My Halloween Guest Blogger

[Source: Google search.]

Pleased to meet you, I’m a man of wealth and taste.

–Mick Jagger, Sympathy for the Devil.

It’s my favorite time of year. It’s Halloween. And to help me celebrate, I have invited a “guest blogger” to take this space and make it her own.

Erin Egan lives with her husband, son, and cat in Washington State, in a small town with an awesome view of Mt. Rainier (that is when the sun is out). She cooks, reads and tries to get the cat to pay attention to her.

So as to not make her father sound old, she will only say she’s in her mid-40’s.

The graphic above was added by me. All else, below, is from the creative mind of Erin.

Enjoy!

SEEKING

An Original Ghost Story

By Erin Egan

TO:           Zoe Crosby

FROM:   Dennis Winchester, HR Director, Beyond the Summit Technology

CC:           Internship Dept., Amherst College

RE:           2018 Fall Marketing Interns

DATE:     May 25, 2018

Dear Zoe,

I am excited to announce your selection as one of three students selected to be an intern in our rapidly growing marketing department. As you know, Beyond the Summit Technology has been named one of the “Top 5 Companies to Work For” in Seattle Magazine, and we look forward to you–with your ideas and energy– joining our team.

As discussed, we will be providing a modest stipend to help cover living expenses. Our office will contact you shortly regarding relocation assistance.

I look forward to greeting you in person.

Sincerely,

S: //Dennis Winchester

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           I’M IN!!

DATE:     5/25/18

I GOT THE INTERNSHIP!! Can you believe it? After three years of living in the shadow of Emily Dickinson, I can finally show the rest of the world that we New England chicks aren’t just uptight spinsters who walk around talking to ducks.

Now that I’ve told you, I’ll email Aunt Clara with the news. I didn’t want to tell anyone else in case this fell through and I ended up working at Starbucks this summer (Note to me: Ahh! Do not disparage the patron saint of your new adopted home city. Bad karma.) She mentioned driving out West with me if this job came through. She said something about wanting to go to the annual “Dames of the Dunes” gathering near Reno…she is looking for an excuse to take a road trip and hit some of the “retail shops” out here before going to Utah.

Could be fun!

Love you and thank you!

Zoe

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Checking in from the road

DATE:     8/17/18

Wow. We are in Iowa and my mind is reeling with questions. Who lives by choice in a town of 524 people? How do people sleep during tornado season? Where is the water? Why, in a land of acres/miles/counties, of nothing but corn, do people look at Aunt Clara and squint their eyes and chuckle when she asks for a vegetarian menu? I mean, we are surrounded by grains.

And why didn’t you ever tell me about Aunt Clara and the man from Minneapolis?

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Arrived!

DATE:     8/26/18

I’m settled into a temporary apartment. I’m not sure if I want to stay here. I’ll tell you right now, even with the cost of living allowance I get from BTS, I can’t afford much (read: anything unsubsidized) in Seattle. If I do well in this internship and could get an interview to start permanently I would be thrilled, but I plan to seriously look into opportunities in less spendy locations.

The apartment is in a cool old building in the International District. It’s kind of like Chinatown, but broader geographically. Like I said, it’s an old area. It’s a little shabby, in a good way

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Lonely

DATE:     9/18/18

I know I haven’t written in a while but everything is fine. Just busy, and…you know. Busy.

A strange thing happened yesterday. I was buying wine at Trader Joe’s, and when I gave the guy at the checkout my ID, he stared at it for about five minutes. I was just about to say, “Dude, it isn’t fake” when he started talking about prospectors. (Yes, this is a topic of conversation in Seattle.) Apparently, I have the same last name as a guy who came here in the 1890’s from Minnesota, loaded up on supplies, took off for Skagway and was never seen again. Not uncommon, except he haunts the old boarding house he lived in while he was here getting ready. The guy then said that the rooming house is still around, one of the places along Denny Avenue that was turned into apartments after the Depression. It’s probably my building. It does have that 19thcentury YMCA-type vibe.

Speaking of prospectors, I might get to take a business trip to Alaska in a few weeks!

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Itinerary

DATE:     10/21/18

Here you go–As you can see, I’ll be gone for twelve days, starting and ending the trip in Anchorage. I’m excited, and it’s a great opportunity to show off my design for the BTS booth at this year’s Sourdough Days.

