Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shopping Lists

Planning is important. It never means that is what I'm actually going to do, but a plan is a starting point, from which I will invariably deviate as actual conditions require. I have lots of examples. It is the way I've always approached situations. Sometimes the planning is a bit sketchy, in fact, frequently, but there's usually a plan somewhere. Every May, we've closed up our house in the village as we are head out to summer. There is summer here, and everyone looks forward to it, with its long days, fish in the river, chances to see new places, and old friends, under the open sky, unobscured by the requisite layers and coverings of the winter season. Our summer migration has become quite predictable; Bethel, to Anchorage, Down to Kenai, then off to Austin for a couple weeks soaking up the last tolerable days of central Texas spring before the bake-your-brain heat of summer settles in for the next three or four months. We then retreat back to our brief and beautiful summer in Kenai, to unwind, and then rewind in preparation for the following school year in the village.

 Projects take over my mind and visions of them completed dominate my enthusiasm in April and May. I dive headlong into them by early June, making lists of parts and tracking down their sources. By July, they might sit or lay stalled at some juncture requiring some alternative to my original plan. Unfortunately, they will frequently stay this way till it's time to put them away for the season and again change focus toward the long winter season looming, even while the brilliant greens, pinks, blues and purples of late summer's riot of life in its seasonal climax. I don't get things done any more efficiently than I did in the days of year-round habitation, but I'm at least thinking them through more thoroughly, which returns me to the that old theme of deliberateness... or is it deliberation?

By the end of summer, it is time, in earnest, to finish what I can finish, and prepare for the winter. My one modest subsistence activity usually involves catching salmon at the mouth of the Kenai river, in a net the size of a garage door (no, not at all sporting), then smoking them, and bagging them up so that we can take them back out to the village for the winter. We do the same with our spoils from the grocery store too; bagging up portions of chicken beef, and dry supplies we'll need for that long stretch between August and Christmas. We do punctuate it with a short trip to Kenai in October to celebrate our anniversary, and that is also a shopping trip to stock up on items already depleted and nice to have, between Halloween and Christmas. My luggage leaving the village, consists of my suit case, and four or five empty RubberMaid totes that we will fill up with between 60 and 70 pounds of food, cat litter, laundry soap, and whatever else we will consume.

Shopping in the village is an option, a pretty bleak one though, with choices mostly limited to bleached flour and processed items in cans with too much salt, too much sugar, and preservatives. I limit my purchases at the "Corp Store" to eggs, shelf-stable milk, Gatorade powder, and the occasional junk food item. I think if I tried living on the fare at the village store, my insides would have been pickled a long time ago.  As it is, when we get our biweekly delivery of fresh produce, I start planning what I'll do with it, before carrots start wilting, apples get mealy, and mushrooms dry up to tight little knots. Sometimes I beat the elements (of the refrigerator), and sometimes I don't.

Spending $400-500 at a pop on groceries, without blinking has come to me slowly and really only since moving to Alaska, but now I can get pretty philosophical. The problem now is that I'm not very good at shopping for say, a weekend or a week. When we take her shopping, on our visits, Senna has been bestowed with supplies of items she may use sometime before she finishes grad school, but not likely.

Everything here comes by plane. Because of that, we are at the mercy of the weather, the airlines, and even the FAA, as was the case on September 11, 200. Those days actually came and went with a relatively insulated reaction from the folks in our village. Even though no planes flew for almost a week and though the shelves at the store were pretty picked over, most of the locals all had a freezer full of fish and game, or dried fish freshly collected from drying racks. Fortunately for us,  we had just come in for the school year after a successful hunt at Costco, with our lifetime's supplies of everything from pasta to gummy bears so we were fine too. It pays to plan ahead, but there is still much to be said for hare-brained adventures too.

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