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Heather Lende

HAINES, Alaska -- My schedule has been turned on its head thanks to a darling 17-month-old, which is a good thing -- as I'm a little tired, frankly, and appreciate the slower, gentler pace.

The best thing about having little children around is that as long you don't try to do anything else, caring for them is easy. The fine summer weather is wiping everyone out. I mean, when it's sunny and 70 for months on end, we have to ride bikes, climb mountains, garden, stain the deck, picnic, jam, fish and throw sticks to swimming dogs -- all of it. It never ends! What a life...

Heather Lende

At least for one week. As I typed my way toward the end of that new book deadline, I got an unexpected boost yesterday when I learned that “If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name,” my first book, made the New York Times Bestseller List for July 21 in ebooks.

It's No. 17. “Wild” is No. 18. Seriously? Pinch me. (Powers that be say it's real. If you get the Times mail me the list after you read it next week, okay? I'm at P.O. Box 936, Haines AK 99827. I'd like to frame it. Heck, it may never happen again.) I did ask my agent, Elizabeth Wales of Seattle, and my Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill editor if this meant I'd be rich and famous. I haven't heard back...

Heather Lende

I have been asked to audition for a new Alaska reality TV show made by the folks who bring you "Pawn Stars," called "Alaska Rivers" (and the people who live on them.) Apparently the producers like this blog, and as you know we do live in a photogenic place populated by interesting and eccentric people. Here is the questionnaire they sent that I'm supposed to answer on video, while having a really fun, friendly time of it:

1. What is your full name?

Heather Lende

2. How old are you?

For real, or reality TV? Can I say 45 if I'm almost 54? Call me dyslexic?

3. Do you live on/near a river? Which one?

Yes, the mighty Chilkat River.

4. What do you do for a living? How does the River affect what you do?...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- Our lumberyard did not burn down this morning, although the fast-roaring fire next door was pretty scary, and thanks to the great Haines Volunteer Fire Department it was contained to one substantial shed at Leo and George Ann Smith's place.

Leo lost his boat and tools, and they had full freezers in there. One window in the house broke from the heat, but that's it. (The shed is nothing but charcoal.)

The way the north wind was blowing off the cove, it's a miracle the 100-year-old Army sheds that Leo's newer outbuilding backed up against didn't catch. Or, for that matter, their house just feet away. Or the area shops. Or the Fireweed. Or our big sheds full of kiln-dried wood. The whole block could have been lost...

Heather Lende

This is what my husband said to my father on the phone: “Not much is new here. The weather is great. The kids are doing fine, and they found a murderer in our neighborhood."

Make that an alleged murderer. Later I heard that the guy they were after may have jumped out a second story window and might have hid in a neighbor’s shed, before he was captured right before a friend and I walked our dogs in nearly the same location. It was a sunny day, my doors were wide open, there were babies and old people at home up and down the road, so I called the police to see what was happening. They said not to worry; a suspect was in custody. When I shared that with another inquiring neighbor, she said, “Suspected of what?”...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- We could pretend this is March, then it wouldn't be odd at all for it to be so cold and relentlessly snowing. Then, a bike ride in the snow would be almost fun, something to laugh or even brag about -- or at least a choice -- and not a must-do with seven weeks left before the Kluane-to-Chilkat International Bike Relay...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- The Chilkat Center was full a few summers ago for Pete Lapham’s funeral . So many of us felt like we knew him well because the DOT foreman waved, smiled or nodded it seemed at everyone he passed on his daily rounds of our roads and highways -- the walkers, cyclists, and all the drivers from Lutak and Mud Bay to the border. In every season, in weather fair and foul, Pete waved, and we waved back. With spring sort of in the air, I’m out on my bike more and I miss Pete’s friendly gestures...

Heather Lende

Author's note: A year and a half ago my friend Rene asked if I would write her obituary. I did not know Rene as well then. She knew me better because she read my books and blog. She lived in Juneau, but her family has a cabin in Haines, where I live. We became friends only after I knew Rene wouldn’t live long. I write a lot of obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News in Haines. I believe reading them ought to teach you something about life. Rene’s, which I wrote for Sunday’s Juneau Empire, does -- and that is why I’m sharing it with you. She never read it. I figured it was bad luck to complete an obituary ahead of schedule...

Heather Lende

Editor's note: On March 3, 2013, four heli-skiers fell as a result of what officials are calling “a massive cornice failure” near Haines, Alaska. One guide died, and two clients were injured. One client, columnist Heather Lende’s daughter’s boyfriend, survived the 1,000-foot tumble and snow slide, unharmed. He credited an inflatable personal airbag, a helmet, and his avalanche training, as well as good fortune, for saving his life...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- Poet Mary Oliver says that what we must do with this wild and precious life we are given is simple: pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it. I am prepared to be astonished. I honestly am. It is the way I want to walk in this world. It's a lot more fun than watching out for another truck to run over me, you know?

But even so, I have witnessed so many astonishing precious and wild moments in the last few days that I am flattened (in a good way).

Just this morning, I have been keeping company with a black wolf. He was on Pyramid Island when Pearl and I walked out on the low tide sand flats within stick tossing distance...

Heather Lende

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