Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big Brown, bonfires, and tie dye t-shirts

Sophie is 10, and loves tie dye t-shirts. She also loves dogs. She will have her first sled this coming season and will be training with me, along with running my Siberian, Jack, in her first race.


May seems to be birthday month for our family and friends. We had another birthday party to attend this weekend. Kids' birthday parties in our circle mean small get-togethers for adults as well: bonfires and beer.

The kids play, and adults relax.

We followed up with a first-time trip to the park for one of our yearlings, Big Brown.

She's never been out of the yard, aside from the dog box when I brought her home in April. She was a little scared, but she did awesome on the leash!

Even on the dock!

I feel lucky that we are small enough to do daily enrichment activities with our dogs and give them one-on-one attention. Yesterday, I spent time with each dog doing "sit" training, and today Big Brown got to leave the dog yard for a walk in the park. Socialization activities like these help create sled dogs who are well-rounded companions as well hard working dogs. This helps also to develop the bond between the dogs and me, which means they will work harder to give me their all this next season and (hopefully) won't freak at new situations like checkpoints and bridges.

Then we did some child enrichment activities!

Me preparing our t-shirts for tie dying

Elise shows how well her t-shirt is tied!

Let the dying begin!

It's 9:45 on Sunday night now. The sun is down, the dogs are sleeping in the yard; all is quiet. I prepare myself for a new week, dreaming all the while of the dogs. I had a long conversation today with Jason Barron who was on his way back to Montana about why we do what we do. Jason and I agree, we do it because of our love for our dogs, and being outside in the elements with them.

Dreaming of fall...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brandywine Falls 5/30/09

Nuf said :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spring in images

Hopefully these pictures are worth much more than a thousand words.

Brought to you by

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to summer in Ohio

It's hot.

Jack tries to stay cool in his house

Nothing can stop the girls, though. The still love free play time.


Big Brown

I limit them to only 15 minute play sessions at a time, though, when the temps are high. Like today. It's about 82, but with the humidity, it feels more like 86. Too hot for huskies! In the summer, the dogs all have huge two gallon buckets at each of their circles. Our kennels are built in a large shaded area of our property, so it's always cooler in the kennel than anywhere else. And Miss Foxy, well, she gets to hang out in the central A/C 24/7. She's retired after all. She gets the sweet life.

Foxy running out back

Yeti still runs, despite the heat

They play for a few minutes...

...then they find other ways to entertain themselves besides running. Like checking out Yeti's circle. The girls' circles are always fairly neat. No huge holes. But Yeti is a different story. Yeti often has odd things in his circle too - strange pieces of something-or-other he's stolen and buried.

What's down there? Ruffian checks out Yeti's huge hole in his circle

Welcome to Memorial Day, and the official start to summer. Summers in Ohio are fairly miserable, with high heat and high humidity. I'm already dreaming of fall...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting frank with Frank

Frank from ten years ago when I first met him, in front of the big Ford F-350 dog truck

I had the opportunity to chat with Frank Teasley for the first time in 10 years last night. We had a lot to catch up on and I was up until nearly 1 a.m. listening to his stories - some of which I'd heard before - like arriving in Dead Horse in 1982 via a 1971 school bus with $2,800, 35 dogs and dreams of running his first Iditarod. Stories of learning from Joe Redington Senior, of running along Finger Lakes during his first Iditarod in 1988 with some of the greats such as Redington Senior himself, Rick Swenson, Rick Mackey, Tim Osmar, John Barron, Dee Dee Jonrowe and Duane Halverson. And of course, Susan Butcher, who won the Iditarod that year. Our conversation evolved into a discussion of what it means to be an Iditarod musher of the "old school." One thing that Frank and I agreed on immediately that identifies "old school" mushers are Carhartts. You'll notice Frank has a pair on in the above photo.

