This is happening. I’m actually moving to Alaska.

Saturday May 3, 2014, early morning; en route to Ketchikan, aboard the AMHS MV Taku

I’m sure I’d only just really gotten to sleep when my cell phone alarm chirped at 12:40 this morning, prompting the groggy business of rolling out of bed and collecting our things. Dad and I stayed at an old quirky place called Totem Lodge in Prince Rupert (complete with turquoise colored kitchen appliances, I kid you not), really just renting a place to lie down between dinner and our 1:15am check-in at the Alaska Marine Highway terminal. We piled into the car (which has become decreasingly organized since we left Bellingham, two-and-a-half days ago), made sure we knew where our passports were, and headed down the road.

Travel being what it is (and since we’d had no complications thus far), we had a tiny snag during our check-in. Earlier in the week, via phone, I had added my dad as a passenger in my vehicle, and removed the dog ticket, and had been issued a revised ticket showing that I was fully paid. But a glitch in the AMHS system showed that I still owed a $10 change fee. It was eventually resolved without much hassle (just a lengthy wait). We were given new tickets, a Customs declaration form and a tag for the car that indicated our destination: WRG.

We passed through Customs and were put in boarding Lane 2. Lane 1 had cars with tags reading “KTN” Lane 3 cars had tags reading “PSG”, and Lane 4 cars had tags reading “STA”. In order, these are the first four stops of the voyage: Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. The other lanes were mostly full, but we were, and would remain, the only car in Lane 2. This leads me to believe that Wrangell is either a terrible place, or Alaska’s best-kept secret. Here’s hoping for the latter.


a little change for my birthday

Folks who’ve known me for awhile know that I collect whatever money I find on the ground. I started doing this in high school, as a child-like tribute to my grandmother Alice, who would lay math flashcards on the dining room table, along with a penny each (and nickels, for the tougher problems). We would walk around the table and I got to keep the pennies for the flashcard problems I solved.

Over the years, I’ve just kept collecting the money I found on the ground, and for the past seven years or so, I’ve put it all in one bowl, and then tallied what I found at the end of the year.  I usually collect about $5-10 total, but one year I had a haul of $50+ when I found a wad of $40 in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. On my birthday, no less.

And of course there are rules about what money is OK to collect and what isn’t. Money in water fountains, tip jars or otherwise attributable to someone else is not OK (the random pennies that sometimes hang out on cash registers at the grocery store, for instance, but if it’s on the floor, it’s fair game. And I don’t invade people’s space, either. The other day I passed a person sitting on a bench who had their legs stretched out and a coin lay beneath their legs. I wasn’t about to say “excuse me, there’s a coin under your legs that I need to have”. And I have to actually pick up the money in order to count it. I used to “credit” coins I saw but couldn’t pick up (I’ve seen a lot of money in the road when I’m riding my bike). A friend convinced me that this wasn’t appropriate, and so now I have to actually have the money in my hand before I can count it for the year. And besides my index finger and thumb, no tools can ever be used to collect the money. No chiseling coins out of artwork (duh).

Mostly pennies, of course, but I’ve also found nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars. I’ve found 1, 5, 10 and 20 dollar bills. Once, many years ago, I found a $100 bill wadded up in a gas station market in Central Valley, CA. Before I knew it, I’d turned to the clerk and handed it over. He told me he believed it belonged to one of a number of migrant construction workers who came in daily, and offered me a free drink for my honesty. I don’t mind saying now, since I sort of doubt that bill ever made it back to the person who lost it, that I part of me wishes I’d kept it.

A couple of years ago, I thought about what the ultimate find would be. A $2 bill? A silver dollar? No, I decided that it would be a 50-cent piece. I remember having a couple of 50-cent pieces that we would throw in the swimming pool and dive for when I was a kid. It puzzled me that they were perfectly good coins, but that no one ever used them. Which is why I will never likely find one, but if I do, that’s the day I’ll hang up collecting the money I find on the ground.


I saw this yesterday: two fifty-cent pieces embedded in the concrete outside the La Conner Ice Cream Tower in La Conner, Washington. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, then sank a tiny bit when I realized it wasn’t going to be mine. But now I hope this is the closest I ever get to finding a 50-cent piece on the ground. I like collecting the money I find.


Wrangell, Alaska

I have recently accepted a new job in Wrangell, Alaska. I’ll be moving within the month, and I believe I am in for, if not an adventure, then a dramatic change of lifestyle.

Wrangell is a small town on a small island in Southeast Alaska, in the panhandle. After Ketchikan, it’s about as south in Alaska as one can be, so I’m not headed to frigid tundra or ice-capped mountains, more like a coastal, temperate rainforest.

I’ll try to blog here more regularly as I prepare and once I arrive in Wrangell. I am excited to share my experiences with friends and family.

[my] range of light

Recently, I participated in a quilt challenge sponsored by the Whatcom County Library system and Fourth Corner Quilts here in Bellingham. The challenge was an offshoot of the community read-along event Whatcom Reads, and the book was Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. I’d heard of the book, though I wasn’t particularly interested in reading it, despite my keen interest in the PCT. My bucket list is short, but hiking the PCT is on it. As it turns out, Wild is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

[my] range of light. pieced and quilted by andrea slusser, 2014.

[my] range of light. pieced and quilted by andrea slusser, 2014.

Along with reading the book, the challenge for us quilters was to use a recognizable piece of a selected pine needle print fabric on the front of a quilt. After that and a few other parameters, the design was up to me. I don’t much care for the issued pine needle print fabric, but I decided to embrace, rather than eschew it and bury only a tiny piece in the design, as was my gut reaction. At long last, my final design integrated a recurring but minor theme of the book, that of John Muir’s description of the High Sierras as “the range of light”. From my artist’s statement:

“I have experienced John Muir’s “Range of Light” first hand. The author described them, but unfortunately had to bypass them during her journey due to record snow in the Sierras. When Cheryl hiked the PCT in 1992, I was 16 and a member of a Bay Area Girl Scout troop that planned and hiked a 50-mile backpacking trip every summer. Several of our trips took us close to the PCT, including the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas. I distinctly remember the way the Sierra granite would light up with pinks and yellows, and how blue the sky—and its reflection in the lakes—was. The High Sierras and its Range of Light is still my absolute favorite thing about California.

“Reading Wild brought back my cherished memories of these hikes and the scenery I love. My quilt design celebrates the elevation of the High Sierras through forest, treeline and luminous sky, each faceted and dynamic. I used fabrics reflecting the colors I remember seeing and the scenery I fell in love with, and used quilting as a design element to reflect the textures.”


While I was making my resolutions this year, I deemed 2014 the year of getting things done. Doing the things that need to be done in a timely manner, instead of languishing on the ‘to do’ list. Addressing with gusto the box of unfinished sewing projects: either do them or get rid of them. No starting a project without a due date or schedule. Even as I read this, it sounds like it might suck the joy out of the creativity, but I think it’ll help me feel freer — ready to take on a new creative direction, once I’ve tied up all the ends of the old directions.