Since I’ll be in Skagway for three nights, I asked my friend at Trader Joe’s more about the ghost. The prospector’s name is Karl, he said, and people who have seen him say he’s a thin, blond man dressed in dark green flannel and dungarees, and he opens drawers and cupboards and whispering “Tomas…help me, Tomas! Where is it?” When he heard I was on my way to Alaska, including the Skagway area, he told me to ask someone named Reid at the post office in Tagish to tell me the story about Tomas’s ghost.

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Northern Lights!

DATE:     11/4/18

I just can’t do this place justice in words, so your postcard is on its way. When I stopped in the post office to buy stamps, Reid was at the counter, and when I asked him about the ghost of Tomas he just said, “Ah, Karl’s friend.”  I asked what was so unusual about two prospectors who froze to death, and he shook his head and sighed. “Not everyone who didn’t make it froze. Or starved. Or fell. Or died of infections. Some had the nerve to be murdered.”

I asked who murdered whom and he shrugged, then went back to tearing rows of stamps.

“Karl and Tomas were two Swedes who knew each other back in Minneapolis. Their fathers were business rivals. Karl and Tomas both claimed to have had the idea to scout locations for mines, and I think the fathers both encouraged their sons to do whatever it took to beat the other one to mining rights.”  According to supply receipts and banking records, they both hit the Chilkoot the same week, but there is no official record of Tomas crossing into Canada. Other men said Tomas was on the Canadian side but he was alone.

I asked Reid how people know someone was murdered if they both just disappeared. I don’t think he gets to talk about this with a lot of people. “Because each one haunts the other. Both of them thought the other one was cheating. The legends that made their way to the cities in the following years suggest that they were both betrayed by the same person.”

So, that was my visit to the post office. Lots to ponder. It’s my last night in Skagway.

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Aunt Clara

DATE:     11/6/18

I woke up last night and heard her voice whispering “No. No. No.”

Seriously, I heard someone hissing. I thought it was the heater but I heard words. “Clara…did you tell him? You told him. You ruined us Clara.”

It gets dark here so early, and the light comes so late, so I don’t know what time it was. I couldn’t sleep after that so I sat up and watched TV until my meeting. I am eager to get back to Seattle, where I can sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ice Cold Beer

FrozenLakeColby

I got lost once on my way to buying a beer at a lonely bar.  There’s a good story coming so don’t blink, look away or try to multi-task…or you’ll miss it.

Being lost can mean many things to many people.

You can say: “I’m lost” in the middle of calculus class.  Or, you can say: “I’m lost” when you’ve missed the proper exit on I-95 when your destination is Atlantic City.  In a confessional, you can wipe away your tears and whisper “I’m lost” to the priest.  It’s very fair to say “I’m lost” when you get to page 378 of “Infinite Jest.”  Trust me, no one will blame you.  It’s quite easy to say “I’m lost” when you make a few missteps in a dark forest, and it’s nearly midnight.  When the girl of your dreams tells you that she’s found another lover, you have every right to say “I’m lost.”

When you wake up one morning and remember that your life partner has been dead for a year and five months, you can be slam-dunked with the “I’m lost” feeling.

Yes, there are many ways to get lost, be lost, stay lost or just lose your moral compass and find yourself…well, lost.

Admittedly, it’s a little harder to get lost these days than it was twenty years ago.  Part with a few hundred dollars and you’re hard pressed to make an excuse for getting lost.  With satellites, EZ passes, security monitors and personal Facebook data, few people in our part of the world can really get physically lost anymore.  Your location is known by tens of thousands of people.

But, if it ever happens…your entire sense of the world can change in three seconds.  It can be extremely disconcerting to your spatial orientation to be in a situation where the only direction you are sure of is down…because all you can see are the boots on your feet.

I was lost once.  It was back in the pre-technological age of 1977 when a $3.95 plastic compass was all you needed to tell where north was.  I didn’t even have that.

The memory of that afternoon will never leave me.  I can still close my eyes and feel the tangible world around me being lost amid the swirls of a snowfall so dense and intense that anything two feet in front of me was a blast of wind-driven snow.

