Friday, November 30, 2007

Going Visiting

Packing the books and clean socks; all traveling electronics on their chargers. Mother eagerly counting the hours until I arrive. Am bringing the Mishra and Doig books, a library-owned mystery, Chris Rose's Katrina book (which I brought last time, too, and keep not starting), three purpose-bought mysteries, two more stray paperbacks. It may not be enough.

Storm coming. The forecast says there might be snow. I'm not sorry to miss it, having cheerfully imagined—when I left Santa Fe's 7000' winters—that I was moving to someplace wet and cool, yes, but above all equable; and did not expect even windshield frost, nevermind snow. It frosts... surprise!!!... when the humidity is high and then the sky suddenly clears and the temperature drops. If it hasn't been raining, or there's a heavy overcast, there might be no frost. Anyway down where the instruments are, on the streets of town, the temperature doesn't drop to freezing very often. Up here, yes. And in the open: if there's frost on the windshield up here, there's usually frost on the fields out by the tribal center at nearly sea level.

A few days ago it dumped down snow at M.'s house in the woods, elevation about 1000 feet; only rain here at 475 feet. Luckily I won't know if it snows tomorrow, I'll be en route to my mother's fold-out couch in the desert, and can go on fooling myself about the climate of my new home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Long Sightlines (North)

This is actually all I see through the kitchen window, little slices between trees:

but I know what's out there. From behind the house, positioned for widest view, here are town, the harbor, Ediz Hook, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Victoria on the Vancouver Island shore.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reading News

Heading for Tucson this weekend, and starting to pile up the books to bring along. I had to return the Karen Armstrong, someone was waiting for it. But there's another copy, already overdue, and I am back in line for it. I hope it'll be returned in the next couple of days so I can resume reading it, and bring it with. Don't seem to be especially interested in anything else.

Much later: oh my. Starting reading Ivan Doig's Winter brothers : a season at the edge of America. It's absolutely wonderful: beautifully written and about the native peoples of this Peninsula. Well, one. The Makah.

It's basically a Really Good Thing that coming here and no longer being able to read exactly what I prefer all the time — as I was able to do at my former place of work — has forced me to widen what I'm willing to try to read. Reading is more like a radio station with occasionally eclectic programming, chance widening the pleasure zone; and less like a party tape of songs, even a really good one.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Winter Begins

Perfectly clear morning. Up on Hurricane Ridge (5200') the temperature was about 22 degrees, there was no wind, and it's only snowed a couple of feet there so far. The snow on the Bailey Range doesn't yet reach very far down. But beginning to look wintry.

Click for really big image.

Long Sightlines

The clouds broke up shortly before sunset. Klahhane Ridge looking just fine from the driveway, no?

The phrase 'long sightlines' comes from the person in this world I've known the longest, Mark L., now in North Carolina. Our mothers were pregnant together, and we began as cribmates, an altogether worrisome number of decades ago...

Click for larger image

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Horse Survives By Goring Elk

Having said weeks and weeks ago — before taking the job with the Elwha Klallam — that I would be happy to volunteer to index the local paper, I feel obliged to follow through for at least a few months. Thus found myself this morning, half-asleep in the back room of the Public Library, typing an entry in as above in title; and didn't see until looking at the article for about the fifth time that it's actually "Horse Survives Goring By Elk: rutting wildlife bursts into a field in Forks".

Apparently all the really entertaining news comes from Forks, which is about 50 miles west of here but still in Clallam County. (My brief as an indexer is only for Clallam County, I'm to ignore articles about Jefferson County...) Forks School District may postpone completing the remodeling of the oldest portion (1925) of Forks High School because the movie company getting ready to film Twilight — a wildly popular teen novel about vampires which takes place in Forks — may want to use the leaky old school as a location. Forest poachers are working out of Forks: "Cedar thieves pilfer Peninsula cedar trees." "Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows closure of Forks Municipal Airport for drag racing sessions."

PS Why did the vampires settle in Forks? Because the sun almost never shines. Average annual rainfall, 118 inches. In 1999, 161 inches !!!! (And they nonetheless may let the high school go on leaking...)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Did I Mention

We stayed until sunset. Tide was still ebbing at sunset, amazingly low. It was a trip to see M. standing down by the water, and glance up the beach to the height the water had been when we arrived at high tide at noon. Nine feet of difference and you could SEE it.

