Thursday, October 23

Fairy tale snow

Some day the snow falls from above,
others, it flies from side to side.
Some days it snows from the inside out,
and others it's hard to know where it's even coming from.

Some day we get big snow flakes,
other days they are small.
And some days like today,
snow flakes are just perfect.

These is what I call
fairy tale snow.

Thursday, October 9

It's over!

Yes, fall is definitely over. This year, it lasted exactly seventeen days. In Alaska, spring and fall last whatever winter chooses to allow them, which usually is about a month. Week up or week down. When you suddenly wake up one day at 15 F and a foot of snow, that just means that winter has suddenly arrived. Like that, without a warning. The calendar can say whatever it wants, it's now winter.

Luckily, last week, we could still spend a few days doing one of the last subsistence activities of the season: berry picking. Of ocurse we missed a big part of it during the month of September, though since this is also moose season, not very many people go berry picking all that much anymore. However, we had our share furing the month of August and the first week of October.

Like all subsistence activities, this one also has a specific gender. Hunting and the initial butchering are male activities. Women finish it and pack it up for winter. Fishing is also mainly a male activity, though the cleaning of the fish is a women thing. Berry picking instead, is mostly a female activity. Men usually come along as gunners, just in case a bear shows up and want to put up a fight for the berries.

At least that's what everyone does. Everyone except my friend E, apparently. Of course, I learned that when it was already too late to turn around. "No one wants to come berry picking with me, because I don't bring a rifle." she says nonchalantly, when it was obvious that our gentleman boater had left and would not be back until 4 hours later to pick us up. Nope, she did not think about letting me know beforehand. So, I had no other option than to gather up all my courage, put myself in the hands of every other god up there in the skies, and focus on picking low bush blueberries and tundra tea while looking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure we were safe. We were lucky, no bear in sight that day.

I went back to the tundra with her once again. Though this time I brought my bear spray. Not that I even knew how to use it, but it was something. I'm glad I never had to use it because I'm sure I would have ended up spraying myself or something. So, my berry picking experience went by with no super exciting adventires to tell my grandkids in due time.

One of the most common uses of berries, and at the same time favorite Native dessert is "akutaq", also called "Eskimo ice cream." Mind you, it's not really ice cream. It's ingredients and white fish, berries, sugar, and fat. Traditionally, animal fat was used, but nowadays modern life has substituted it for Crisco. Some people love akutaq. And even though I have tried a few times, I just can't get over the Crisco.

Another interesting desert is "mouse akutaq." In this case, what is collected are not berries, but certain roots that have a very characteristic sweet flavor. The interesting part is that these roots are not harvested directly from the plant, but trespassing mice nests, who spend the summer accumulating them in their underground homes after they have chewed them up. Traditionally, people take only a part of what the mouse has gathered and the more generous substitute what they have taken for a portion of something else that can help feed the mouse during the winter. David loved it when he tried it last year, and so did Naím. I wasn't able to get past the fact that a mouse had chewed it, so I passed. I'm sure that if I have the chance again, I will try it now. I'm not as much of a city girl as I used to be anymore.

At home, we don't make akutaq, nor steel food from mice. What we do are jars and jars of low bush blueberry, blackberry, red berry, raspberry and rose hip jam. Hopefully, they will last all winter.

And with this, we close up the summer and fall chapters in Alaska. We leave behind the long days and the non-stop activity. No time for good-byes or slow transitions. From one day to the next, fall is definitely over.

This winter will be much different than the previous in many ways. However, I hope it's at least as beautiful and inspiring as last winter was.

Saturday, October 4


It's not easy to express in a coherent way the 3.000 miles that we have just traveled as a family. To say that it has been the best vacation of my life, only comparable in intensity and beauty to another trip I took with my best friend a few years ago, doesn't really say much. Or it says it all, but only we can understand it.

It hasn't just been a trip through a land of many colors, full of history, magic and incredible beauty. It has been such an intense and intimate trip in so many levels that I can barely express it, I can't find the words. It has been a trip lived in a present that is no longer. What made sense was to live it and not as much remember it to talk about it. Words would never make it justice.