In the summer of 1976, I went to Alaska to assist in geological mapping on the Juneau Icefield.  That season I had some difficulty keeping up with the others on cross-country skis while wearing a full backpack.  I was scheduled to return in 1978.  I knew my skills on the snow needed improvement so I did what had to be done.  I taught myself how to downhill ski.  It was the winter of 1977 and one Saturday I decided to drive to Elk Mountain in the Poconos, rent the skis, poles and bindings and then learn to ski.  I was an underpaid teacher at the time so I felt that if that 8-year old boy over there could do it, so could I.  So I bought a lift ticket to the top of Elk with this thought in mind:

“When I get off the lift at the top, I’ll have to get down.”  That was my rational.  Some people call it an accident waiting to happen, but I called it a cheap way to learn how to ski.

I became a fair skier and can say, honestly, that I never took a bad fall and never broke any part of my body that I would need on Monday morning.

My next task was to become a competent nordic skier.  That was not as easy as it sounds.  In those years, the only people who cross-country skied were Swedes, Norwegians and a few Finnish with a dozen Laplanders thrown in.  I was Irish.  I knew my wool and my ale, but I did not know the proper way to be good at this sport.  At the time, I lived in a remote farm-house.  There were plenty of fields to practice but there was the problem of barbed-wire and stone walls that surrounded the pastures and open spaces.  I tried a few golf courses, but the snowmobilers quickly took those spaces for themselves.

