The weight of my duffle bag tips the scale at the Alaskan Airlines counter but remains a sly measure below the 50 pound allotment. The bag bulges with items requested and items required to make the next month on Baranof Island comfortable. Without surprise, I will find the TSA placard acknowledging their search of my belongings when I unzip the bag several hours and many thousands of miles later. Maybe the polenta or the jar of pesto or the packets of cumin, coriander, and turmeric have piqued their security curiosity. Or perhaps the smell of coffee beans seeping from the canvas calls to them. My cache also includes lemons, ginger, apples, beans and the specially requested whipped cream. Continue reading
Baranof Island has receded from my sight but not from my mind. At the ferry terminal several kind friends made the trip to the tip of the island to send me off—complete with snacks, hugs, and even a few tears. My heavy heart was lightened by our silly antics and their teasing of my bulging food sacks. During my stay in Sitka, I could often be found at the water’s edge listening to the waves or marveling at life below the surface. The water always felt healing, a refuge where the expanse seemed endless. Yet, a few hundred miles south from this island, the lower 48 awaited.
On the other side of my apprehension to leave lay the excitement of new adventure: the three day ferry from Sitka to Bellingham, Washington. Known as the poor-man’s cruise along the inner passage, most everyone waiting to board The Columbia—touted as the nicest ferry in the Alaska Marine Highways fleet—carried their own bulging food sacks along with dogs, kayaks, bikes, and more than a few brought tents. While I have not been on one of the big cruise ships, I imagine no one there boards with their own housing arrangements for the deck.
Rhubarb plants swell in weed-like proportion with leaves capable of sheltering small mammals. The spring flowers continue to materialize days short of the summer solstice. Lilacs burst. Skunk Weed pole vaults from most every ditch. Flowering salmon berries promise sweet harvests ahead while the Sitka Spruce hangs with new buds inviting culinary harvesting.
Sitka is not in the part of Alaska where melons grow to the size of hot air balloons, nor where one cabbage is large enough to feed an entire village; however, it is a place where solid growth abounds both in nature and in the people. Continue reading
Southeast Alaska sails into spring at a breakneck pace as daylight reaches double digit differences within a week’s time. The cold waters below the brightening sky fill with fish returning from their winter sojourns as locals head outside to prep well-composted beds and summit melting mountain passes. It is the place I now sit miles away from, but I close my eyes and I can hear the water and smell the sea brine and if I am lucky my skin pricks with the remembrance of spouting whales and calling ravens. Continue reading
The water came up quick and close as we seemed to skim just over top of it before landing on the really, really short air strip. It was January and as the wind started blowing cold down south, I found myself hopping a plane, and then three more for an island…the island of Sitka, Alaska. This spot in southeast Alaska has a harbor of calm waters and a string of towering snow capped mountains. The day I arrived the air was filled with fog and rain. It was quite a shock to look out two days later and see huge mountains flying straight up. I could talk for pages about the weather–the wind, the rain, the stunning sunsets over the water–but it is the nature created in part by the weather that has enveloped and grounded me while simultaneously lifting me up.
But first: How come Alaska? Continue reading