Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Testimony


  Today is an anniversary for me. It's one that I suppose on the one hand I would rather not be acknowledging, but then again, I guess that I'm quite happy that I can. Thirteen years ago, on February 26, 2000, I was on an airplane that crashed into Lynn Canal. Obviously I survived, so I guess for me at least, that's something to celebrate.
  Alaska, because of it's vastness and the fact that so much of the area is roadless, relies heavily on air travel to cover the long distances between villages and towns. I think per capita we have more small planes than any of the other states. Much of the commercial air travel is on small planes- Cessna's and Beaver's and whatever other small types there are. Because there is so much air traffic conducted in these small planes, and since the weather here can be so unpredictable, there seems to be a large number of airplane accidents- probably more than you would read about elsewhere. The nice part is that a good bit of them aren't fatal.
  I don't spend too much time thinking about what happened, unless of course I happen to be getting ready to board one of these small planes, and even though the odds against me being involved in another crash are pretty high, I still get a little nervous when it's time to board, especially in the winter.
  As a Christian man I guess I should be doing what I can to encourage people to get to know the Lord. This seems like a good opportunity to do that. With everything within me I'm convinced that Jesus knows exactly who I am and where I am and what I need at any given moment. I know that he cares, even when circumstances would lead me to believe otherwise, and so I will take some time to share this testimony.
  In the year 2000, a census was being conducted. I saw it as a chance to earn a little extra money, so I signed up to do it. I had to fly over to Juneau to attend a two day class. The day I went over, the sky was fairly clear, with high clouds blowing by overhead and a fairly stiff breeze that often accompanies clear days here. It was cold, as it often is in February and I wasn't enamored with having to fly over, but there was no ferry at the time and I needed to be in that class. As we were slamming up and down in the air currents I could look below and see the grey water of Icy Strait being whipped into a frenzy by the wind and whitecaps were stacked close together. I remember saying a silent prayer-"Lord I sure wouldn't want to die in a plane crash."  I no sooner thought that then I felt like God said-"You won't." Well, to say the least I felt lot's better, but never one to let an opportunity fall by the wayside I said- "Well, I wouldn't want to burn to death or drown either." Again, I felt like God spoke- "You're not going to." Needless to say, if that plane had turned upside down and the prop had fallen off I wouldn't have worried, I was that sure that God had spoken to me. I went to the seminar and several days later I was at the airport getting ready to head back home. Ingrid Boettcher, one of the local gals was the only other passenger returning to Hoonah that day. We made it through Funter Pass and were almost over to Pt. Couverden- maybe ten minutes from home, when the engine made a sound like it was running out of gas. Immediately the pilot switched fuel tanks and turned around, then he called the Juneau tower. He turned to us and told us to put on our life jackets. I was sitting in the front next to the pilot and there was a shoulder harness as well as a seat belt as opposed to just a belt in the back seats. Without thinking, I put the life vest over my safety harness. I heard the pilot declare a mayday. The engine sputtered for a few more minutes and then quit, about half way over Lynn Canal. We didn't know it at the time, but the crankshaft in the engine broke. It was eerie to say the least,  complete silence in the cockpit with the exception of the whoosh of the still turning prop as air passed over it and the sound of Ingrid in the back seat praying. As it was, we didn't have enough altitude to make it into Funter Bay and land on the beach there. The pilot spotted a small gravel bar in the canal close to the beach. He turned the plane towards it, did a manuver to slow us down and we hit the gravel bar and launched into the water. Immediately that ice cold water started filling the plane. I tried to get my door opened but it was jammed. The pilot opened his door and got out, then yelled at me -"You've got to get out! You've got to get out now!" It wasn't that I didn't want to, but the strings of the life jacket had me tethered to the seat belt. Frustrated, the pilot tried to pull me out by the arm, but it only served to kind of jam me against the windshield. I tried to tell him to let go, but the water was so cold that it took my breath away and I couldn't form the words. He