.

Now that we live in Girdwood, we have the same problem. The Seward Highway connects Girdwood to Anchorage. It is a dangerous road, year-round. Once, when we had been in Anchorage shopping, we happened to hear about an accident. We had frozen food in the car, so we called Liesl’s boss, who flew in from Girdwood in his Cessna 206 to pick us up.

All I hear these days about the Affordable Care Act is “The website isn’t working. The website isn’t working. The website isn’t working.”

And not just from right-wing sources.

Here’s the thing. There are other roads. isn’t the only way to sign up for new ACA-compliant health plans.

You can apply with a paper application, online, by phone, or in person with local help. As a last resort, I believe you can purchase a plan directly from the insurance company of your choice.

There’s more than one road.

It’s a frustrating time. Many of us are anxious about the changes—and about the underlying problems of skyrocketing healthcare costs.

For some of us, anxiety looks like angry opposition to the ACA. For others, it looks like a reflexive defense of the ACA, an inability to admit that the plan has flaws.

I see the ACA is a first step—one that will help our family tremendously. From the calculations I’ve done, the three of us will save close to $20,000 next year with “Obamacare,” and we’ll get better coverage.

I’m giving a bit of time to sort itself out, and then I’ll apply online. If the website doesn’t work, I’ll try one of the other “roads.”

With a little patience, with a little help from each other, we can all find our way home.

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A cloud of climate witnesses

2013-10-29 10.55.38It’s almost November here in south central Alaska, and this morning at 9:30 when I took the dog out, there was no ice on the puddles in the alley.

A light swirl of frost was already melting on the cars’ windows.

I had rolled out of bed, thrown on a pair of Crocs, grabbed Brady and his leash, and headed outside. I wore a quilted jean shirt, capri-length yoga pants, and no socks.

I wasn’t cold.

It’s almost November here in south central Alaska.

The deciduous trees are bare, but the grass is still green.

I’m not complaining.

I like that the roads and sidewalks are still clear.

I like that every day without snow feels like a one-day-shorter winter.

But it’s different. Really different.

Last week I wrote about Facebook status updates, which for me are a beautiful way of experiencing the interdependent web of life.

When my friends write about snowstorms in Cincinnati and heat waves in Boston, I can feel the undulating texture of their daily lives.

But their weather reports are more than just interesting information, more than a picture-window view of a prairie thunderstorm.

Their status updates are a great cloud of witnesses, testifying that the weather is weird, and getting weirder.

I know that weather and climate are two different things. Climate is, essentially, cumulative weather.

Social media measures the intuitive sense of large numbers of people in diverse geographic settings, all sharing their belief that something is different.

Something is changing.

A great cloud of witnesses is testifying.

Are we listening?