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What About Bob?

22 August 2005

Denali State Park

A half dozen people have written, wondering what could ever have happened to me. Thank you all for your concern.

To forestall the expense and trouble of outfitting search parties, let me say that I am well and in Alaska, currently approaching Denali from the south. If you do send out that big dog looking for me, don't forget the little keg of brandy that goes on his collar.

Some good may come of it.

This morning I am in a viewing spot south of Cantwell. As in Cantwell see. It is blue up above, and I am waiting out a persistent mist in order to obtain that Holiest of Grails-- a clear view of Mount McKinley. This may be the perfect time to clear up misperceptions of all kinds.

I've been gone a week on a ferry ride to Dutch Harbor, out in the Aleutians. 1644 miles in six and a half days, sleeping on the deck, swapping lies and visions with an erudite Aussie sailor, a lovely rural nurse on leave, an ironic ex-cop from Fairbanks, a couple of lively Bering Sea fishermen, etc.

Birders by the dozen, Aleuts by the score.

Before that there were two weeks in Ninilchik in the Kenai, clamming and fishing for halibut, sitting back in proprietary and sometimes even solitary baleful splendor on the bare beach, always with one eye watching Mount Redoubt.

Macabre impatience. The top blew off as recently as 1990. What's it waitin' for? My god. Volcanoes can be coy as whales.

Before that, I was a couple of weeks in Seward, doing about the same things and catching the odd boat tour. Otter delight. Sea lions in City Park. Motorhomes lined up facing the sea like beached land whales, generators droning plaintively. Occasionally someone peeks out of their maws to take a furtive look around.

Robert Frost has a poem about these guys:

"They do not look out far.
They do not look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch we keep?"

Something like that.

Before Seward, the Fourth of July in Valdez. Icebergs calving from the Columbia Glacier. Sparklers sputtering in the rain. Salmon bakes.

Pinks were runnin'. I was settin'. Each to his own.

But somewhere along the way I apparently lost interest in hunting up Internet access. Or writing about what was happening around me. Slipped my mind, softly as a cat slips his collar.

Plenty to write about, I guess, but I was too content, or too entertained, or maybe just too ornery, to keep up with reportage. Or maybe this: perhaps I have finally discovered (gasp) the Virtue of Reticence. Well! Shut mah mouf, as they say in the Souf. Move over, Gary Cooper. Could it be?

Nope. Ain't claimin' no Virtues. Nary a one.

However, the following quote from a recent letter to a friend may clarify this absence of industry:


10 am

I think you called this morning. Unfortunately I was still abed at 8 am, and by the time I got there you were gone. No message. I don't know who else it could be. Some siding salesman, I suppose. Boy, has he got the wrong guy.

The State Fair started at Ninilchik yesterday, and I wasn't in the mood for crowds. I seldom am. I ended up here at Upper Skilak Lake, right next to the water.

The sky is clear and high and blue. A low, lazy breeze sends chilly fingers reaching back, up into the shadows. But out here, right now, the sun is bright and warm on my face. Gentle as a loving hand.

Of course I am not alone. There are many small voices here. As the wind comes and goes, the pines creak, muttering bashfully. Squirrels chatter in the lower branches, scrabbling about, dismembering cones. These guys don't like to share. Occasionally there is a rain of husks, and then the race is on.

The few flies have all gone to cover. Lots of bees. One buzzy little fellow keeps trying to admire himself in my glasses. He seems to like what he sees. An insect philosopher, perhaps, bent upon reflection.

And hard to discourage as a penchant for puns.

Floop. Floop. Flooop. Floop. The lake is calmly beating on the pebble shore. There's a small island in the near distance where a gaggle of geese whimper and cry and circle constantly, practicing their touch-and-goes. Every time one lands, there is general relief, celebration, and commentary. Then they take off again. Wahoo.

I may slide the kayak out there later, just to join the fun. They are having their own state fair. And in their economy a goose egg is far from zero. It is in fact a thing of infinite worth.... "


See there? Nothing much going on. Just Bob. An ordinary life. All is well.


The mist has moved, but only up the cliff to surround the trailer. "I say, Watson. Did you hear the Hound? There's more to these Moors than meets the eye..."

Still some blue, directly overhead . I think the guy who named this place was dyslexic. He meant to say Denial, not Denali. Amazing how these little typos gather a life of their own.

Wait. There it is. There it is.


Someday I may feel like working on the website again. Maybe I'll catch up, or fill in. We'll see. Meanwhile I wish you all as much luck in your adventures as is prudent.

Or maybe more. In fact, I don't know Prudence very well. I'm sure she's a good person, mostly. But I doubt she'd want to keep company with an old man like me.


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