managed to get Ingrid out and direct her to the rear of the plane where the water was shallower. The inside of the plane was rapidly filling up and when the water got to the bottom of my nose and it looked like I might not make it, I prayed again, I guess in a rather accusatory way. "You said I wasn't going to drown!" About then I was able to reach into my right pocket with my left hand and pull out a pocket knife that I had gotten for Christmas. I managed to manuver it to my right hand and open the blade. I remember thinking that if I dropped it, that would be all she wrote. I barely touched the blade to that taut string and it parted like thread. I shot out the door where the pilot told me to go to the back of the plane and I would soon be able to touch bottom. We all three made it to a strip of rocky, windswept land and stood shivering in our wet clothes. About twenty minutes later an ERA helicopter appeared and landed in the opening and we all boarded and went back to Juneau. We were taken to the hospital where I spent a good 45 minutes or so standing in a hot shower trying to get warm. After we had been checked over by the hospital staff, we were taken to the airport and flew back home to Hoonah. It was quite the experience. I wish that I could say that it was life changing. I sometimes wonder if I'm not the most ungrateful person that ever lived. In any event, I'm here today, and I know that it's because of God's grace. I hope that perhaps this will give someone else some encouragement. When things aren't going the way we want, when things we perceive as "bad" happen to us, don't give up. As the scripture says, our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. He loves you and wants the very best for you and if if takes a catastrophe in your life to show you as much, He may just do that, but I hope not. Have a good day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ice Box

 
 I'm back here at the library again. I'm blessed to be seated at Julian the computer, but for some reason he has the slows today. Years ago there was a commercial for Nestle's Quick- the chocolate powder that you stir into a glass of milk to flavor it. Anyway, it showed these kids moving in slow motion until they had a glass of Quick- it fixed the slows and they moved at super sonic speed. I wish someone would invent some Quick for computers. It's so frustrating to have something brilliant to write about and the computer won't co-operate. I know how I am- I'm apt to forget whatever witty quote I was about to produce if I don't act on it immediately. Blasted slow computers! I wanted to download a few pictures from the inside of my refrigerator for general discussion purposes, but this computer wouldn't do it, so I have to assume it's for the better anyway. No doubt if the EPA or mayor Bloomberg or some other government watchdog were to get a peek inside I'd be fined for harboring an environmental disaster or for having a grand total of more than thirty two ounces of a soft drink on hand. I think I have five Miller Lite's and a handful of Mike's Hard Lemonade on the the top shelf too, but I guess that's OK to possess, at least right now. For some reason the refrigerator becomes like a long term storage container for certain items. We store the remnants of a previous meal with the full intent of utilizing it the next day, but somehow, things get shuffled around like a deck of cards and what was meant for timely consumption gets forgotten until a distinctly unpleasant order can no longer be ignored and I go searching for the culprit. More than a few times I've run across pineapple chunks that could use a haircut, or some Stove Top stuffing that even the crows wouldn't eat. I'm always amazed that Jan has the courage to sniff items that I'm afraid to even get close to without a bio-hazard suit. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I've often seen ladies lift a baby's back side up for a whiff to see if a change is in order- something that would leave many men gagging and unable to eat their next meal. I think a spin off of the popular show Storage Wars would be fun to watch. Folks could bid on the contents of a refrigerator and whoever could find enough edible items to come up with a good meal would be the winner. It would be like a combination Storage Wars/ Chopped program. No doubt the ratings would be through the roof. I don't know what it is about refrigerators. I've seen some 'fridges where the only thing that might be safe to consume is the milk in the door, and then only because there is a "sell by" date stamped on the container to check and make sure you don't ingest liquid cottage cheese from a gallon jug. I think one of the worse things that ever happened to refrigerated food was the invention of those opaque  containers that have lids. If you can't see what's in them, you sure aren't going to eat whatever it is. I think