I ask nothing. I promise nothing.
I come from nowhere. A land-locked nowhere. I am surrounded by fields of flax and wheat that undulates in the wind. There is nothing here. The people are not dreamers, they are practical. Is it any wonder that I ran away.
I ran away to the sea because it was the furthest I could go. Once you reach the sea there is nothing else there. I thought it would be less work. I thought it would be more pleasure than pain.
But, like the family farm, the sea is also a harsh task-master.
The winds blow harsh and fierce in both places whipping up the tempest of dust or water – it does not much matter which.
I cannot hide. There is always work to be done. I beware of strong winds. I watch my step. I mind my head. The captain, like my father, is harsh and unforgiving.
Both sea and farm are harsh mistresses.
The sea has too much water. The farm has too little.
The farm has too much dust. The sea has none.
I long for warm beaches and petty pleasure.
I ask nothing. I promise nothing.
I want. Nothing.
The above is a poem written for September 19th which is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.
Click here for a modern pirate tale.
He spoke to me as if I were a butterfly that he was asking to hold its wings open wide so he could have a better view of their colors. (p. 7)
The Tale of the Rose
by Consuelo De Saint-Exupery
N.Y.: Random House, 2001
Doesn’t a rebellious rose ever decide it wants to be a dandelion? (p. 31)
by Andy Rooney
N.Y.: PublicAffairs, 2002
I was one of those kids who looked forward to going back to school every Fall. I like learning. I like having a routine. I liked the familiarity. I knew what was expected. I knew what each day would be like. Waking up the same time every morning, Science before English, a predictable lunch time and lots of time to read – 5 minutes between classes and all of recess. Then off to babysit after school and home to supper and TV before bedtime and the inevitable return to sameness tomorrow. I got left alone by the adults because I was quiet and well behaved. I was a perfect student though never considered brilliant.
I grew up in a small town and went to school from Kindergarten to Graduation with basically the same thirty people. Some say that small towns are better for raising children. There’s more freedom and less crime. Until I was 13 I considered my small town to be mostly paradise.
And then it was hell. What is it about High School that seems to bring out the worst in people? I didn’t fit in. I was too much a reader. I was obviously poor and never have figured out how to be stylish. There was nobody else like me or nobody that I saw.
I was not nerdy (except for the book reading). I dabble at geeky things like Buffy and Doctor Who. I skim the service of things and always have. I will read everything and anything but cannot tell you who is in every Hogwarts house like some geeks I know can.
For my entire High School existence I merely survived. I did what I had to. I went to school and I worked. The only peers I related to were in books. My peers outside of books were mean or indifferent. There seemed to be no other option.
According to my older sister, I was in the mean class. So, I guess people noticed that things were wrong but nobody did anything. I understand that. I understand the urge to not intervene in others’ troubles. I did the same.
I have a dream. I have a dream that we all stop hurting each other. I have a dream that we learn to emphasize before we learn to hurt and hate. I have a dream.
Why does it seem such an impossibility?
It is too hot.
It is August.
These two condition seem inter-changeable. What is cause? What is causation?
I am not a fan of August. Summer is not my favourite season.
I have never been a summer’s child!
Family lore has it that I fainted from the heat, at age seven, returning from the beach.
I have always sought out the cool side of summer. I seek shade and forest glen and cave to hide within their coolness.
During those long summer days of my childhood, I would go next door to the library the minute it opened, take out the maximum six books that I was allowed and come home to read all afternoon inside.
I would hide in my mother’s closet at the very back behind all the clothes – I was a very tiny child until I hit puberty. Or I would grab my lamp and a couple of pillows and snuggle under the bed with the dog and cat. Or I would hide in the very cramped back corner of my eldest sister’s closet. There I would read and read and read until just before the library closed. Just before the library closed, I would return my six books (all read) and take out six more to hold me until the library reopened. They never did. Thankfully, I learned how to game the system. It seems, that you were allowed six books per day so I could take out six on Monday, return a few on Tuesday and take out six more. I think the maximum I had out then was around twenty at a time. The maximum we are allowed now is one hundred items checked out to your card – I’ve never done that. I have less time to read now.
I have always loved caves. I love their quiet. I love their coolness. I love their isolation. I love the alone-ness.
There are forest caves and mountain caves.
Forest caves surrounded by the scent of pine and the earth and flowers and animals. Beware of the bears.
Mountain caves reached after long hikes with younger sisters that reveal incandescent pools of azure and emerald. They need to be forever hidden from the rowdy tourists.
Does a Yeti live here?
Is this where Nessie hides from the tourists swarming her loch?
Would ET feel at home here?
Are you brave enough to explore the world’s deepest cave? I am not.
I read this story once about a young pregnant woman trapped alone in a cave.The cave had vegetation for food and a warm pool for bathing. It is a horror story. I thought, really, all she needs is a never ending supply of books or paper & pen to write her own stories down and she could be perfectly happy!
Another book I love about exploring caves is Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison.
These last few August days, my house has become a giant cave with shades drawn to keep out the heat as I hibernate and read. This is my perfect summer’s day!
I eat raspberries as I write this.
They are cold and slightly tart. They have been in the refrigerator for a few days now. I don’t like to eat my raspberries right away. I like to savor them.
They traveled a long way to get here. These are California raspberries shipped up to Canada which seems stupid. The raspberries are ripe here right now, I just can’t get to them. I have no raspberry patch of my own. I have no car. The farmers’ market has come and gone for the week (it is only on Thursday afternoons – how ridiculous). Sometimes, I really miss my city and its twice weekly farmers’ markets.
