Ch. 1 Spiderweb Cracks

Columbia, Maryland

My mother told this story many times. Sometimes, telling it simply to relate the story of how she survived a traumatic experience, and more often, to remind me just how difficult my coming into the world had been for her. As I grew older, I began to not only listen but have questions.

“A week before you were born, on the day that you were due, your father and I were walking home from an evening movie, I think it was E.T. We stepped into a crosswalk on a quiet street, and out of nowhere, we heard a car, seconds…

Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio

We moved in with Lewis, Roy, and Dia in their small upstairs flat on 17th street in Buffalo’s West Side. Roy played basketball in the street with the neighborhood kids and we all got together to play street hockey and freeze tag. Dia and I became friends with the Puerto Rican girls next-door, Maria and Yolanda. Once in a great while we slept over at their house, watched scary movies, and munched on a delicious fried potato dish their mother made. We were rarely allowed to watch TV at home — Mom disapproved of pretty much everything except PBS —…

Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio

Montreal, Quebec to Buffalo, NY

Driving through a blizzard in the Adirondacks of New York, the road was invisible through swirling snow, and staring into the driving flakes made me dizzy. My eyelids drawn relentlessly shut by the powerful fingers of Morpheus. Struggling to stay awake, I jerked my head up every few seconds from where my chin kept sinking down into my chest, wrenching my lids apart with an effort of will.

“Elizabeth! Stay awake! I need you to help me stay awake!” Mom said frantically, when I nodded off, shaking me awake by the shoulder closest to her. I made a valiant effort…

Photo credit Fia Giannatasio

Ch. 2 A Fresh Start, A New Baby, and A Return to the Crazy.

Columbia, MD — Arlington, VA

Unexpectedly, after the latest fight and round of police reports Mom quit her job.

“We are leaving. Leaving Lewis, and your father, and all of this mess. We need a fresh start. We are going to California.” Several months pregnant, Mom hired movers to pack all of our belongings in a large U-Haul, with our little Toyota Tercel on a trailer behind, and we drove cross-country to California.

I climbed into what seemed a tower of a vehicle, pulling myself up several steps onto the front seat of a giant U-Haul, sliding in beside the car seat that Mom had…

Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio

I was born of a tornado, birthed by a turbulent, powerful and unpredictable storm. Raised in an earthquake — ever shifting, fracturing, unstable — I never stood on solid ground. My siblings and I, tempest tossed seeds — fragile, unformed, lacking roots — bound by genetics and bonds formed of chaos. Forged in battering winds and destroying fire, we all learned to dance across ever shifting sand under our feet — pulled hither and yon by implacable ocean tides. Like redwood seeds — enduring and beautiful beings — birthed only from fiery destruction.

Spirits embodied by Willow, Ivy, Orchid, Sunflower…

Pandemic Reflections: Thoughts on the Covid pandemic from a frontline healthcare worker.

Photo credit Fia Giannatasio

As a physical therapist assistant, I never imagined that my job would require me to risk my life and that of my loved ones on a daily basis. In healthcare supporting services like mine we are familiar with standard infection control procedures and risks. Most commonly encountered are things like needlesticks and infectious diseases, but never before on a daily basis, never before with a deadly unknown player, and never before lacking the proper personal protective equipment designed to protect healthcare workers from said hazards.

Like flipping a…

Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio

This photo is from a six mile snowshoe trip I did with Cascadia Wild on Mt. Hood. We snowshoed in the six miles every six weeks with carnivore bait and gear to set up and monitor endangered carnivore populations on the mountain. Our target species were grey wolves, wolverines, Pacific Pine Marten and Sierra Nevada Red Fox. Always an intense trek due to distance, elevation and five to six feet of snow. A true test of endurance, pushing my body to its limits of quivering muscle exhaustion every time. Also a brilliantly beautiful journey through snow silenced forest, bordered by…

Isles of Colonsay & Oronsay, Sunset, Hebrides of Scotland, Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio

Ch. 22 A leaky bus, peat bogs, and a trailer full of crazies

Cougie Croft, Glen Afric, Scotland

After a long and glacial trip from Oban to Glen Afric, (much of which involved standing in the freezing rain for three hours at a bus stop in Drumnadrochit), I finally arrived at my destination. I waited for my host family to meet me at an ancient hotel reminiscent of Jane Eyre’s Thornfield Hall. Tucked away in a pocket-sized village, snug in the folds of a lush, tenebrous wildwood. I imagined I could see dryads faces in the ancient lichen draped-wood. …

Iditarod Puppies from the Swingley Race Kennel Montana 1999 (Photo Credit Fia Giannatasio)

Since people are always asking me — how do you train sled dog puppies?

How To Train a Sled Dog Team

1. The first step in any learning process is to know your subject. In this case, know your dogs, observe them, learn their names, personalities, buddies, enemies, their strengths and weaknesses. Easier said than done, I know, but patience and observation are half the battle here.

2. Next, get your pups to stay in their harnesses — again, WAY easier said than done! This will be your first exercise in frustration, guaranteed. Start with showing one of your pups…

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