Saturday, March 12, 2011
As we were breaking through the ice today Feral was in the front of the skiff, climbing on top of the bow as the ice crunched and groaned giving way to our motion; I feared this meant she was considering jumping out, so I held on to her. I mean, to a dopey cat the ice probably looks like terra firma, and surely is more pleasant than this noisy, bouncy skiff (which was not bouncy at this slow speed). Rick was actually heading through the ice towards an open part of water for easier maneuvering . I had been making pictures, and somehow between my holding on to Feral and letting go to reach for the camera SHE F**#ING JUMPED ONTO THE ICE! She jumped onto the ice and started walking away from the skiff! Sh*t! What the hell can you do? The ice wouldn't hold my weight to go after her. Of course we frantically called to her, but do you think there was any way she was going to come to us as we tried first firmness and then cajoling? I tried saying, “Feral, NO!” in that bossy voice I use on Rick, but she continued heading away from us, exuding Pure Cat, doing whatever the hell she wanted. And right now what she wanted was to walk directly towards shore, looking back tauntingly over her shoulder at us, twitching her tail in that nyaany-annny-annn-yaaaa manner cats have when they ignore humankind's useless commands.
Oh my god I felt sick inside as I ordered Rick around and god knows what I was saying and I was afraid that if we followed right behind her it would scare her and cause her to move faster towards the edge of the ice and I don’t really remember what we did as we watched her walk farther away from us towards that open span of water but I know we weren't moving and I know we were calling to her and I was freaked and freaked and panicked and thinking about where she would go and what she would do once she fell through the ice and if she'd end up under the ice and it was terrible terrible terrible and absolutely terrifying!
What seemed like an hour probably took less than a minute. Feral kept walking towards the edge as we did whatever we were doing, and then it happened. She stepped onto thin ice and was in the water in a matter of seconds. SH****T! She was about twenty yards from us and I was calling to her as Rick barreled through the ice to get to the open water and Feral was flailing madly, head above the water, ears flat back, trying to get a grip on the pieces of floating ice and screaming that short, piercing yowl of hers when she is terrified. She kept grasping at ice, gaining no solid ground, and at one point her little head went underwater after a wicked piece of ice ditched her, and I was ready to jump in after her, but by now we had almost reached the open water. It wasn't until then that we could actually hear that heart-wrenching scream of hers; clearly this little puddy did not realize that screaming while struggling in ice-cold water is not a good way to conserve one’s energy, nor to avoid taking in great gulps of salt water.
I am literally trembling as I write this. Once we were in the water Rick was able to bring the skiff towards her and I was calling to her, and she was looking at us and paddling madly and screaming madly and I tried to reach her from my side and as I leaned over the water she was too far away and I was telling Rick I couldn’t reach her—where’s the halibut net when you need it—and then he managed to get the stern close enough, and he reached in and grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, scooped her into his arms, and handed her off to me. OH!!!! God, how I grabbed that wet, scrawny little pudster and wrapped my arms around her on my lap, hunching my body over her to warm her, never ever to let her go. She didn’t say anything at first, but sat there, hunkered down, letting me sqeeze the water out of her paws, while I gasped out another of what was probably a torrent of commands, “Home, Rick, we’re going home.”
The ride back was quick but long, if you know what I mean, and occasionally Feral would quiver and even muster a few feeble Yowls of the Wild, just for good measure. When we reached the dock I never let go of her, never helped Rick tie up and abandoned him, leaving the cameras, the shovels and everything as I headed up to the house with my soggy little ward. We had pulled out a towel stashed with my cameras, and had wrapped it around her, and as she and I got halfway up the boardwalk Feral wriggled out of the towel, ready to walk the rest of the way up the boardwalk herself. She followed me, trilling and trotting behind, just as she would on a normal day, as if she had not just narrowly escaped joining the sea stars at the bottom of the bay. Is this resiliency why cats have nine lives?
Friday, March 11, 2011
Clean dishes, clean laundry, clean hillbillies--one happy crew after a 12-day drought. Feral, always fastidiously clean, shot this epic photograph.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Chase and Hillary Bell are back in Alaska after their honeymoon in Thailand, and stopped by the bay on their way back from False Island to Petersburg.
Chase bought this big landing craft last summer in Kotzebue and barely made it back to Sitka in time for their wedding in September. I can't pronounce the 14-letter Inuit name of the boat, but it will be called Lituya as soon as the paperwork comes through.
The Afognak left the next day during our snowstorm.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
This is a snag on the point across Sadie Creek from the lodge. A definite eagle hang out!
This is how you fix the melted top of a hot air popper if you're living in the wilderness and don't have access to a hardware store or Costco. We are actually using the melted base with a modified plastic oil container screwed onto it and a baseball cap to deflect popcorn into the bowl. There's a quality control inspector keeping an eye on things on the left side of the popper.