Snow Walls

During the summer Valdez’s spectacular natural beauty cannot be beat. Naturalists, outdoor adventurers, and fishermen come from around the world to partake in all that Valdez has to offer, glacier and wild life cruises, fishing charters, miles and miles of hiking trails, and of course wonderful Museums. During this time there is a sense that mother nature truly has her favorites and Valdez is that place.

As the summer comes to a close there is a sense of urgency to prepare for the coming winter. The fireweed begins to bloom out. People start looking to the mountaintops to see if Sugar Loaf, a peak across the bay from Valdez, has had its first termination dust. Termination dust is a light snowfall. It is said that when Sugar Loaf has termination dust there are six more weeks until the first real snow that stays until May or June of the next year. It is a time to start stocking up on firewood; to make sure your snowplow provider is up for another year; and to start to think about your winter readiness checklist.

During the winter, Valdez is known as the snow capital of the world. On average Valdez receives over 300 inches a year. There are exceptions to that rule though. Some years Valdez has had 400, 500 and even close to 600 inches of snow. So your winter readiness checklist better prepare you for this extreme weather. In addition to putting on snow tires, making sure the anti freeze is filled up, and putting the flowerpots away, you really need to have the proper snow wall system in place.

So you might ask, what is a snow wall and why is it so necessary? Really it all starts with what kind of roof you have. A tile roof does not shed snow. This kind of roof requires the homeowner to shovel the roof. On the other hand there is something called a shed roof. That allows the snow to slide off and pile up. This type of roof is particularly useful, as you do not need to risk injury shoveling off the roof. With the convenience of a shed roof comes the need for suitable space for the massive tonnage of snow to shed.

As the snow builds up more often then not decks collapse and pathways are blocked. A proper snow wall enables inhabitants the ability to have easy access to their homes. It took four winters until we had the proper and effective snow wall system. I did not want just plywood. I just felt that was just ugly. So finally my love devised a system that was not only useful but also truly acceptable in character. As the snow builds up our snow wall can be hoisted through intricate rigging.

About four weeks ago I mentioned to my love and son that we should get the snow walls in place and rigged. Well the walls are in place now but the rigging was never completed. My love, the conceptual wizard, shared how to rig the system to our son but because of the intricacies we really did not fully understand how it truly works.

My love and I were a great team. We recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses. My love took care of things like rigging snow walls and I made sure that all the bills were paid. It was a good system. Now as I struggle with new ways of thinking I have come across a new challenge, rigging the snow walls. Living in rural Alaska takes a team effort. I know my son and I will figure this one out as well but right now our snow walls are challenging me.


One Week Later

11:28 pm November 3, 2014 is etched in my mind.  Just twenty-four hours earlier we were in bed holding each other.  As I struggle to find the words at this time, the vision of death surrounds me.  The grief is unbearable.  I mourn the loss of my best friend; my lover; my soul mate.

One week ago today I came home for lunch to find that the end was near.  I was not willing to admit it.  I was certain that this was just another setback. I truly believed that we had more time.

This thing called cancer had a different idea.  As my love lay in pain retching up more blood than seems possible I still believed that there was hope.  Once stabilized with a transfusion I kept a close eye on the monitors.  It seemed like cancer was held back.  The Doctor came in the room and said the end is near.  No, i said.  Look at the monitor.  They eventually turned the monitor off and so quietly and peacefully my best friend, my love, my soul mate passed away.

The story is much more vivid than that.  I just am not ready to put it down in words.  I fear that the words will bring too much reality to the moment.

Over the last week I have been numb.  It just cannot be real.  It is even more unreal that it has been one week later.  Today as i drove to work, I remembered the last time my love was in the car.  To ease his fear as we drove to the Emergency Room I held his hand.  I made sure we did not go through any of the bumps in the road.  All day long i kept looking at the clock to see the different milestones that occurred ones eek ago.  1:30 pm we arrived at the ER.  4:10 pm we nearly lost the battle. 5:00 pm our son arrived.  While not communicative, I believe my love knew that our son was there.  I tried to watch a little TV in the evening to pass the time.  For some reason I decided to create a new Blog instead.   I began writing at 11:21 pm because I knew that I needed a distraction from 11:28 pm.

The week has been full of new ways of thinking.  I have learned about how to get someone cremated is rural Alaska. I have learned how many death certificates a person will likely need.  I have learned that my love will be returning to me via the US Post Office.  I have learned that you can not bring cremated remains in a Folgers Coffee can on the plane.  Come to find out cremated remains have a similar composition as the explosive C4.  Therefore, my love will be in a TSA Pre Approved box.  I am sure this is just the beginning.

The one thing that came as a surprise to me is how a small town really comes together to support people who loose a loved one.  This is my 5th winter in Alaska.  While I have made a few friends, the out pouring of support was more than i anticipated.  We came from a mid-size town in Washington State.  While familial there was not this close bond that small town Alaska has.  I cannot express how much this has meant to my son and I.

I seemed to have made it through the first week.  I am looking forward to the day that my love comes home.