Montana Wolf

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Alaska Goodbye

This post is the confluence of endings. I reach the final day of sea journey in my blog writings as I come to the final day in Juneau. This post is in present time. But then, the present is nothing if not the encapsulation of past and future. All three are contained in my breath. And metaphor has no clock. The peace and ultimate calm of Oliver's Inlet, a several mile side trip into a sublime, narrow waterway through a 4-ft shallow entry is the same calm I found walking the seaside labyrinth at the Shrine of St. Therese a few miles north of town. The sanctuary of the sea knows no bounds.

It is the sounds I will miss the most. The piercing cry and chirp song of the bald eagle; the salt water peep of the murrelet; the deep-pitched raven chatter from atop a Sitka Spruce that resembles a bass drum. Seal's liquid light, moon shaped eyes breaking the surface of the water as she rises, exhales and inspires. The whales...their groans and song; tidal swishes and slaps. Slap, the sound of disappearance in the oceanic Serengeti.

My friend Don Snow emailed me a couple of weeks ago. He said to be careful of Juneau, that it's a sticky place. He had several friends who came to visit and never returned. I understand. This place is cloaked in magic. Glaciers thread down steep mountains and seemingly pour into fields of Fireweed. Rain falls and falls yet the leaves don't move to its touch. Bears appear and disappear so quickly I wonder if they were really there.

I'm not enamored of Juneau itself; hard to attach to a place ruled by cruise ships. I've seen the moon just twice in 8 weeks and my flesh needs more than fifteen days of summer sunshine. But I love how the tendrils of the wild creep into her civilized edges. The night of constant light when I arrived now gains 7 minutes of darkness a day. I can't say how it would feel to stay longer. One thing's for certain: you must love gray to stay. In this way, the vast untamed lands and waters of SE Alaska have been perfect. If limbo had a color it would be gray.

Now to pack. An oppressive weight bears down upon my soul. The avalanche of memories that has eluded damp writing paper. Tastes beyond description as I ate my weight in crab; savored Dall sheep and venison, the gifts of the hunt from Ron's freezer. The smell of dead salmon that line the creeks. The utter joy of catching my first halibut; the twist of flesh as I removed my first shrimp head; coming upon quarter-sized wild berries of red, purple and orange; mama bear with tiny triplets; the wisdom contained within the changing tide.

The ferry departs at 6:00 tomorrow morning. I need to be at the terminal at 4:00. It is six hours to Skagway. I must go north in order to head south. To reach a road that will take La Perla, Teak and I away from chilled waters. From witches hair lichen that hangs loose from spruce.

Now if that eagle will just release my heart from her talons.


  1. what a gorgeous farewell post to alaska, christina. the gray part must be true. i'm glad you're headed back to the land of sunshine, but yes i feel the meloncholy pulling to stay the winter. :)
    safe travels home and blessings to you.
    ~ lea