But, not all was lost.  I lived a few miles from a lake.  They are flat and most of the time have thick ice layers.  With the exception of a few people who, for reasons I could never understand, would drill holes in the ice and stand or sit for hours in temperatures of 4 F to catch a fish, I had the lake to myself.  Luckily, there weren’t too many of these types around.

~~~

It was a Sunday afternoon in January and I felt like having a beer.  Now, most normal people would drive a car to the bar and go inside to sit and drink.

I decided to ski across the lake and have a beer after I stuck my skis in a snow mound beside the front door.

I parked the car directly across the lake from the bar in question.  About a mile and a half separated me and my car from the beer I was hoping for.  I took my gear down to the lake’s edge, snapped on my skis and took off with the distant bar in full sight.

Then it happened.

The western sky quickly turned dark, like the clouds had been waiting for me to get about halfway across the ice.

The actual skiing was great.  Smooth wind packed snow with an occasional patch of black ice.  It was on the open and totally slick ice that I had nothing to edge into so my skis began behaving like skates.  I was doing figure 8’s.  I even did a figure 3 but I had no idea how that happened.  I decided to take off the skis and walk across the large glassy ice floes.

The clouds were moving closer and getting darker.

The snow squall began without warning and became so intense that I lost all reference points, except, as mentioned above, my boots.  I didn’t have goggles but I had black horn-rim glasses.  These quickly became covered with an inch of sleet-like snow.  I couldn’t see…and even if I could, there was nothing to see.  I turned around twice which succeeded in only disorienting me totally.

I was lost in a snowstorm on a lake in the wilds of northeastern Pennsylvania.

I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat down and laid the skis across my knees.

This is how they’ll find me in three weeks when the storm lets up, I thought.  Or, maybe the spring melt would come and I would sink to the bottom, baffling SCUBA divers for years to come.  I might even become a legend as a result.  Or at least a folk song that the country & western band would play at the very bar where I was attempting to get my beer.

The squall ended as quickly as it began.  I could see the lights of the bar (it was dark now).  I continued on my way.

As I expected to do, I stuck my skis and poles into a snow bank by the front door, went in and ordered a beer.  I even had two.

But I asked for a ride back across the lake to my car.

Skiing and drinking can be a lethal combination.

SkisCrevassAK

[Yes, this is me straddling a crevasse. It was taken in Alaska, not Pennsylvania. I just thought you’d find it interesting.]

The Odyssey Westward: Travels Part 1

Go my sons, put away your books.  Buy yourself stout shoes.  Walk the hills, the mountains, the valleys and the deserts.  In this way, and no other, can you learn of the world and its ways.

–Paraphrased from a quote on a 3 x 5 index card clipped to the dashboard of a ’60s VW driven by a California fellow named Fritz.  I spent two summers camping and working in the remote regions of the Juneau Icefield, Alaska.  We were field assistants for two geologists.  I have not seen or heard from Fritz in over forty-five years.  Fritz, if you’re out there, you challenged me to give meaning to the quote you had in your car.  The passage was credited to a “Severinus”.

–I would like to dedicate this series of posts to:

  • My brother, Chris.
  • My daughter, Erin, Bob, my son-in-law and my grandson, Elias Muir.  They are on a journey as well.
  • My son, Brian. who is on the pier, ready for the voyage of his life.
  • My wife, Mariam, for being beside me and sharing this trek, in life and on the road.
  • All my family, friends, lovers and followers who have stood by me.

I don’t know why you say good-bye…I say hello.

–The Beatles

I am at the beginning of a cross-country drive to Orting, WA, near Tacoma.  I am going to visit my daughter and 8 month old grandson.  My wife and I are pulling a small RV (an R-Pod).  It’s cheaper than dozens of motels and we can eat the food we want to eat.  I’d like to say we can shower, but a shower it isn’t.  I can wash my hair if I get on my knees and worship the plastic booth and toilet using the spray extension.  [Memo to self: keep the toilet and booth clean].

So, why am I doing this? After all, I’ve driven from the Seattle area back to New York State before.  Several times.  But I was young then, and stronger and more able to stay awake for long stretches of time.  I just turned 66 years old.  I don’t have the stamina I had then.  Tent camping was an option, but the schlepping factor and the rainy nights on the Great Plains put an end to those thoughts.

I want to use this opportunity to see the heartland of the USA, in the way John Steinbeck (Travels With Charley) and William Least-Heat Moon (Blue Highways) did.  On the “blue highways”.  I want to see the silos, the endless cornfields, the infinite acres of wheat, the amber grains, the greasy-spoon diners, the cowboy bars, the honky-tonk, the music festivals, the fruit stands, how Autumn comes to the grasslands and Rockies, the virtuous farm girls sitting on split-rail fences wearing bandanas around their sun-burned necks (and those not so virtuous with partly unbuttoned calico blouses) and to see the sunset and rise from vantage points I haven’t seen in decades.

Friends! Stick out your thumb and hitch a ride with us.  We have no backseat, but we’ll squeeze you in somehow…and together we can point out the interesting sights together.

You only go ’round once in life…or maybe twice.

But who really knows?

Image

 

To be continued.

The Whistle-Stop Girl of Montana