Frank, as anyone will tell you who has met him, is quite a character. In 1998 when I first met him, he was training for his eighth and final Iditarod. I wrote about him during that time in what would eventually become part of my master's thesis manuscript. In 1998, my description of Frank still fits him. I wrote:

Frank is a good-looking man of thirty-eight who has run the Iditarod, the annual dog-sledding race across Alaska, seven times. His ruddy complexion and strawberry blonde hair match his personality, for he is gruff and often difficult to read. Intimidating to some, he is smart, rugged, and looks good in Carhartts. He's made a living running a dog sled touring company outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, along Granite Creek Road with 180 Alaskan huskies in Teton National Forest after working as a commercial fisherman and living in Alaska for years. And his kennel is now my new home.

The description of Frank is still largely the same, with a few exceptions. Marriage has softened him. He says of his wife Stacey, "I built this house, but she's made it a home." It was so good to reconnect, talking about our friends Lila and Aaron, and some of his old dogs, like Creature, who was infamously destructive.

Frank's best Iditarod finish was sixth in 1991 - the year I graduated from high school. He's won the coveted Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for the best cared for team in 1989, and the Sterling Silver Award for the most improved team in 1991. Frank founded the largest dog sledding stage race of its kind in the lower 48: the International Pedigree Rocky Mountain Stage Stop, which combines distance racing endurance with sprint/mid-distance strategy and speed (according to Frank, the average speed of Stage Stop dog teams is 18 miles per hour compared to an average of 9 MPH of Iditarod teams)to cover several hundred miles up and down the rolling hills and valleys of Wyoming.

Frank has also traveled all over the world mushing, from Italy to, more recently, Russia for Nord Hope a project that introduces mushing and dog care to orphanages around Russia.

You can read more about Frank and listen to a podcast of our interview soon through In the meantime, here are some photos of Frank, courtesy of Chris Havener via the International Pedigree Rocky Mountain Stage Stop (IPSSSDR)site. For more information about Frank or the IPSSSDR, click the link here.

The man himself during the Nord Hope race in Russia

Frank at a starting checkpoint during the Stage Stop '09

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Sophie and Elise!

At 4:20 Mountain Time (6:20 Eastern Time), Sophie was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming 10 years ago.

Amazing how time flies, isn’t it?

Last night, she was upset about a homework assignment and crying. I started singing her favorite Bob Marley song to her: don't worry about a thing cause every little thing's gonna be alright.... I thought back to when she was a colicky infant who wouldn't stop screaming. I used to sing Bob Marley songs to her to quell her colicky cries. The sound of the streams swelling full with mountain run-off seemed to lull her. She's always been my easy going nature girl.

Ten years ago yesterday, I was holding a newborn in my arms for the first time. Tiny and impatient from birth, Sophie came three weeks early while I was eating carrots and watching Star Wars II in Victor, Idaho. She’s always been gentle and easy going, a sensitive and compassionate child with a love for nature and animals. Her father and I spent the first part of my labor in Grand Teton National Park hiking between contractions, searching for coyote scat as a distraction. She was easy on me, coming quick in only six hours and weighing only six pounds. Conceived among 180 Alaska Huskies at Frank Teasley’s Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours, she was destined to be a dog person.

Sophie in 2006 rounding up puppies at Nature's Kennel, home of Tasha and Ed Stielstra and their 100 or so racing Alaskan huskies

She didn’t cry when she was born, but she sure made up for it later: she cried constantly during the first four months of her life. I walked endlessly through the tiny town of only 300, trying to quiet her. Being in nature, hiking through the forest with the sound of the streams and the sway of my walking with her strapped to me seemed to calm her. Though she was born during the tail end of May, it snowed the night she was born there in Jackson Hole, where snow lingers long. She was destined to love snow.

Sophie with Foxy (left) and Mandy (right), the original Lazy Huskies

Five years ago today, I held a much different newborn in my arms: Elise.

With the fiery spirit of her father and the tenacity of me, she is a rough and tumble kid who can dish it out and take it.

Even in the womb, when she kicked me, I knew she was going to be strong, a fighter. At eight pounds two ounces, she took her time emerging into this world and put me through a hellish 22 hour labor. And even today, no one can make Elise do anything before she wants to. She screamed and cried when she was born.