Every day lived and every place visited always were better than the previous one... even though the previous one always felt unbeatable. Each one of them always different. Each one had its magic, its personal color, its particular surprises, its warmth... They all trapped me in the moment, and all of them I enjoyed greatly. Even those roads that at first sight seemed almost boring, hid surprises of amazing beauty. It was just a matter of opening our eyes to them.

I don't want to talk too much about it, but I will mention the specific places we visited, just in case anyone is planning a trip in the area. The links will take you to more pictures of every place, if you want to explore further.

Arches in Utah was the first National Park that welcomed us. With its amazing rock formations, its burning colors, and those incredible arches...

, very close, gave us the first clue as to what the canyons in this area can look like. And this one was the "small" one... well, I swear I didn't think it was small when I sat there battling vertigo while I pretended to be brave.

From there to Monument Valley in Arizona there is exactly the distance of one of my son's long naps. Who hasn't see these places a thousand times in cowboy flicks? To camp and wake up here was indescribable.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most amazing places I have even visited. The walls of this small canyon in the middle of the Arizona desert are so full of magic and softness that it's truly otherworldly. If I had to choose a favorite place, this would be it.

The Grand Canyon, in Arizona, it's simply stunning. A difference in altitude of 5,000 feet makes the view unreal. It was so exaggerated and overpowering that we took a lot less time there than elsewhere and I shot less pictures than anywhere. It's hard to make it justice in an image, so I won't even try.

Bryce Canyon
, back in Utah, is perhaps one of the most surreal places of our trip. The Paiute indians that lived in this area always made sure to stay away from this canyon, fearing that Coyote would transform them in "hoodoos", as it had done with their ancestors. The first pioneer that settled in this place though, described the canyon much more pragmatically, as "a helluva place to lose a cow." I guess he must have lost a cow and had an awful time trying to find it, if he ever did at all.

And to finish off, Zion, also in Utah. When it seemed we had seen it all, it offered us new completely unexpected and surprising landscapes.

And now, I return to my present again, to my warm cabin and my still shy and wintery snow flakes that have already started to fall here in Alaska.

Thursday, October 2

The best start

Just as we started our long waited for vacations,

the first thing I do is disappear from the face of the earth

to take refuge in silence.

Three days of solitude in one of my favorite spots on the planet

were the best birthday present ever.

Thank you, my boys.

Friday, September 5

On vacation

Foto de Nihihiro & Shihiro (Flickr)

I'm going on vacations. Yes, once again. This time they are also David's vacations, one of the few we have taken as a family the three of us. Because, really, going to Spain at Christmas time, and running around from one place to the other to see the families is not exactly what I call a relaxing vacation, believe me.

We are going on a road trip, from Seattle to the Grand Canyon, visiting all kinds of hot steaming deserts and National Parks in Nevada, Utah,and Arizona. I can't wait to be surrounded by red dirt, sweating, camping, and shooting pictures in one of the most amazing landscapes in the world. It will be a good way to recharge batteries to get back to the Alaskan winter in late September.

I hope to come back full of pictures like the one I borrowed to put up there.

Tuesday, August 26


The last time I changed decades, I woke up with a huge smile on my lips, and feeling very happy. Today I don't feel the same happiness and I miss it. Today, I don't really know what I feel. Maybe I'm just getting older...

Anyhow, I wish myself a happy birthday, I give myself a pretty flower, and I especially hope that every woman over 40 that I've talked to and has told me that the good stuff starts now, is right.

Thursday, July 17


Every time I get the gift of spending a few days in my favorite place on the planet, Some of my old ghosts come along for the ride. This is not a new feeling, in fact it's quite common every time I go back home to Spain.

Castiñeiras is a place packed with memories of another time of my life. Memories I like to remember, even though I have forgotten many along the way. Sensations and feelings that I know belong to a long gone time in my life where days were dark and bright at once. With all, pieces of a life that has made me who I am today. And every now and then it's good to remember and at times even relive.