Across Ellen Creek and Through the Arch

Thanksgiving. There was a minus tide right at sunset, so the tide was falling all afternoon. Surprisingly many people apparently have the habit of reading tidetables, and assessing the weather; and a fair number of them decided to spend their bright cold Thanksgiving going through the arch called Hole-in-the-Rock, at the end of Rialto Beach...
Looking back from beyond the arch...
M. tidepooling
Rock grained like wood, wood pieces heaped like stones

Ample opportunities to get wet. Crossing Ellen Creek, falling in a tidepool, crossing the creek back again. There were anemones, sea stars (including a bright orange baby one smaller than a 50-cent piece), a nudibranch, a crab I never got a good look at on account of toppling into the adjacent pool. M. emailed this morning, "The sea star that was to your left after you sat on the rock is a Pacific Henricia, and the nudibranch (which could be a doris) is not pictured in any of my books, but some other great ones are! No picture of that exquisite flat green swimming worm. The crab you fell for is a mimulus foliatus."

What? Oh I'm fine. Plenty of stiff bent parts, and I'm mortified. Nothing that won't mend, except the getting old part.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Meanwhile, Somewhere Else...

... it's summer in Antarctica. Melting caused by global climate change is underway, though we mostly don't see it yet (1)(2)(3), at least not on this scale. Transantarctic Mountains from the air... (from the US Antarctic Program's Antarctic Photo Library).

OMG: look at this one... or this one... or...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recreational Driving

A friend has fallen out of the sky to spend the weekend in Port Orchard, less than two hours away. So will get up in the pitchy dark tomorrow morning to go spend the day with her. Return home in the pitchy dark again...

Pretty soon I have to start worrying about my carbon footprint. But for now, am allowing myself a lot of driving around the new 'home' turf.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Harbor Seals

At the drop of an impulse, I head for Rialto Beach. Noonish on the day after the big storm—I couldn't go to work, the tribal center still had no power— I headed out. There were signs everywhere that fallen trees had recently been cut off the roads. The surf was still heavy. I think I must live here forever if it's so easy to go see it looking like this...

Click for medium size image ; really big image.

Heading home, I stopped just inland from the beach, at a pullout overlooking the Quileute River. The Quileute is formed when the Sol Duc River, Bogachiel River, and Calawah River flow together at Three Rivers, about four miles inland. Only from there to the Pacific is it called the Quileute. There were ducks in the water, that turned out to be white-winged scoters. A bald eagle on a grassy island. Quileute fishermen from La Push in small skiffs were checking their nets on the far side of the river. A couple of great blue herons flew in. And there were two or three harbor seals: surfacing for a couple of minutes, then not so much diving as sinking away... Whenever I would get the binoculars pointed at them, they would be staring right back at me. All you could see was the head: those vibrissae, those big attentive eyes. Unquestionably, each time, social intelligence returning one's gaze.

Quileute River near sunset. Click for larger image.

Inequalities of Change

OK, this is really interesting. Sunset is NOT going to get much earlier, praise the Lord. The earliest sunset here is December 7th at 4:20 PM (and the sunset time stays the same through the 15th). Today here sunset was 4:36 PM. So we're only going to lose 16 more minutes of daylight at the afternoon end.

But sunrise is going to be a lot later. 8:04 AM from December 27th through January 6th (today it was at 7:20 AM). We get to lose 44 more minutes of light in the mornings before it turns around.

These inequalities of change all have to do with the analemma (1)(2)(3), and there's an elegant explanation page. Elegant but not simple. Just look at the graphic which is about one screen up from the bottom of the page. Makes sense to me, especially as far north as we are. The analemma is lying down...

Reading News

Finally I have been here three whole months, and my public library record is unlocked. (Actually, a merciful circ clerk released it two days early.) I rushed straight home and started entering requests for the next 20-odd titles on my wish list. I try to keep it at 24 requests, the limit being 25, so if something comes up that I want to add right away there's room for it. If I remember that I didn't get hold of The Green Glass Sea before I left New Mexico, voila, now I'm on the waiting list. Finally, it's that easy.

It is such a relief to return to my normal relationship to the flow of books. Reading greed demons, be gone!!

So I presently have checked out three mysteries, one science fiction book, and five nonfictions. And last night I gave a thorough page-through to two nonfictions that no-I-am-not-going-to-actually-read, Colin Tudge's The Tree and Eric Jay Dolin's Leviathan : the history of whaling in America. I mean, they were on my wish list for the whole three months, because I never wanted to spend any of my five checkouts on them.

