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January 13, 2103

The Good Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New straw night in the kennel goes something like this:  I drag the sled with the bale of straw in it to the next house.  With this, the dog who lives there realizes it’s his turn.  He watches impatiently as I pull a square from the bale.  He lets me put it into his house, but that’s all he can take.  If I want to spread it out on the floor or add any more, I have to screen him out with my leg.  I’ve gotten pretty good at this, but it’s still work.  Finally (FINALLY!!), I’m done and he bursts into his house.

The next ten to twenty minutes are spent pulling, pushing, chewing, and circling.  When he has achieved what he deems is perfection, he lays down.  Actually, several of the dogs come out for a few seconds apparently to say “Thank You” before heading back in and laying divinely contented on their beds.

I was about eight years old when I first decided that I wanted to become a nuclear physicist.  I had read the World Book Encyclopedia article on atomic bombs, thought they were neat, and made up my mind.  That would have been ’64 or ’65. 

In deference to history as it occurred, there was about a year during high school that I considered becoming a lawyer, the debate my freshman year at Caltech between EE and physics was real, and choosing nuclear physics as opposed to any other specialty was purely the result of random circumstances rather than favoring it over most areas of experimental physics.  Still, that’s where I ended up. 

Five years after I first proclaimed my occupational preference, I started falling in love with the mountains.  By 1972 they were a passion.  My first Siberian Husky, Sapura, found me during the summer of ’76 and I started studying Taekwon-Do during January of ‘79.  Mushing, working the dogs I have, is the latecomer---I’ve only been doing this since 1999.

I now live in the mountains with 21 sled dogs and a rescue, own three working sleds, five well used pairs of skis, three working pairs of crampons, two ice axes, two ice-climbing tools, a reasonably good rock-climbing rack---albeit very old school---several ropes, and a library of physics and math books (actually, this needs some updating).  I am heading to Denver for a Taekwon-Do class Saturday.  And at this time, I am trying to make a living off of my writing.  I’m not at all sure I’ll succeed, but whether or not I do, I am enjoying learning this craft.  Moreover, what I am sure of is that my joy in writing, something else I’ve had since high school, will not go away. 

I have always quickly known if I did or did not like something.  Like so many things, my dogs and I seem to share this trait.  They show their exuberance without inhibition whenever they get fresh straw or go mushing or simply eat dinner.  Knowing that I give my dogs a good life lets me sleep very well.

As I write this, it’s snowing.  There’s a moderate pack on the driveway and this won’t be plowed until tomorrow.  At that time, I’ll be on the road to Bozeman for my flight to Denver.  That drive has me cross the Continental Divide not too far from the point on which the lowest temperature ever recorded in the lower ’48 was measured.  The snow is supposed to lighten by then, but I’ll be driving the pass half a day before the storm fully clears.  In the mean time, I’m heading out every couple of hours and tracking my driveway with my truck.  The good news is with the temperature dropping, it should set up nicely.  The predicted temperature tomorrow morning as I drive away is 5F, actually a really good thing---it’s at 32F that snow is the worst to deal with.        

But with these challenges and others, I’ve done ten dogsled runs and been skiing five times and the season has just started.  I’m about to head to a Taekwon-Do class with friends.  And I get to watch as my writing improves, even if I never make it as a professional.  This is something that’s particularly gratifying as a 56 year old.  It’s true that I have to work in order to get at the fun, but I also sleep well at night knowing that I’ve given myself the good life.

   
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