Moose on the Loose

I have now had two close-ish encounters with moose.

The first occurred soon after I moved here.  It was not late, but it was dark.  I was pulling my car around to get at my mailbox, and I noticed a LARGE dark shape.  I couldn’t remember that dark shape being there before, and just as I was scratching my head in confusion, it moved.

When the headlights of my car managed to catch it, the moose was revealed in all its muscular glory.  No matter where I drove, the moose would not leave my mailbox.  So I decided to get my mail later . . . because the moose was taller than my SVU.

The second encounter was from a slightly greater distance.  I noticed a moose and her baby in my neighbor’s driveway one weekend afternoon.

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The most important thing to note about this photo is the size of the moose.  If you need scale, just use the minivan being dwarfed by the 1,400 lb. hunk of meat.

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The funny story behind this photo is that I saw the baby moose first, and I thought that it was maybe an adult.  Until its mother walked up behind it.  I’ve seen moose before, but their sheer size never ceases to amaze.  Alliteration is absolutely awesome.

I’ve been in Alaska for about three months, and everybody has some horror story about moose fatalities.  At an in-processing briefing, I was made to watch a moose mauling a man in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Moose can be aggressive, and the mothers can be extremely protective of their young.  I have one friend who apparently used to feed moose out of his hand as a child . . . but by and large, everyone else warned me how belligerent and brutal they can be.  The next important thing to understand is the relative size of a moose.  They generally outweigh grizzly bears.  Wrap your mind around that, and come back to this post later.

Eventually it occurred to me to wonder what to do in the event of a moose attack.  After all, there’s bear spray and bear bells for bears – surely there would be something equally effective against moose? 

Nope.

You have two options in the event of a moose attack.  The first, and better, option is to put something between yourself and the moose.  They’re not too bright, and this can stymie them.  The second, less preferable, option is to run in very tight circles until the moose becomes tired and gives up.  The goal is to outlast the moose.  Moose are so large that they can’t corner well, so they can’t catch a human running in tight circles.  This is how Norwegian elkhounds hunted moose; they would track one down, allow themselves to be chased it, and run it in circles until it wearied.  Then the hounds would go in for the kill. 

The best thing to do is admire from a distance with your eyes.  Never, under any circumstances, put yourself between a mother and a mooselet.  Moose associate dogs with wolves, and they will sometimes back down at the sight of a dog.  If you’re going to try to shoot the moose, use a big ol’ gun otherwise you’ll just piss it off.  Finally, remember to never give a moose a muffin.

And this concludes today’s lesson on things I never thought I’d have to know, but is now extremely valuable information. 

Dawn of the North

My best friend has been bothering me to start a blog about my new life and adventures.  I’ve been resisting because I don’t know who it would interest, but a dam broke somewhere in my soul tonight, and I feel like I have so much to say.  Therefore, this blog is going to transition from a fitness/vegan blog into an Alaskan lifestyle blog.  So let’s get this show on the road.

The event that changed my mind from not blogging to blogging again, writing for the public, was the most spectacular display of aurora borealis anybody could hope to see.  To set the stage: I had had a fairly pleasant week at work, I went to my friends’ house for a nice Friday dinner, and I was driving home feeling pretty content with my lot in life.  All of a sudden, as I was descending from the hills of Fox to return home to North Pole, I came out of the trees and saw LIGHT!

Unfortunately, iPhones cannot capture the mind-blowing display that is the northern lights.  But I can say it’s every bit as impressive as photographs.  After I had nearly driven off the road half a dozen times trying to watch the lights, I pulled over into the end of someone’s driveway and got out.

The lights take up the whole horizon.  These were green, white, purple, and pink.  And they really do “dance” as the most unoriginal writers claim.  These huge ribbons of light furl and coil across the sky, merging, separating, writing in a language nobody can read.  It’s like a mirror image of everything beautiful that’s happening on Earth, and it’s reflected back at us, and all you need is a pair of eyes socked into your head and a pulse to receive the bounty.

That’s when it occurred to me that not everybody has those things, the simplest of things, the lowest level of health.  And I was struck by how right my life feels, how charmed it is, how I appreciate the path my life has taken.  And I had to share this awesome experience because it’s just so.damn.moving.

I finally got home, grabbed a beer, and went to stand in my backyard in -2*F weather (which is practically balmy here).  And I watched.  You can’t really go inside when a ballet of the whole cosmos is showing right there in your own backyard, free admission, BYOB.  So I stood and sipped and watched.  My yard was lit by a bright moon.

The movement of the lights puts me in mind of the dolphins swimming in a pod and jumping in and out of the waves.  Or a flock of birds in flight.  Or waves crashing on the shore.  It also really makes me feel like someone somewhere is trying really hard to reach us.  It seems like that other being is RIGHT THERE, pressed up close against the glass, and all we have to do is make the merest movement back, and we’d touch him or her.

I might mean God.

I might mean alien life forms.

I might mean our own consciences trying to remind us to look the f*** up sometimes and be present in the moment.

As I watched the lights revel in their own glory, I also saw a shooting star.  And I can’t remember the last time I saw one.  I made a wish, my secret heart wish, and I dearly hope it comes true.  But even if it doesn’t, I won’t mind a bit.  The star streaked a long way down the sky, seeming very small and insignificant compared to the lights.
Eventually the lights smudged out and became faint glimmers.  The lights don’t always appear as the dramatic curtains and ribbons captured in photos; sometimes it’s just smudges that kind of look like the Milky Way.  The most common colors are green and pink, though they can also be blue, violet, red, or yellow.  And by the way, “aurora borealis” means “dawn of the north.”

So now I’ve written this long blog post without any explanation.  Hello.  My name is Kristin.  I’m a lawyer and an Air Force officer.  I’m stationed near Fairbanks, Alaska for three years.  I love my new adventure.