Scarlett’s Letter July 6, 2013

We started the day with waffles at the neighbors; wonderful, delicious, fantastic waffles with homemade whipped cream and raspberries and honey. I am sure there is no better way to begin a long weekend day than with “from scratch” waffles baked in a cast iron waffle iron. Well, there are better ways to start the day, but waffles rank pretty close.

After our late breakfast we made our way to the next social event of the day, a BBQ at the “homestead”, another neighbor, to enjoy Olaf. When I was visiting here just last month, I met Olaf and friends, three young, fat, pink pigs. Today, Olaf was the guest of honor at a neighborhood BBQ, and Olaf was delicious. Everyone brought food and beverage to share and I had the opportunity to meet many more folks that live in the area or who are connected with the family who owns the homestead. My impression of people from these parts, they are very open and accepting, very sincere and hospitable. This is true in many destinations I visit, but more so here.

The “homestead” is a very special place, a ranch, homesteaded by a man and his wife. There they raised their large family, who have now grown and are raising families of their own. Being an only child from a very suburban, “cookie cutter” lifestyle, and having always loved country life and the idea of self-sufficiency, I find large “farming families” terribly romantic.

After enjoying Olaf and company, we headed out, according plan, to fish at some ponds along the Steese Highway that were recently stocked with Grayling and Rainbow Trout by the Alaska Department Fish and Game. Free for the asking, is a list of all the waterways that have been stocked, with how many of which species and on what dates. This, I contend, is not an unfair advantage, especially considering our recent “kill” rate and the “closing” of the king salmon fishing, and the limits on other fish by species, location and time of year. I’m beginning to think there are no fish in Alaska.

We met up with the neighbors and worked our way down a seven-mile stretch of road, dotted with stocked ponds about every two miles. We had better luck in some than others. A couple of the ponds were overpopulated with people, mostly families with children and dogs that were in need of naps. A couple of the ponds were under populated with fish. It was reminiscent of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we did eventually find a pond that was just right. Except for the mosquitos. But that was to be expected.

Once we found a pond that had fish and didn’t have barking dogs and screaming babies, we just had to figure out what the fish found alluring (no pun intended, okay, yes, it was).  We came armed with jigs, spinners, flies, bobbers and various bait including cheese (Colby), shrimp, marshmallows and corn kernels. Everyone piled out of the car and started fishing at the closest point. There was a significant amount of algae or similar growth that I just call “snot” on the surface of the water over much of the pond. Every time you cast out and reeled in you brought a glob of snot that had to then be removed from the hook. I found a reasonably snot-free zone up the bank a ways and made my way there, beer in one hand, DEET in my pocket, fishing pole in the other. I applied DEET, liberally, and decided I’d try fishing with a jig (I’m new to all of this and hell bent on learning everything as quickly as possible, true to my nature). As soon as I set my beer down and made my first cast, I was in a black cloud of mosquitos, enough to chase the average Californian back to the car. I held my ground and found after a few moments about half of them disappeared, leaving only about a million to contend with. More DEET was in order, but by the time I made the second application, I later discovered, I had fifteen bites on my left shoulder, through two layers of clothing, nine in my cleavage and another twelve on my right shoulder. Note to self, Victoria’s Secret push up bra and scoop neck blouse equals good for party, bad for fishing at mosquito infested fishing ponds. I managed to get a few bites on my hands, fingers and even one on my palm. I fished on. On my second cast, I caught a fish, with the jig, all by myself. At the other end of the pond, at precisely the same moment, my man caught a fish, so my elation and proud exclamation went unnoticed. This was fortunate, because as I plied the hook from the mouth of the rainbow trout, it jumped out of my hands and back into the water, much like the chukar escape of the day before, leaving me with nothing but a fish story.

We learn from our mistakes. What did I learn here? After careful observation, much later in the day, I learned that you don’t try to unhook the fish, holding it, while standing next to the body of water from which it came. Place it on the ground, then go about your business. I was convinced that I’d be reeling in fish every three minutes, consistently, the rest of the day. Nope. And with every three-minute interval that passed catching only snot, I became more and more determined. Everyone else was having far better luck with bait and bobbers or fly-fishing. I’m new to fishing, I’m even newer to fly fishing and was not about to attempt in front of the neighbors, who had waist high waders, a proper fishing vest and a great deal of flair fly-fishing. I decided to wait for my private moments to hone my fly-fishing skills. The bobber and bait routine reminded me of what I have always considered fishing to be, until recently, boring. Sitting in a chair, drinking beer, waiting for the bobber to move is not my idea of a stimulating sport. So I continued flailing the jig into the water and reeling in snot. I caught no more fish at that pond.

Our friends left, grumpy and disgusted because of the show of force by the mosquitos, and we moved to another lake where I decided to go ahead and try to bait and bobber thing. And I caught a fish. Okay, I get it now, and for the record, I did it standing up, beer perched on a rock nearby. We came home with seven fish in all and, at the very least, I came home having caught one of those and having learned an important lesson, or two, about fishing. One, unhook on the ground. Two, it isn’t up to me to decide how to catch the damned fish, the fish will only be caught when he (or she) finds something appealing. It’s up to me to figure that out and go with it, sitting in a chair, drinking beer watching a bobber and catching fish is more stimulating than knocking yourself out trying to convince a fish to bite something it isn’t interested in.

I think this lesson probably translates to other areas of my life, and perhaps yours, in our effort to evolve. Determination is great, but approaching your goal utilizing a means you discover, after some trial and error, to be most efficient will get you a lot further and a lot better result than stubbornly going at it in the manner you prefer.

So, fish on.


Olaf - Before
Olaf – Before
Olaf - After
Olaf – After
Olaf and accompaniments.
Olaf and accompaniments.

