Baby, Book & Boat: Squirmy, Listed, & Tetchy

We’ll begin with the boat. You can make out the pinprick of her just beyond the airport in this photo, tied up at the harbor.

Mid-March, a few days after flying in, I woke to a call  from a buddy on the docks that the high-water alarm was going off. Ran down to find water above the floorboards in the engine room. We got a couple pumps on the boat, pumped ahead of it. I spent the rest of the day scraping the seams with a wire brush and spraying in foam to possible leak culprits. A diver spread sawdust through the water to try and find any infiltrations. We watched the bilge to see where it might come in. But no luck. Who knows – the sawdust could have found its way into the leak, or the spray might have worked.

Once again things on the Adak seem to happen on bluebird Sitka days. This happened, keep in mind, two days after I arrived home. As the docks were humming with action of the herring opening – much smaller this year, thank goodness. (Surprise surprise! Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game gives a quota of 29,000 tons one year, and guess what? You’re not going to have that many fish in the coming years.) Here’s a pic of a seiner tied off near the Adak.

Colorado was somewhere in the belly of the plane when I took the pick of flying into Sitka, his floppy doggy ears popping with the change of pressure. He was a trooper at the Oakland airport, getting his last bit of California sunlight before loading up. He’s becoming an old pro, sad to say.

The day I flew in it snowed. The four of us – Rach, myself, Dog, and the wee one, cruised around in the early morning light. Boats coated in snow rocked in the harbor. Town, rocks appeared anointed by the white  and  morning sun. Later on that day Colorado made it clear to both of us that he had no plans to play second fiddle to any incoming baby. We duly took his point.

Shortly after the drama on the Adak we got to witness a Sitka Slayers Roller Derby match, which was stunning. There’s a good article to be written, I think, on how Roller Derby has taken Alaska by storm. It’s not like fishing, or lumberjacking, all traditional provinces of men, where women are challenged to be more, well, male, to participate. Roller derby has its own thing going on, with a particular ghoulish, even circus quality, how these gals exaggerate their makeup, wear sequins, then knock the shit out of each other with toothy grins and invented names. You can see a few here from Petersburg. “Gill WreckHer.” “Pink Slammin.” Brilliant. The match was thrilling. I look forward to the next one.

The baby has taken to waking R up in the early morning hours. This happened at 330 AM, March 17th. The same night of a freaky amount of solar storms. Which means Northern Lights. R went to the window and gasped. “Oh my.”

So in nightgown and pajamas we hiked up Gavan trail and stood there, the four of us, even the dog looking up as the night sky shivered green overhead. Glock 20 heavy in the coat pocket for bears, which had been reported in the area. It was magical, as if gods were taking a comb to the firmament. And for me, one of the first heart-level moments of Yes. Family.

Speaking of family of a different sort, I  should mention January 25th, Burns Supper here in Oakland. The Stegners came through in full form with the Toast to the Lassies and Eternal Memory and Response to the Toast to the Lassies. Utter brilliance from the lot.

My haggis, on the other hand … not so much. It started off well. I made it with lamb bacon and cow bung, Alaska venison and oatmeal. Then it exploded in the boiling water. I cursed and spat in the shower. But a bottle of single malt made it better.  That and the Stegners and good friends, all with their brilliance and good cheer.

The book: things are looking good! Houghton Mifflin has officially put “The Alaskan Laundry” on the Spring 2016 list. I just flew in from Minneapolis, the AWP conference, where it was fun to spread the good word of the release.  I haven’t seen cover design yet, but it’s in the works. I’ll be finishing the Stegner here in California, then heading up to fish this summer, and also teach for the Fine Arts Camp. Although plans are quickly changing. More on that in a moment.

It was good back in Alaska to see the boys. We got in a poker night on the Sitka Spruce, stoked up the wood box, crossed our fingers that the pumps kept working, and started throwing money around. These boys make my heart go pitter-patter. What can I say? It was good to get a dose of these fellas.

And finally – the sweet little one, who I get to feel move beneath my hand. She’s running out of room in there, so it’s less kicking and more these long, painterly strokes over the inside of Rachel’s belly. I can tell she’s curious, how she explores in there. Music calms her. She’s a quirky peanut, always shifting, insistent when she needs to be.

The tough news is that our doctor in Sitka considered Rach’s low amniotic fluid a risk for the pregnancy, and so Rachel arrived last night here in California to see a specialist. So we’ll be having a California girl. It was a scramble coming back from Minneapolis to transform what had become a bachelor pad into a soon-to-be mother pad. But this was done. And now Lake Merritt will be our home for a little while, and Stegner friends the support system. One perk is I’ve been able to practice down here with a sweet little one in our group of friends who is just a love.

And, of course, it’s a thick silver lining to have Rachel near, so we can share these last seven weeks together. Barring, of course, the possibility that the doctors will want the little one out early.

Colorado has been very supportive, sticking near Rachel, always sleeping on her side, and being extra snuggly when required. He is such the perfect dog, with a scary amount of sensitivity. As I said before, he’s become a pro getting into his kennel. Here he is being loaded back up on the plane for the return trip to California – a state he had thought he left behind. As usual, he commands attention, even from the baggage handlers. He’s such a diva.

It will all work out, we know, when it comes to this, the most important of the Three Bs. She’ll get to take walks around sweet Lake Merritt in her snuggly. Soon.

We’re just so eager to meet her.


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