Technically, I’m still an anthropologist, but I don’t want to sound like one


I feel so high on the hog

Though Denali was hidden in fog

     A bull, cow, and calf moose   

     Were out on the loose,

And we watched a fivesome of dog.

We took our time at breakfast in the town outside of Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) National Park.  I had the opportunity to speak a few words of Russian to one of the waiters, who comes from Moldova.

My acquaintance with the Russian language came when Tashkent immigrants arrived in Sioux City.  My pronunciation of a few words is very good, but I don’t speak the language.

In the park we took the Natural History tour.  From a distance of a couple of kilometers we saw a bull moose with antlers large enough to see with the naked eye.  We also saw a cow moose with a calf at heel which crossed the road thirty meters in front of us.  For a very short time the peak of Denali poked out from behind the clouds. 

At the turnaround we listened to an Athabascan Native talk about being a subsistence hunter inside the park.  She comes from a village of 30 people with cable and Internet but no school; the young people go to Fairbanks.

She opened and closed her talk in her own language.  My third language, Navajo, is in the Athabascan family but the only things I recognized were the possessives. 

What I really wanted to do was to ask about her language (one of eleven Alaskan Athabascan languages) and her clan structure, but I didn’t want to sound like an anthropologist.  Which, technically, I am, even if no one pays me for it.

We returned to the cluster of buildings near the Park Entrance, and boarded the bus for the Dog Sled Demo.

Denali is the last National Park to use working dog sleds. Park rules forbid motorized traffic past park roads, and dog sleds provide the means to patrol an area the size of Massachusetts in the winter.  The Park Rangers breed, train, and handle the dogs. 

In the winter, they use three teams of ten dogs each.  No one goes out alone, which leaves at least one team resting at all times. 

The dog handlers seem like very happy people.  The dogs themselves are very happy, mellow animals.  I could see their eagerness to work as they were being hitched up to the sled. 

Jen, the Ranger in charge of the dogs and the dog lecture, said that the dogs were happy working, and happy during summer vacation.

Of course I thought of myself.  I love my work, but I’m enjoying the heck out of my vacation.  As a generality (which means exceptions exist) people are happiest when they get regular vacations from work that they love.

At the restaurant Bethany and I split a “scoop” (really two)of chocolate ice cream.  I said, grinning, “This is lush.”

Bethany said, “We had cheese and crackers that we packed ourselves, and a scoop of ice cream.  That’s lush?”

“Maybe,” I said, “It feels lush because I’m not in a hurry.  But it sure feels lush.  Posh.  De luxe.” (I made  the last one rhyme with ‘three kooks.’)

We fell into conversation with two couples who had attended the dog demo.  One couple left Denver in mid July and drove all the way, the other pair had left San Diego; they met in Oregon.  Having been happy in their work, they are happy in their retirement.

Happiness is something you bring with you, it’s not something you find when you go looking for it. 

I’m a family practitioner on sabbatical from Sioux City, while my  one-year, thirty mile non compete clause expires.

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