Castiñeiras bring along, especially, long lazy hours full of sun and sand filled with many memories. Never ending nights chasing falling stars and drinking "queimada" on the rocks... and I don't mean with ice. Wild parties that even today, twenty years later, many in town remember, even those who weren't invited... or especially them. Having breakfast right out of the tree in the morning... or early afternoon more often than not. Hours and hours picking up little pieces of color among the grains of sand in the beach... yes, I have some odd hobbies. Solitude, rain, saxophones...Times long gone that still today elicit smiles and complicities. Times that are very much linked to my brother, one of the four most important men in my life and who I love with all my heart. He knows it.

These days have been great thought short. Anyway, in Castiñeiras, even two months would fly by. The weather has not been all that great, but we were able to enjoy the beach a few days.

Naím and I have enjoyed the family in bits and pieces. Some days Abuelo was there, others only Uncle was, others everyone was there, and we even enjoyed the visit of my sisters-in-law who had never been here before. We even spent a couple days on our own, and had a very cute and unexpected encounter with Peke, one of the regular readers of the Spanish version of this blog, who I had not met in person before.

Even though I'm leaving this place, it always stays close to my heart. And a piece of my heart always gets trapped in the sand and stays resting among tiny granite crumbs, little colors, and white pieces of shells. I can't have it any other way.

Monday, June 30


The Madrid section of the trip has come to an end. There have been many beautiful moments and in each home I have felt like in my own. We've spent a few days with my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law and lots of swimming pool time to combat the outrageous heat we've had these days.

I will be forever grateful to my mother-in-law for giving me some of the few real vacation moments I have during the entire year. To be able to sit and read for four or five hours without interruption is a luxury that I don't enjoy very often in daily life. Naím adores his "yaya" and with her he is able to forget about mommmy for a while. It's important to remember that mommy is the only stable element in these days of lots of people, lots of traveling, and five different beds in one week.

Aside from family time, it has also been friends' time. Friends that have been there for over 15 years and will continue to be there forever, regardless of the physical distance. Those kind of friends that you can count with the fingers of one hand.

We had our moments of african traditions...

New friends...

Jazz concerts in the town's square, while storks watched from above...

And of course, soccer, lots of soccer. Oddly enough, Naím loves soccer, and I say oddly because neither his dad or myself ever play (but of course we're starting to). I don't usually care much about soccer, but whenever there are international competitions like these days with the European Cup, I fill up with a wave of patriotic love and watch enthusiastically how our 11 guys chase the black and white ball around the field. And hey, we won the championship, which hadn't happened in 44 years!!! With Spain's love for partying, you have no idea what kinds of celebrations this event brought about. Spain is different, truly!

Tomorrow we will be on our way to Galicia. My father didn't have the patience to wait for our arrival, so he is coming to pick us up and drive us back home. So, it will be a six hour road trip. I hope the weather keeps up, though you never know in Galicia.

Friday, June 27

Mortadelo & Filemón

They finally had a name, after two months of living with us. Mortadelo & Filemón, two of the most famous Spanish comic book heroes. They kind of had a resemblance. One was tall and skinny. The other short and chubby.

Two days before my trip, we asked Abe, the other co-owner of the goats, to take them with him, since David was also going to be away for a few days. We had plans to share them throughout the summer, a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there. They are fantastic lawn mowers and since grass in Alaska grows very very fast int he summer, they were eating a lot and we were happy.

Abe took them to his cabin up river, a few miles away from the nearest town. He had built them a fenced shed and they were happy. That is, until a bear ate them up a couple of days ago.

That's life in Alaska for you, you look the other way and here comes a bear to eat up your goats. Sad... they were so tremendously cute...

Wednesday, June 25


I would´ve never imagined it, but when landing in Europe I realized that my body had grown unaccostumed to the heat. It is a strange sensation to readapt myself to walk around with a half naked body, sweating, and being thankful of every air conditioning opportunity.

The first part of my trip has been Barcelona. Two great days spent in the warmest 24 square meters of the entire city. And the warmth was not just because of the heat, even though there was a lot of it in the little apartment, but because of my lovely sister Chío. The visit was really short and I can´t wait to meet up with her again in Galicia, even if it will just be for a couple of days again. She has performed her auntie duties beautifully, even though she doesn´t get to practice much because we live so far away.