The gentle swaying of the coach of the train was lulling me to sleep.  I had spent the night at Union Station in Chicago waiting for the early morning departure of the Great Northern, bound for Seattle.  It was a long lay-over and I was tired.  After watching the western suburbs of the Windy City I made the mistake of closing my eyes.  Soon I was dreaming of the Rocky Mountains and points west.  I was due in Juneau, Alaska in four days.  I and another student were hired as seasonal assistants to two geologists from the USGS and we were to continue collecting rock samples and mapping on the Juneau Icefield, picking up where we had left off and the end of the 1967 field season.

I had just turned nineteen.  It was early summer of 1968.

I sat alone; deep in thoughts of the glaciers, and then in a moment, lost in the fog of slumber.

When I awoke and pulled the shade up, I was nearly blinded by the glare of the wheat and corn of the prairie states.  I studied the endless acres and occasional farm-house.  A boy was sitting on a split-log fence watching the train speed past.  Behind him was a small barn and a small grain silo and behind that was his modest little house.  He wore bib overalls and looked to be about ten years old.  He held firmly to the wood rail and waved vigorously at the passengers that were looking at him.  I waved back and he seemed to look only at me.  Perhaps, I thought, I was the only passenger that bothered to wave back to him.  I’m sure he knew the timetables well and went to the fence just for a chance to wave…and be seen by so many strangers heading west.  I felt a pang of sorrow for the boy.  He was lonely, I was sure of it.  After all, where were his brothers and sisters?  I think he had no one but us.  I waved until he faded into the distance.

For some reason, I’ve been think of that little boy and wondered what happened to him in life.

At each town we stopped at, more people got on the train.  I recall my car being nearly filled.  I pulled out a copy of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and read.  Suddenly, I was aware of a boy coming through the sliding doors from the forward cars.  He came to my seat (I was in the front seat so I had more leg room) and stood looking at me.

“Hi, there,” I said.

“I have a message for you,” he replied.

I didn’t understand.  Was this some kind of game?

“Oh, really,” I said to him as I turned sideways in my seat to face him.  “What would that message be?”

“Two cars up,” he pointed in the direction he came from.  “There’s a girl, she wants you to come up and sit with her.”

I was stunned at first, then quickly became curious.

“Who is she?” I asked.

“She didn’t say, but she has a blue shirt on.”

He moved toward the sliding door and turned.  “She waiting for you.”  He was gone.

Just a game, I said to myself.  I returned to Steinbeck.  I read a chapter.  I closed the book and stared at the magazine rack in front of me.

I got up and made my way to the forward cars.  Two cars up…blue shirt, I kept whispering.

The moment I entered the second car I saw her.  She was sitting in the last row on the left.  She was about my age and was clutching a pillow.  By her feet was a small duffel bag.

She had a blue shirt on.

I ignored her and walked to the front of the car pretending to look for a new magazine.  I turned and went back along the aisle.  When I got to her seat I noticed she had moved to the center.  I slowed and looked at her.  She nodded her head toward the empty seat.  I sat down.  We introduced ourselves.  I confess, I forgot her name, so I’ll call her Ellen.

We joked about the boy with the message.  She said she noticed me when she boarded a few stops west of Chicago.  Seeing I was napping she went by me.  She said I looked “interesting”.

I looked out the window and saw that the sun was setting and darkness was falling on the northern Great Plains.

A tingle went down my spine and butterflies swarmed my stomach when she reached over and with confidence and gentleness, took my hand in hers.  I put my arm around her shoulder and as the sun slipped below the western horizon, we kissed.

She told me she was going home after spending a month in a church camp outside of Chicago.  Yes, she was going home.  I asked her where home was and she said the name of a Montana town that I never heard of.  Her family, she told me, had a ranch and they raised cattle.  Everyone around her owned an active ranch.  It was Montana cattle country.

I held onto her.  She did not want to be alone for this journey back home.  We nestled together on the three empty seats and made an effort to sleep.  After about fifteen minutes of shifting around to find the comfort zone, she raised her head.  Her eyes looked dewy in the dim light of the coach.  It was 11:45 PM.  Her lips were full and locks of her hair fell onto her forehead.  Her arm was around my waist.  She’d been busy thinking.

“Would you like to get a sleeper cabin?” she asked, her eyes were fixed on mine.

“Sure,” I said. “But I think the car is full.”

“I’m going to talk to the porter…I’ll work it out,” she whispered.  She slipped her sneakers on and went back toward the sleepers.

Suddenly, I was terrified of what might happen.  A year earlier, a priest said something to me in the Confessional that was clinging to me like Super Glue.  I won’t reveal details, but he said that more people were burning in the fires of hell FOR ALL ETERNITY for sins of flesh than any other transgression against God (combined, I’m sure).  I struggled with these thoughts as I matured and became more intimate with the opposite sex.  I was soon to be twenty, young and strong, but felt in my soul like a little errant altar boy. So I wrestled with desiring the sweetness of a woman and fearing the fires of hell.

I was morally conflicted.  Would I be strong tonight?  Yes, I told myself, Ellen just wants to be cuddled and I just wanted not to be seared on both sides in fires that would never diminish.  Never.