Yesterday as I was happily checking out Everything I Wanted, I overheard some poor guy going through the familiar routine at the desk. "I just returned one." "Oh ok, you can have one more." Is this any way to treat your natural support base, the passionate readers? As a matter of fact, is this a respectful way to treat anybody at all? As soon as I figure out how to do it without triggering their resistance, I need to suggest ever so gently to the library that their restrictions on new card-holders are really REALLY cruel. And rude.

Winter At Hand

We had a big fierce windstorm on Monday. It threw an empty wheelbarrow towards the parked vehicles—luckily landing between two of them instead of in a windshield. It plucked all the recycling out of the tub next to the wall, and chased the flattened cans and plastic jugs into the bushes. It dropped trees on electric wires.

City Light got the power back in our neighborhood in about 10 hours, and the DSL came back three hours later. But out to the west? Whoo-eee. 98 mile-per-hour gusts reported at Clallam Bay, roads closed by fallen trees all over the Park. Clallam County Public Utility District—with its vast geographical area to cover and, as is apparently usual, experiencing the worst weather—didn't get the power back on at the Lower Elwha Tribal Center, and in Joyce to the west of the river, for more than two days. The tribe put families and oldsters up in motels.

It has made for a very short work week at the new job. And it's raining again. And oh my word, it gets dark so early now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where the River Flows Into the Strait

Light rainshower with bundled-up birders.

It rainshowered a time or two, but mostly it was sunny and crisp out there. No luck on learning gulls. You needed to look closely through one of the better scopes that the experienced birders had brought, and the stupid birds had to stay in the field of the scope long enough for you to get your turn. Moreover (further excuses), most of the gulls that were sitting around on the bar where you could easily look at them just with binoculars were what is called "Olympic" gulls, hybrids of western and glaucus-winged gulls. Extremely variable. Why even try? I stopped listening when people were calling out about all the other gulls that they were spotting.

Did do well for ducks. Oh, there were buffleheads and lesser scaups, and common and whitewinged scoters, mergansers and American widgeons and harlequin ducks. Nothing like a family of harlequin ducks paddling slowly past, all serene and perfectly beautiful, to make a frustrated novice birder feel much better. Loons. Grebes. Someone showed me a marbled murrelet in the scope, but I couldn't see its characteristics well enough to say I actually saw it. Marbled murrelets are the birds that live in coastal waters, but nest high up on the limbs of old-growth trees miles deep in the forest. When they fledge, they fly straight from their natal branch out to sea, no messin' around in trees or stopping over on ponds on their way. They are listed as threatened.

A couple of dunlin. Ooh I love shore birds. I said to one of the other birders, "If it has long legs and a long beak, I'm for it." "If it has feathers, I'm for it," she replied.

Elwha River flowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Dropdead gorgeous moment of perfectly clear sunshine-y dawn here, though the forecast insists it is going to rain this morning. Hopefully not. M. and I are going to an Audubon Society field event, a couple of hours looking at gulls at the mouth of the Elwha River; attempting to open a small chink in my total inability to perceive that gulls are not all alike...

Gulls, one must say, not seagulls. M. corrected me vigorously when I said seagull. There's no such thing, she says.

I am now and for the next 11 months the tribal librarian of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, courtesy of their IMLS grant. The prospect of being able to confine the job to the half-time contracted for is dim: I was there four extra hours yesterday while the tribe's 2-day-a-week contract techie tried to make our catalog & circ program play nice with the network. And must go an hour early on Tuesday because we are making a brief visit to the Head Start staff meeting at 8 AM, to invite them to bring their three groups of kids (NOT all at once!) for Story Hour.

Which we don't yet know how to do, but no matter.

That I am going to the river this morning; that the river and its future have been on my mental agenda since I came here; that the people of the river have offered me this position which helps me continue with my librarianly identity in this new place... these are not entirely coincidental facts, and yet, they needn't have as much to do with each other as might appear. I'm thinking how to change the subtitle of this blog, or not; and whether and with what flavor to blog about my adventures as a novice tribal librarian.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Straight Shot

Aha, the web cam on the Vancouver Island side of the Strait that looks most directly back to here is Environment Canada's air quality cam at Royal Roads, behind Esquimalt Lagoon (map). It appears to be a straight shot up the Elwha Valley into the heart of the Olympics. Here's a lightly annotated image caught by the cam at sunset Monday: (1) is 6995' Mount Carrie and the Carrie Glacier in the Bailey Range. Peeking up from behind the Bailey Range, (2) is 7965' Mount Olympus itself.

