Hit the ON button of any home stereo or car radio in Sitka, Alaska, and the sound of KCAW Raven Radio, The Claw 104.7, will be on the dial. I suppose there are other stations reaching the island, but this is the local one. The one that draws visions of Northern Exposure and Chris the DJ. The transmission happens from the Cable House on Lincoln Street in downtown Sitka where the music, news, and public service announcements provide as much guidance for the locals as the noon church tones and the island’s blinking green signal lights along the coast.
Tonight there is a story of a police auction happening in Anchorage where 2000 pounds of illegally gained caribou antlers are going for a good price. One purchaser admits he can resell the antlers to tourists this summer and gain a tidy profit. At the news break there is a recap of the Board of Fisheries meeting happening in town. The contentious issue regarding herring fishing in Sitka Sound was voted to remain at status quo.
The station’s eclectic offerings range from old time and blue grass to gypsy jazz, from polka to garage bands with a little NPR programing sprinkled between. After several weeks in town, I have begun to recognize a few voices over the airways. There is Grace and her Dias Corvidae (Day of the Raven) program who celebrated her birthday by interviewing others about their memorable birthdays. Her show last week featured female artists while Cindy’s Good Day Radio Show focused on Grammy winners and Corrie’s show—The Root Cellar—invited me to talk Doc Watson and the Merlefest. That’s right, I’ve made the airways in Sitka!
Once I let it be known that radio has been a life long desire, I was graciously offered to be a guest with Corrie. After the PSA about the backpack floating in the water at the SeaMart (the local grocery store) we played The Avett Brothers, Sam Bush, Sarah Jarosz, and of course Merle and Doc. Our show was interrupted with dead air for a brief moment which happens this time of year…the time of year when the translator signal is interrupted as the sun passes behind the satellite. (I think that’s an Alaskan thing… as sun is growing fast this time of year in the north country) Doing the show with Corrie only instilled in me that I love radio.
While everyone’s radio dial is a match on 104.7, what’s found in most everyone’s freezer, I figure, is also a match. Seems to me that you cannot open a freezer in Alaska without a frozen salmon swimming toward you. There is shrimp too and I am sure some halibut or cod. (Note the fish trend.) But one friend boosts TEN gallons of raspberries. And, it is safe to say that canning of the summer crops happens to a level beyond the standard. Salmonberry jam, rhubarb compote, and raspberry preserves line most every pantry. I have never learned to can anything more than leftovers, and flash freeze sounds more like an 80’s dance number to me than a matter for food. I’m hopelessly lost when it comes preserving. Thus, I appreciate that the kale crops have wintered over and I can go outside my friend’s house and pick and plunk: pick the green and plunk it right into the meal.
I headed to Alaska thinking I would be deprived of food. That is quite far from the truth. Of course I did not think I would be really deprived, but access to fresh fruit and good greens was a worry. But they are here…well, they are here when the barge comes in. They are here if you can swallow the price tag. It is quite like going to Europe in the past years when the dollar was so weak that if you dared to calculate the exchange you realized that the cafe ole you just purchased could have bought you a nice hotel room back home.
When my friend craved a watermelon, and the delivery of ‘personalized’ watermelon were the star feature in the SeaMart circular, I had to buy one…even at six dollars! Just like I have to buy the organic apples at $4.99 a pound and the spinach at seven dollars a tub and treat myself to a box of Triscuits for four bucks…but I eat them really slowly!
What I won’t do slowly is take in the reality that I am on an island, far afield from an accustomed life of lanes of traffic and fast lane living. What I do take in is the road that ends so I can walk straight into the woods. I also take in the waters whose slow currents are disturbed by the blow of whales and the flap of sea lions. And, I relish in the reality that one of the best spots on the island for sunset is the SeaMart grocery lot where Mt Edgecumbe blooms from an adjacent island.
I watch the receding sun while I listen for the familiar voices on the radio. And, yes, I dream again of being behind the mike. A little dream that plays out this week with new friend Cindy who has invited me to sit in on her Good Day Radio Show and talk coffee and perhaps a little pie. The combination of pie and coffee swells my heart as do the many dear friends who give me the assurance that even while on an island, I am never adrift.
PS: want to hear me on the radio? Thursday, March 5: http://www.kcaw.org…local time 9am, Pacific time zone = 10am, Eastern time zone = 1pm. Swim along and Stream it!