Ellen came back.  I held my breath.

“The porter said there was nothing he could do.”

I felt a jolt of frustration and anger while, at the very same instant, relieved that the choice I would have faced was taken away.

I pulled her toward me and we stretched back.  She had been carrying a light blanket, which I grabbed and pulled over the two of us while we slept.  But we didn’t fall asleep until I gave her a long, warm and gentle kiss on the top of her copper hair.

When we awoke, we were half-way across Montana.  Her stop was to be in the middle of the afternoon.  We had seven hours to talk, kiss and hold onto each other.  I went off to the food car and brought back snacks for us to munch on while the hours slipped by.

It was around noon when she looked up at me and said something that caught me totally off guard.

“Why don’t you get off with me and come to the ranch?  You can stay a few days and then my dad and I will drive you back to the station.”

“But I have to be in Juneau in two days,” I said, my mind racing and full of ideas.

“You can call them and tell them you’ll be a day late.”

“I…”

I looked out of the window and saw the wheat fields and gently rolling hills of Montana pass.  I thought about this offer.  Yes, I could call the USGS office in Juneau and say I was delayed a day or two.  I would go to her ranch, meet her family, share their meals and maybe even mend a barbed wire fence somewhere out on the south forty.  I would ride a horse.  They’d teach me how to twirl a lariat.  I would be asked to brand a few head of cattle (I’d politely decline).  I might buy cowboy boots.  Wear dirty jeans.  The family would surely give me an old Stetson.  Her brothers would like me.  Her sisters would flirt with me.  I’d sip ice-cold lemonade in the shade of a cotton-wood tree, hidden from the blinding glare and blazing afternoon heat in the Land of the Big Sky.  I’d breathe the dust and soil of the ranch country.

She tugged at my hand and asked what I was thinking about and would I consider her offer.

I didn’t know what to say.

Her station was beyond Billings.  We passed through there two hours earlier.  I began to have the butterflies in my gut once again.  I was a free young man.  I was free to make choices for my life.  The only thing that could stop me was myself.  Was I going to follow the expectations of my parents?

The conductor came through the car and called out the next dozen stops.  Ellen’s was the ninth one.

What was I going to do?  She clung to me and I to her.  She started to cry…just a little tear but it was real.  I think she felt she knew what my choice was going to be.  But I didn’t know what I was going to do.

We came slowly to the station where she would get off.  It was only a small platform, a small building and few pick up trucks.  It was a real whistle-stop.  A dusty road, straight as an arrow, went south.

She slowly took up her things.  We folded the blanket.  She held her pillow on her chest and both arms held it tight to her body.

I was nearly ready to say yes, let’s go, but I didn’t.  I stood on the platform and looked into Ellen’s blue eyes.  They were as blue and deep and open as the Montana sky.  She had wiped away the few tears and looked at me, our eyes steady.  She glanced around and said her dad would be along soon.  I heard bells and the short blasts from the engine.  I heard the “ALL ABOARD” from the conductor, who was looking at the only one who wasn’t on board, me.

I put my arms around her, the pillow separating our bodies.  I kissed her one final time and stepped back onto the stairs.  The train jerked to a slow start.  She turned her body to me as I became more and more distant.  I waved.  She blew me a kiss.  I watched her until there was nothing more to see, except the tiny red speck of one of the pick up trucks.  Soon, even that was lost among the prairie of the Big Sky country.

I went back to the empty seat.  It was my turn to let the tears fall down my cheeks.

[A note to Ellen:  Ellen, is your hair a little grey now?  Are you a grandmother?  I’ll bet you’re a really good one if you are.  Did you marry a nice man who treated you with love and respect?  Did you have a daughter?  Does she run a ranch?  A son? Did he survive the wars to come home to help your father.  I imagine your parents are buried now, in a plot under the shade of a cotton wood tree beside a white church.  If you are online and reading blogs, I want to say something to you.  I didn’t forget your name because you were not important to me.  I just got old.  I forget things.  Indeed, I loved you in a certain way that didn’t require years to germinate.    Even though we spent only about thirty hours together, they were our moments.  They were a tiny slice in the vast experiences of life.  One thing is certain: No one can mention Montana without your image coming to mind.  We will never cross paths again in this life, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know each other, would we?  Not unless I happen to see a pretty young woman with blue eyes and golden hair clutching a pillow on a platform, in a prairie, at a whistle-stop, on a hot summer afternoon…with a Big Sky overhead.]

Good-bye, Ellen…you’ll aways be Ellen to me.

Image

Now It’s Time to Get Real

For a number of months now, I’ve been posting short blogs that were mostly fiction in nature.  Among these were a few that were based on memories and dreams (reality or wish based?). Today, I’m going to begin to mix it up a bit with non-fiction ramblings and musings.  

This is where I get to mention my absolutely brand new book titled “In All The Wrong Places.”  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJG0BXY

 

I am very pleased to offer this work to you.  I’m proud of the content I’ve chosen.  It is a collection of short stories and non-fiction.  In this book, you’ll meet Gnomes, Ghosts, Wicked Women, Loneliness, Loss and even a Mountain Nymph.  And there’s more, of course.  Seventeen pieces in all for you to sit back at the beach (don’t forget the SPF), curled up in bed, under two trees in a hammock, in a tent hidden in the forest or while stretched out on a cheesy mattress in a cheap motel outside Del Rio, Texas.  