they mainly help to contain the smell until you get tired of guessing what's inside and throw it out. Back in the day before refrigerators, many folks had ice boxes. I did a little research on Wikepedia  and found that most ice boxes were made of wood, with the walls lined with tin  or zinc and and packed with assorted insulating materials like sawdust, cork, straw or seaweed. I can't imagine having seaweed jammed inside my refrigerator; it would seem that it would stink after a while, but what do I know? Ice was stored in a compartment on top, and the cold air would drop down and cool off whatever was in the icebox. Ice was harvested from frozen lakes and stored in ice houses and then delivered by an ice man. Some apartment buildings had small doors that opened into the ice box from the back porch. The ice man would deliver the ice through these doors and get paid by the tenants. According to the article, some Amish communities still utilize the ice box. When we lived on the farm at Game Creek there wasn't any electricity for the first five years or so, but I can't recall recall really having too many leftovers that needed stored. We had a root cellar that was above ground that utilized sawdust for insulation, and the creek was close by if something needed to be kept cold so I guess refrigeration wasn't really an issue. In any event, no doubt some day in the distant future there will be teams of archaeologists who specialize in the contents of ancient refrigerators. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of these scientists will be women, most likely those who've had children and have developed strong stomachs.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hill Street


 I was at a loss as to what to write about today. Several days ago the morning broke bright and sunny so I grabbed my camera hoping to get a shot of Ears Mountain with the fog lifting off the top and the sun highlighting the snow. As it was, by the time I got the camera, the scene had changed so I couldn't get the shot I wanted and I ended up getting a few pictures of some other things. Because the sun has been such a rare occurrence this year, I thought I would document the blue sky over Hill Street, where I live. As you can see, or maybe you can't really see, so I will tell you, like so much of the rest of Hoonah, the houses are an odd collection of tastes and lifestyles. There are white folks and natives and a combination of the two who live here. There are fishemen and a carpenter and social worker and a bookeeper and retired folks and some folks who don't work at all, and I'm not sure if they ever did. How the heck they stay alive is anyone's guess.  There isn't anyone really well to do on my street, so we don't have any really fancy houses to speak of. The green house on the corner has been empty for a  number of years. If you look close you can see that there is the remnants of a blue tarp on the roof. It was put there a few years ago because the metal roofing had blown away during a storm and a fellow had expressed interest in possibly buying the place, so someone tried to keep the rain out. I guess the buyer lost interest or just couldn't get the owners to sell. As often happens here, the primary owner of a home dies, and the family is left with the property. Families being what they are, one person wants to sell the property, another doesn't, there is a squabble about who has title and instead of fixing up the place so that they all get a share of the profits, the place sits abandoned until it falls apart. I've been tempted to solve the problem for them with some pyrotechnics, but it would be my luck that my place would catch fire. Up the street aways there are a few houses that are fixed up pretty well and one, that though occupied, hasn't seen a drop of paint in years. Across the street there are two mobile homes- actually only one. I think the other one is more of a glorified travel trailer that has been empty for years since the owner died. The neighborhood is a reflection of the folks who live there. Some folks mow their lawns and paint their houses and some folks throw their broken refrigerator out back. Personally, I'd kind of like to see more lawn mowing going on, but it's not up to me. I guess it's the price you pay to live here. I know that I'd rather be somewhere that folks have the freedom to live as they will- within reason- than be in a gated community where someone else tells you what color to paint your house and whether or not you can have the stars and stripes flying out front. From the way things are sounding in the news, Hoonah may be the last bastion of freedom. The mayor here hasn't said a word about outlawing Styrofoam cups or thirty two ounce soft drinks, and I can guarantee you if some government official comes here with the intent of controlling our guns, he'll discover real quick that this isn't the lower 48. 