Dang Mosquitos

I am in Alaska. In July.

All of my well-meaning friends, acquaintances and complete strangers warned me about mosquitos in summer in Alaska, just like they did about predatory men in Alaska. The man thing worked out just fine. The mosquito thing, I am dealing with. Sort of.

If you saw me, you’d never pick me out as a granola-crunching, peace and love, nature valley hippy girl. But, I am, with sort of a cosmopolitan twist. As you have probably gathered, I can do just fine on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan one week and be thirty miles up a dirt road fishing in the wilds of Alaska the next. I am the only girl I know with both a street guide, complete with subway routes, to Manhattan and the latest fishing regs for Alaska in my magenta, leather Fossil bag.

As we speak, my man is on his hands and knees, swatting mosquitos on the living room carpet with his hat. And he just fished another dead mosquito out of the butter. Death by butter, I’d choose that, certainly over swatting with a hat.

The granola-crunching, peace and love, nature valley hippy girl in me, in interest of prolonged health, longevity and quality of life, prefers not to douse one’s self in harmful chemicals to ward off bugs. That worked (not really) for about a day (not quite). I am head-to-toe welts, and Alaska mosquito bites, like everything in Alaska, are bigger and badder than anything in the lower forty-eight.

I have been applying DEET like most girls apply lotion; liberally and often. Lucky for me, my man says he likes the smell of “bug dope” just as much as the pretty stuff I wear. Ok. Whatever. I don’t. But the combination of the two is worse and probably creates a near lethal vapor gas that rots your brain from the inside out. We’ll see.

But, still, I really hate applying the stuff to my exposed skin; face, hands, neck and chest. Yesterday, while fishing, I decided to go without. I covered up the exposed areas with extra clothing, which worked because it was a lot colder than I thought it would be. For my face, neck and hands, I just swatted furiously all day long. My triceps are sore, take note if you’re looking for a good spot workout for that area. Another tactic I employed, which I’ve used in conjunction with DEET is copious amounts of beer. DEET and beer, one makes the mosquitos stupid, the other makes you stupid, and in combination, just be careful not to drink the DEET and douse yourself in beer. So yesterday I just stuck with beer and swatting. Today, I awoke with my left eye nearly swollen shut, I got bit on my eyelid near the tear duct. I look like Mohamed Ali, on a bad day.

At “home”, we just burn mosquito coils. We’re lucky, there are a few boxes left in the shed. The rest of Alaska is out and good luck finding any. We were in Anchorage last weekend and followed one rumor after another to store after store in search of mosquito coils. We came home empty handed. We’ve been checking store shelves everywhere we go, calling people and asking two very important questions; where are the fish and who has mosquito coils? Today, based on a rumor, we found a half a shelf’s worth at the hardware store in the basement of the sporting goods store in Fairbanks. Limit five. My man bought five while I was buying an unlimited amount of wine a couple of doors down, after which, I went and bought five more boxes of mosquito coils. I seriously considered changing my clothes and putting my hair up and trying for another five.

Thirsty bloodsuckers, sucking the life out of me. Reminds me of some people I know, just sucking the life out of me. Do you have any people like that in your life? If not money, time. If not time, money. Or worst of all, both.

Whether dealing with bloodsucking bugs or bloodsucking people, none of the options for effective management are very appealing. For mosquitos, really, DEET seems to be the only truly effective method to avoid being bitten. For people, sadly, there is no remedy, toxic or otherwise, that we can buy on the sporting goods aisle that’s going to help. Or we could use DEET.

DEET – The “D” stands for “distance” or “detach”. If there is someone in your life that is taking advantage of you, in any manner, financially, physically, emotionally, or in some other way, and the circumstances allow, create some distance, or better yet, detach from that person or that situation. If you are being taken advantage of by someone it is difficult to establish distance from, or detach from, you may have to reconsider your circumstances on a larger scale. Any time we allow someone to take advantage of us, on a routine basis, our own strength and self-esteem will suffer and we will never grow in the manner we desire, for as long as we allow it to continue.

DEET – The first “E” stands for “empower”. Another possibility is to help empower the person who uses you as a crutch, again, whether financially, physically, emotionally or in some other means. Find a way to help them help themselves. This will free you and help them establish their own independence and freedom, boosting their self-esteem, and yours.

DEET – The second “E” stands for “establish”. Establish some limits, some parameters, some boundaries with the person who takes advantage of you. Establishing limits or boundaries can be as simple as having a serious, open conversation, or may go so far as to require a restraining order. Whatever is necessary, start peacefully and progress from there in degrees, if necessary. It is up to you to decide to not be taken advantage of anymore, solely up to you. You allow it, you must end it.

DEET – The “T” stands for “talk”. This really should be the first step, and then should be part of every other step. Often, when we are being used as a crutch, or are being taken advantage of in some way, we suffer in silence. A lot of times, especially in close relationships, the situation develops without awareness on one parties part, the other, or even both, and when we finally realize we are feeling taken advantage of, we become silently resentful, further damaging the relationship, but we often won’t be open about our feelings, we just let them fester. Talking, simply talking about the situation, in close relationships, will often be all that is necessary. Only in long-term, chronic situations will we generally have to employ other measures.

The point, is, don’t allow yourself to get bitten. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, and put to an immediate end any situations where you are currently being used as a crutch. This is important for our own peace, growth and fulfillment, and it is important for those close to us that, for whatever reason, seek to lean on us rather than find their own way. Remember, by assisting others in finding their own independence, we, too, benefit emotionally and even spiritually.

Now to go Google some holistic remedies for itchy mosquito bites!


Empty shelves in the mosquito repellent aisle in EVERY store in Alaska!
Empty shelves in the mosquito repellent aisle in EVERY store in Alaska!


Taking extreme measures
Taking extreme measures