We just had another traveling mid-latitude cyclone pass through Central Oregon, which brought rain and then snow flurries, which mostly melted today. It was a busy day filled with both joy and sorrow, for different reasons. I sat in the hot tub reflecting on the day’s events, looking east to a full moon. Three full moons ago, we were in Ceuta, Spain, on the coast of Africa. Tonight our world is much different than it was three moons ago.
The day started out promising, as I brought my Caribou Antlers to school and moved them from my car to the classroom. We are studying climates and biomes in our Weather and Climate class, and the ET climate in the Koppen system is the tundra climate. Therefore, I brought a relic from a tundra climate to show the class, a set of giant Caribou Antlers.
On a bicycle pack trip in the Northwest Territories of Canada in 1992, I found this set of huge antlers on the banks of the Intga River on the Canol Road. The Canol Road was hastily built during WWII as a supply line for the Oil fields in Norman Wells to the road system in the Yukon Territory to supply fuel for the War against Japan. Hundreds of miles had to be carved out of the wilderness of the Mackenzie Mountains, wild tundra country of the Northland. My friend Bruce was the first to spot them and commented how well these antlers would look above a mantle piece. We were 21 miles from the trailhead. When he balked at the trouble of taking them back, I countered with me taking them on my bike and taking possession of them when we got back. He replied, “You’re an idiot, it’s 21 miles back to the car.”
I replied, “I’ll be an idiot for ONE day.” Then I loaded them up on my handlebars. They were so big that I could not ride the bike with them, so I put my left leg on the right pedal and used the bike as a scooter, to move them the entire way back to the car. What happened next is for another story, but I have had them as a prominent place in my home since 1992 in both Alaska, and now in Bend, Oregon.
The joy for the day was showing them to students, most of who had never seen this type of animal. They marveled at how heavy the antlers were and how such a huge animal could live on such meager tundra vegetation. Even though the change to daylight savings time had us all tired (1/2 the class came late and looked sleepy), they were engaged in learning about climate and biomes.
Later in the day, things changed. After a couple of hours of grading and writing grant proposals, I got a message from my wife, Beth. She is in Alabama with her family and her mom just passed away this afternoon. It was expected, but still hard to take. I know the pain, as I have already gone through this with my Dad first, then my Mom ten years later.
As I sit in the hot tub, I thank Elaine Clark for being in my life. She gave me the best gift anyone could give someone else; she created Beth, my wife and my best friend. Elaine and Beth’s father, Adrian, accompanied us on many trips around the USA. She always wanted to travel, and she got to do a good bit of it with us. She visited us in the early 2000s and climbed Pilot Butte with us. She saw the Grand Canyon with us in 2005. I can still hear her exclaim “Wooo-oooh” as our flight-seeing plane took off from Grand Canyon airport and cleared the rim, with the chasm opening up beneath us. She had two types of exclamations she would make when surprised. I could mimic them both pretty well. Beth would laugh and agree.
The funeral will be this weekend. I am torn, as I have a full term to finish and finals are next week, so I will be staying here, although my mind is in Alabama. In two weeks, I am supposed to start my own Geographical Journey, a proposed hike of 700 miles through the California desert on the Pacific Crest Trail. The stock market is crashing. The corona virus is spreading. There are so many troubling things to take our focus away from why we are here.
Elaine Clark was a loving person who served others. She lives on through us, as she had a hand in shaping who we are and will be. Sitting in the tub and looking at a full moon, I am grateful that I had time to share with her. It makes me want to make the most of the time I have left here, and to try to be a positive influence on the people I love and even those that I don’t who I come into contact with.