I think. Map and compass games are my passion, but that doesn't mean I'm right. Now to wait for a day when the air is crystal clear right down to the water, to puzzle out the water line and guess how far to the left (east) off the image is exactly here, the town of Port Angeles.

P.S. Yup. Mount Carrie is nearly exactly the elevation of the monument on the Plaza in Santa Fe, and Mount Olympus is at about the elevation of Black Forest Campground on the road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. On the other hand, the Olympic Mountains jump directly from sea level. The vertical relief in the image is the entire 7965 feet.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Anemone Heaven

Yesterday afternoon, Beach Four. Falling tide, pretty much nobody there but us and the seagulls...

It's on the part of the coast which belongs to Olympic National Park. Well, actually, much of the coast on the northern Olympic Peninsula does, but here highway 101 runs right along the ocean so there are places to get down. Map to see it in context.

It's very pleasing to edge up to the incoming wave and lay my hands in the foam.

Maybe I should do like the family we saw leaving the beach as me and M. were arriving. Mom, Dad and the littlies all in gumboots, they just walked right through the creek where it crossed the beach, and out into the washing-ashore receding-tide waves, sploosh sploosh.

Green sea anemone

M. went for a walk further on down the beach. I stalked sea gulls with the bird book for a while --western gulls, probably, though the book says herring gulls are more common. Then I ran amok with picking up size-sorted stones the wash of the waves had arrayed along the shore, here lentil-sized, there coin-sized; behind a log, mini-cobbles maybe the size of aspen leaves. If we had aspen leaves here. Which we do not. When M. came back she showed me there were now critters exposed in the rocks I was sitting near, orange and purple sea stars, green sea anemones, tube worms.

On our way home we detoured into the Hoh Reservation, past the Tribal Center and out to where the Hoh River flows into the Pacific. Just to see it.

Altogether an elegant way to spend the first short day of the winter. We drove back in the sunset and then the dark.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Morning Look-Around

Good-morning-world routine: Weather forecast from NOAA. Lake Crescent webcam. Hurricane Ridge webcam (for some reason this one is always greenish; greenish sky, greenish snow, whatever). Port Angeles Harbor. First Beach at La Push. The Strait from the Vancouver Island side: looking towards here from Gordon's Beach in Sooke. Ditto, from Sooke Harbor.

Of course, these are all of variable utility, depending on the weather.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Various things I haven't mentioned: frost almost every morning, some mornings the windshield requires serious scraping.

An otter at the Sol Duc Cascades, a couple or three visits ago: it was such a surprise, I barely got a glimpse before he went behind a rock. I think it couldn't have been anything else, though I didn't know when I saw it to try to look closely at the tail, which would be diagnostic. This is my third small Olympic National Park mammal. Some weeks ago watched an Aplodontia, the 'mountain beaver' who is not a beaver, near Madison Creek Falls, about a two-minute walk from the Elwha River entrance station. Robert Michael Pyle calls them sewellels. God he was cute, with his itty bitty ears and small twitchy habits. And back when I was going out to Obstruction Point, there were Olympic marmots. The marmots are all asleep now on their alpine ridges, hard to credit on a sunny day like this, but that's what Tim McNulty says: "By October, when the meadow plants have died back, the marmots have safely sealed the entrances to their grass-lined hybernation burrows and snuggled in for another long nap."

New bad bookbuying habits: as I run out of mysteries to look forward to, or facing a few days when I can't get to the library, I read one of the paperbacks I bought at the Goodwill; and if it turns out to be satisfactory, order some of the author's other titles from ABE. Presently waiting for the third of Kate Ross's titles to turn up in my PO box. (It's already listed in 'Reading News' over there to the left. No, I don't change the list every time I pick up another mystery. For one thing, some of them are really not very good, and not worth the trouble of mentioning.) I'm conflicted about buying books, because donating them to the library here likely won't get them in the collection even if I think they need this author. Like mystery readers everywhere, I hate to think of good titles other mystery readers would want to borrow ending up in the book sale. I've considered saving them up and then mailing them to My Former Place of Work, but that would make my reading habit even more complicated to indulge. If I had any sense I would just settle in and read Tim McNulty straight through about four times over—instead of just dipping into it like a reference book—and let everything else go.