So, come with me while I walk forgotten trails, sit on cliff-sides, pace city streets and wander dark alleys.  But you’ll be safe with me.  After all, the things that creep alongside us, hide in the shadows behind us exist only in my head.  In my brain that can’t stop wondering about lives and destinies of everyone I pass on the road or watch from a trolley window.

We are all held together by some kind of unknown chain…come and be a link in that chain.

I would like you to share your own dreams via my website:  http://www.patrickjegan.com

Love to you all on the eve of May, the month of my 20th anniversary, my birthday and the rebirth of the flowers that finally have a place to grow without the incessant snow. 

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Lost On A Glacier in Alaska

Let me begin by setting the historical record straight, to slow the nay-sayers and bloggers who would be only too happy to challenge and dissect all that I am about to relate.  I was never lost ON a glacier (not in this story, anyway) but about nine feet from the lip of ice that marked the terminus.  I had stepped off the ice as easily as the last rung of a low ladder.  I walked about nine feet and became stuck in the quick sand.  If one stood perfectly still, one was fine.  But any movement from your boots and the fine silt would begin to liquify, grab your feet and you would slowly begin sinking.  You would be stuck and dragged down faster than if you met a red-headed hooker on a warm and thirsty afternoon in Texarkana.

It was late August, 1964, the end of the field season for the scientists on the Juneau Icefield. I was just seventeen and the youngest, to date, person to be accepted to work on the Icefield. My duties were to help the research scientists gather data on ice flow, collect and collate weather observations and to carry equipment.  Being a fit teenager, I carried more than my share of pack loads up nunataks to the camps or ski behind what passed for snowmobiles in the mid-sixties.

The season was now over.  But getting several dozen personal off the Icefield and back to Juneau presented a formidable challenge to the Staff.  It ended up working out like this: the group of botanists were to get a helicopter ride to a chosen location on the outwash plain of the Norris Glacier.  There they were to establish a camp and await the rest of the scientists. My team was chosen to make the descent of the Norris on foot…with full packs (60+ pounds).  This group included my brother, Chris, a graduate student from Bagdad (who had never seen snow in his life before that summer), and three others. The remainder of the large group would be making the trip on foot in a few day. During our descent, which took two full days, we were forced to bivouac for a night on a mountain side.  It rained and I woke in the morning wrapped in wet down-filled mummy bag that had turned from a 3 lb. sleeping bag to a 20 lb. mass of soaking wet feathers.  I squeezed it out like a kitchen rag and tied it to my packframe.

When we stepped off the glacier there was no sign of the advance team of botanists.  No doubt they were out somewhere in the few square miles around us with their noses among the moss and lichen.  By now it was late in the day and by now we realized we were quite lost.  We had run out of food, we were wet, chilled and as I said…lost.  None of us displayed any emotion, but I was very concerned (read near panic stricken) by the thought of our isolation.

We decided to split into two groups: my brother and I were to head in one direction, the others were to hike away from us.  In this way, we thought, we’d cover more ground and locate the botanists quicker.  When we parted, I felt my gut begin to heave with unsettled nerves. [Today the area is a landing spot for tourists who want to walk on a glacier.  Sight-seeing planes fly over often.  THIS WAS NOT THE CASE IN 1964!]  Chris and I hiked for an hour or so (it stays light quite late even in August) before deciding to camp.  Camp? I thought.  Where? How? With what?. We shared the last of a large bland cracker.  I pulled out my sleeping bag and it dripped onto my boots.  My spirits, what was left of them, sank. You can share my bag, Chris said.  He had kept his dry…somehow.  I nodded and prepare to ‘put in’ for the night.  I have never felt lonelier in my life.  I honestly felt that our situation had slipped rapidly into the danger (lethal) zone.  I reached into my pack and withdrew a packet of letters.  These were the collected ‘love letters’ from my girl friend (see my Post “Dear John” for additional information) I had received by mail drops throughout the summer.  I walked off among the short pines and placed the bundle under a 6 foot tree.  Someone would find them when it was all over.  Someone would know a little about me.  Was it raindrops or my tears that made the ink run?  I crawled in with Chris and actually fell asleep.  (Chris passed away in 1995.  I miss him.)

In the morning we somehow rejoined the other three.  They had located a bright orange notebook planted atop a small muddy hill with directions on how to get to the botanist’s camp.  Wrapped in a plastic bag was a sizable chocolate bar for us.  I nearly cried with relief.  I was starving but to thank the mountain god that guided us, I gave my share of the chocolate to the others.  We walked off. We were “Brave Mountaineers” as Gordon Lightfoot once sang.

I flew over the site with my wife in a tourist plane in August, 2010, 46 years after that adventure. I looked down for a sizable pine tree…there were many.  But letters and ink and past emotions have long ago decayed and became part of the lichen-covered glacial soil.