Tuesday, January 19, 2016


We drove to Idaho this past weekend to visit with one of our sons and his family. The road was fine, but we went through several patches of thick fog. For long stretches of time, it was hard to tell the sky from the ground.

Even when the fog lifted at brief moments, the world beyond the fog was all white and gray. In the fog, my eyes strained to see very far ahead of me, but I had to wear sunglasses because the glare was so intense. It was bleak and it was beautiful.

I am reminded that the way we look at things can often make them become what we want to see or expect to see. The angle I look from, the lens I use. . . all of these make a difference in my seeing. I try to keep positive, to look from a position of goodness, but sometimes life events make that difficult. I hope the hours of driving, of striving to see well, will be a good reminder to look well, to see good no matter what.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I had to give a keynote address a few months ago. The theme of the conference was "Students as Explorers, Teachers as Guides." I developed the center of the talk to teachers by comparing different kinds of guides I've had experience with through the years with different kinds of teachers.

When I went to develop the part about students as explorers, I tried to consider all kinds of explorers. I was giving the address at a conference in Yosemite, so, naturally, I did some research on explorers in that area. That was very interesting. But I also considered explorers in my own life. As I did so, I recalled that both sets of my grandparents had moved to Alaska when my parents were still in high school, before it was a state. I know what the state was like when I was growing up: primitive in so many ways compared to the way we live here and now. I think about how long it would have taken them to get there and how seldom they would have been able to see the family members left behind in Oregon and Idaho. Leaving like that--moving to somewhere far away and without the communication conveniences of today--would have been a difficult choice to make. But both sets of grandparents did it.

What an example of exploration, of the risk-taking and adventuring explorers through the ages have needed. I have that in my heritage, and I shouldn't forget it. I am proud of people I came from.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

ice and snow

I am not a fan of winter: ice, snow, cold, and more cold. Yes, I was born and raised in Alaska and lived there the majority of my life. People think that means I must like winter or at least be used to it. I'm sorry. Extended time in dark winter does not make a person like it. It could be just the opposite. My father-in-law and I used to dread the signs of impending winter in Alaska: when the fireweed blooms at the top of the stock, when termination dust shows up on the mountain tops. We'd call each other, naming the signs, dreading the oncoming winter together.

And, after two years ago this week when I slipped on ice and ended up with a smashed wrist and (ultimately) three surgeries over 4 months to resolve the issue, I'm even more negative about winter. I walk very carefully and drive carefully and dread going when it's slick. Our house is on a hill, on the very spot where cars seem to spin out (going up) or start the slide (going down), so I know the sounds of slick before I even look out the window. I dread the big piles of dirty snow that get plowed up along the sidewalks and then turn to ice as the days warm and cool. It's all yuck to me.

But then there are moments of beauty in winter that make me pause and consider the other side, too. The shimmering icicles. The moon on the fresh snow. The loveliness of snow falling softly through the glow of streetlamps.

And so I try to remember that there is beauty around me, even during the winter. And there is beauty in people I might not normally like. . . and in so many other aspects of life. I can find beauty if I look for it.