  I guess that's all I have to say about that. In an unrelated note, if you need a laugh, please check out the blog, Tideline to Treeline. My friend who used to live here posted a good article on baking biscuits.  Have a great day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Julian

 


 Well, I'm up here at the library again. It's the only place available to me to continue with the blog posts. It's not ideal. For one thing I'm out of my comfort zone a bit. I never know what I'm going to confront when I come up  here. On occasion I arrive and all eight public use computers are in use. Unfortunately, even though there is a thirty minute use policy here, it's not enforced, so some folks come here when it opens at 1:00 P.M. and don't leave until the end of the day- or so it seems. I really think that the library chairs should have built in electric elements, much like an electric stove. After thirty minutes of one person's bum sitting on the seat, a sensor would turn on the element and it would heat up until it became too uncomfortable for even the most calloused person to remain seated. Then they would be forced to leave the seat and find a refreshing pool of cool water to sit in. Today I came up here and there was a computer open, but not the one I like. I happen to like Julian. Julian the computer is located on the end of the table, so I don't feel sandwiched between two other users in case the place is crowded. Most of the time Julian works fairly fast. Amos and Bertha- two of the other computers on this side of the table seem to cause problems, which is also why I don't like to use them. I don't know the name of the computer next to me. The name tag was probably ripped off in a fit of rage by someone totally frustrated with it's performance. Nothing brings out the anger in a person like a computer.When I came here today Julian was in use by a gal who could use a little professional help in the mental health department. I was forced to sit at Amos, who proved to be totally unsatisfactory. Just as well. I had to go home and retrieve the hardware for my camera so I could down load a picture anyway. When I came back, the gal was sitting at Amos, and Julian was free. However,she left her jacket, I pod and two bags of groceries in the area. I hope that she doesn't think I'm trying to take over her stuff. She too found Amos to be unsatisfactory and has moved across the table to a computer that was being used by a fellow playing dominoes. Domino Man went downstairs to use the restroom and when he returned his spot was occupied by needy lady. Fortunately, Domino Man is pretty laid back and no scene was made. There are times when I come up here and it's complete and utter chaos. Especially after school lets out. Many of the kids think that the computers are primarily for games and they play them emphatically, talking freely back and forth, making it almost impossible to concentrate. I do wish that the librarian would put in a grant request for the cattle prod I had suggested awhile back. There would be so much more order. I'd probably contribute to such a worthy cause myself. Oh well. Guess I better go. This seat is starting to get uncomfortably warm.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why We Need God

 
  I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of a news junky. When I first get up in the morning the TV is on and I rotate from Fox to CNN to ABC. Of course almost none of the news is good. Who would watch it if there wasn't something titillating on? For some reason we seem to gravitate to bad news. I don't know why. There is either a freak snowstorm or ice fog or a tornado somewhere in the country. The weather is either too hot or cold or wet or dry or blowy and if none of that is happening in this country, then lets check out the rest of the world. China has smog so bad it's off the charts in one city. If  it's not the weather its a tragedy somewhere- another shooting or a twenty car pile up on a freeway. If that's not what gets you upset there is all the reporting on the debt and deficit and health care law with it's thirteen thousand plus regulations that are going to totally change the way we receive health care. The list is almost endless and I could and sometimes do end up spending most of my day frustrated and angry or discouraged. The world is going to hell on a hand cart and I'm stuck to the bottom of the wheel like a wad of discarded chewing gum. It's really easy for me to despair if I surround myself with all the news of every day events. There are no two ways about it, these are troubling times and regardless of what some politicians may try to say, another law or regulation isn't going to solve the problem. We have laws on the books that most lawyers don't know about I would venture to say.  Laws don't solve most problems, in many cases they just create new ones. My personal feeling is that Jesus hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If we all followed that simple guideline, what a wonderful world it would be. There wouldn't be any kidnappings or shootings. We could eradicate lawyers- no one would be suing anyone. Labor unions would be extinct- workers would give an honest days work and bosses would pay an honest days pay. No one would be trying to cheat anyone else. We could pretty much get rid of the government- think of the money that would save. There would be no need for a military, and the welfare system would be a thing of the past. If we were all looking out for each other, no one would be homeless or hungry. This may sound like a pipe dream, but it doesn't have to be, if we would abide by the golden rule. The first step though is to acknowledge that we need God in our lives. He is the true moral compass that all other rules must hinge on. For some time now this country has asked God to butt out of our lives. We have let a few loud voices speak for the masses and change the direction that this country is destined for. Personally, I don't like the path we're on. From mass shootings, to huge federal deficits, to dishonest leaders to innocent children being kidnapped from a school bus. It's time for America to wake up and ask God back into our lives or our future will be bleak indeed.