Curious, with a fierce determination and a proclivity for music, Elise is a natural entertainer. She is charismatic. Born to musicians and writers for parents, Elise was destined to be an entertainer.

Elise singing in the backyard

Sophie and Elise are typical sisters. Most of the time, they are in harmony.

At Dussel Farm, fall of 05

But sometimes they have their differences.

Watching my girls grow up has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given. And though our lives are hectic and probably a bit unorthodox, with eight dogs at home (and more on the way), sharing their lives with the dogs is all they've ever known. My girls are flexible and resiliant, and I am proud of them. And I love them so, so much. Happy Birthday, Girls!

Elise swimming at her pool birthday party

Elise on her 5th birthday celebration

Sophie takes a break from swimming to open some presents from friends

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mind like a lake

It is the perfect time of day, when everything is golden in the waning hours of sunlight.


I find peace listening to the fish jump; with their splash-landing in the water, the concerns of the day dissipate.

The birds sing their evening song and the waves splash the hull as I paddle, watching the setting sun.

Sometimes I paddle with my eyes closed; deprived of this sense, my other senses cue in, become more alert. I’m rocking with the waves and the paddling, lulled in the slow and easy cradle of the lake. It’s like my lake. I’ve grown up on this water.

I am so drawn to water.

It’s reflective, shimmering streams of light bounce from wave to wave. I am drawn to the movement of water – ever changing, always in motion. I am attracted to its delicate nature, how even the tiniest movement sends a ripple moving across.

Tonight, like my cares, the ripples slowly fade until the water is a clean sheet of dark glass. And so is my mind.

"Fog" - one of the best photos I've ever taken. Fog rising off the lake around 9:30 p.m. The light in the corner is from a couple people fishing with a Coleman lantern. My shutter was open for about 12 seconds for this shot

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photographic obligation: photos of Akron

A photographer has an obligation to look when others might look away.

A camera can be as good as a weapon, used to gather evidence. Anymore, it seems like we're always on camera and not just from surveillance. Most all cell phones have cameras in them, and most of us have cell phones. And then there's people, like me, who walk around with a camera strapped around their neck nearly everyday. It's come in handy: the other day, some construction workers were harassing me as I walked downtown from high up on a scaffold, laughing as they taunted me. I happened to have my Canon with me (nice play on words there), and simply looked up at them, asked who they worked for and started shooting. Pictures that is. They stopped laughing quickly.

Not only do we put ourselves out there, looking when others would shy away, a photographer simultaneously hides behind a lens.

It's still difficult for me to get past the voyeuristic aspect of photography - the willingness to look unabashedly at subjects - even after nearly twenty years of shooting. It seems rude, intrusive. What if I'm caught looking? Because, let's face it, photography is intrusive. How many times have we shied away from a camera when it's pointed at us?

These middle schoolers weren't shy in front of my lens: they asked me to take their picture after the Aeros game here

I have started browsing downtown more and more, pointing my camera at various things and people. For years, I didn't see the point to celebrating where I came from, and many seem to agree: what's to celebrate about Akron? For the longest time, the answer seemed to be "nothing."

Random graffiti downtown

But where you come from is worth celebrating - just for the simple fact that it's where you come from. After all, Akron has Chrissie Hynde, Devo, Goodyear, Lebron...

And Amanda Boyd.

Amanda works at a little diner I go to at least once a week for their yummy arugula salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. When I see her, I automatically think of these lines from a great song: I know this bar with a jukebox full of medicine, and Christmas lights around a clouded'll probably find Grace, her shift starts at happy hour. She's got this sweet face, easy as tea leaves to read...

Amanda is one of those people who I encounter frequently who I don't really know, but I like in an easy, graceful sort of way. Like the lady who makes my cappuccinos at the Susan's Coffee and Tea. Like the Homeless Walt Whitman who walks downtown talking to himself.

This is where I come from. And these are the people and places I encounter, thankfully, on my short journey through my days...

Lydia's Bar

An Akron icon: the Peanut Shoppe



Zoey's dad, Blue

If I see you, say hello. And don't be shy in front of my lens. I promise, it's a friendly lens.