We didn´t see too much of the city, but we took a couple of short trips that were absolutely fantastic. On Monday we went to the beach to a small village called l´Hospitalet de l´Infant and also visited the beautiful town of Roc de Sant Gaietá. It was too bad I didn´t take my camera with meto share some of the beautiful images I now keep in my head, so I´m borrowing one from the Internet for the fist time. Tapas and San Juan´s night fireworks. An indescribable pleasure.

For the sake of balancing out the beach with some mountains, the next day we visited Montserrat. This is the mountain that honors the fifth of my names, and yes, I have five names just as if I was of royal blood, but that´s another story. Beautiful, truly amazing. The sun was not out, which was great because it was very hot anyway. Naím had a great time running around, chasing birds and butterflies, and resting on top of his aunt´s shoulders. And his mom was grateful to be walking around in the wilderness without having to worry about bears or moose popping out of every corner. What a restful pleasure.

Once back in Barcelona, we visited the famous Parc Güell, which I had never seen before. It was almost empty, so it was wonderful to be able to walk around without the hordes of tourists that usually fill the place. I love Gaudí and his eccentric
architectural imagination.

As a linguistic detail, I will mention that these days Naím has learned a new word: firecracker. I doubt he will ever forget it

Thank you sister, for your hospitality and for being so truly yourself as you always are. I love you.

Wednesday, June 18

Running away

Eighteen. I´ve counted them. Eighteen mosquitoes just on the very top of my friend´s hood. And that´s only on the right side of her head. I don´t want to think how many more were landing all over her body... and mine.

The invasion has started a couple of days ago. And it´s just starting. They say that within three weeks it will be at its peak. I don´t even want to think about it.

SO I´ve decided to flee the scene and with my terrified son, take off for a few weeks and go sunbathe far away from the mosquitoes. I´m leaving for my galician beaches, where mosquitoes come out discreetly in the evening. I´m going to enjoy my family, friends, sun, and of course some good seafood and great Albariño wine.

So here I go again, from here to there...

Saturday, May 31


It's way past eleven and the sun hasn't set.

Hey Miriam, we're going for a boat ride. You want to come?

So we went up river

and enjoyed a midnight sunset.

Tuesday, May 20


"Heaven on Earth"
Aniak, Alaska
May 2008

There is a lot of water all around these days. It's very gratifying to walk around just staring at the ground. And no, it's not a small river. Just a big puddle.

Saturday, May 10


"Lost in the Ice"
Aniak, Alaska
May 9, 2008

Yesterday at 3 pm the phone rang. "The river has just broken, let's go." So we went. Break-up is the big spring event. Days before, everyone is watching the river and trying to read the signs that announce it. And as soon as the first crack sounds, everyone in town knows about it.

Once it starts, there is no going back. The dike becomes the observation point. Everyone in town drops by to check out the river during the day, and there are parties and bonfires at night... or whatever you're supposed to call that time of the day when it should be dark but it's really not all that dark anymore

While the river does its thing, we are all watching closely the changes in the ice. Is it rising? Is it not? Is it flowing? Has it fully stopped? It's quite a show that nature gifts us with. The river changes constantly and those changes involve long quiet hours where it seems like nothing is really happening out there. However, every time we go watch, it looks completely different.

Now we will just have to wait and hope that all those ice blocks that come floating by don't get stuck down river and flood us. There are already lists posted with emergency numbers and shelters. People are starting to bring their dogs and motor vehicles to high ground, gathering enough food at home of the kind that doesn't need water for preparation, as well as drinking and cooking water in containers, and making sure the boats are handy in case they end up needing them. We don't have a boat, so we'll have to manage with a kayak and a raft, in the worse case scenario.

In a way, the idea of flooding sounds almost exciting. And it is also true that at this point, I rather find excitement in a different way. Sometimes it is good to leave the new experiences and constant challenges on the side for a while, and chill out enjoying that which has already become familiar.

So the time has come to wait and hope for the best, since there is nothing else I can do about it.