These are not my mother’s raspberries. My mother’s raspberries wait in the patch to be picked. She sprinkles them with sugar before she freezes them. I like mine frozen without sugar. I like to savor the frozen berries, one by one, in the deepness of winter. In December, I like to mush up the frozen raspberries in a big bowl of chocolate ice cream. Ah, bliss!
Raspberries are my favourite fruit.
I swear I could live for days on just raspberries and chocolate.
Growing up, my grandparent’s neighbour had a yard full of raspberry canes. These were my father’s parents. Jack lived about a quarter of a mile down their country road. He was a farmer or had been a farmer. I’m sure by then he was a retired farmer.
Jack had that look about him. To me, he seemed old and always dusty. He lived alone. He lived on a farm thus he must have been a retired farmer. It’s strange what we remember and what we assume.
I don’t remember his last name. It’s not important. If it were I could ask my mother – she would remember.
I remember being young. I was probably in grade one. We would go to pick raspberries in Jack’s yard. I was surrounded by bushes. I was a fairy tale creature in a raspberry forest surviving on what I could forage. I ate as much as I picked for the pail.
These raspberries were not for eating. These raspberries were for freezing. It seems my mother was very big into delayed gratification. It seemed all our summer fruit was for freezing and not for enjoying now. We were poor. It was prudent to freeze the excess fruits for later. But when you are a child you live only in the moment, in the now.
Is this why I am willing to pay almost five dollars for less than a pint of raspberries to eat right now?
Raspberries taste best sun ripened and warm from the heat.
My nephew lives on my grandparent’s farm now. Where Jack’s house was is a very large slough (we’ve had a lot of rain lately). This slough covers what use to be yard/garden – where a raspberry forest use to be.
Still, I wonder, have the raspberries grown wild by now? Is there somewhere, beyond the slough, a raspberry forest full of fairy-tale creatures gorging themselves on sun-ripened fruit their hands red and sticky?
What is your favourite summer fruit?
“A woman who forsakes hearth and home, who does not campaign for bedroom furniture and bassinets. A woman who … sleeps many nights in many strange and empty beds, and is not afraid of the dark. A woman who can be alone and not talk to herself.” (p. 52)
Dangerous Beauty of the Open Road
by Ellen Shea
In My Father’s Daughter: Stories by Women
Edited by Irene Zahava
U.S., Crossing Press, 1990
One of the things I do when I travel is pick up any and all free newspapers that are laying about which is how I discovered this issue of the Anchorage Press and this Alaskan native MC, here she is on YouTube.
I recently got back from a cruise vacation. It wasn’t my vacation choice. There are a million other vacations I want to do before ever taking another cruise.
My mother and stepfather paid for my eldest sister and me to go on the cruise with them. They both turn eighty this summer and find it easier to travel with companions. My sister went with them on a Panama cruise a year ago and they all enjoyed it. I didn’t go to the Panama because I loathe the hot weather. Remember, I am not Summer’s child.
We traveled by planes all the day the day before the cruise started and got into Vancouver that Saturday evening. We boarded the cruise ship Sunday around noon. It was a long, tiring process and there were too many cameras around. The cruise company makes sure to get a picture of you just before you board the ship so that they could sell it back to you later. This is the only official picture I consented to – I hate having my picture taken – and thankfully, the photographers were not militant about getting a picture of me.
My mind kept going back over the only two ocean movies that I could remember. Titanic, of course, because we would be cruising some ice fields and the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russel comedy Overboard which contains the line “it’s a hell of a day at sea, sir.” I’d rather observe the ocean from dry land thank you very much!
It was supposedly an all inclusive cruise but we still had to pay for pop and coffee drinks in the bars. Not my definition of free or all inclusive. Plus, there was the daily tip remittance that was levied to our room ($22 that was divided between all staff on board) so I ended up sending around $200 on board the cruise. Yes, some of the restaurants were included in the all inclusive but not all. I know, I’m picky, picky, picky! Again, not my idea of a vacation.
Plus, the internet was costly and slow, slow, slow so the ten days turned into an unexpected internet sabbatical. It’s not that I’m constantly on the web but I do like to read my comics every morning and to be able to check my email.
Between the (thankfully) brief first day at sea sickness and the constant buy, buy, buy I can’t say I’d ever take another cruise.
Did I mention that it rained for the first half of the cruise.
Picky, picky, picky!
So, what did I enjoy.
The shows were good but corny, ie very family friendly. There was a library but no librarian (just a clerk with a MBA). I did have time to pop into one library (Juneau) doing my time on shore. Mostly, I was busy from morning to evening especially when we had a shore day. There was lots my mom and step-dad and sister wanted to see. I would have liked at least one shore day with no planned activity. It would have been nice to explore the Skagway cemetery and just spend time wondering around town.
So, what did we do on shore (other than not shop – me, that is)!
Tuesday, we went to the Lumberjack show. Burly men chopping wood and throwing axes. As my sister said, this is how men use to look. It was raining a bit and still these athletes put on an amazing show and later made time to pose for pictures. This was our quietest day as we were only on shore about two hours then it was back to the open sea by evening.
Wednesday we went whale watching. This was in Juneau. This was the day I had a chance to explore a little and visited the library. It was another rainy day. We took a smaller boat into Auke Bay but couldn’t go out on deck because it was another rainy day. Thankfully, inside the boat was spacious with lots of windows.
It was a slow start but by the end of the day we had seen three family pods of Orcas, a pod of Humpback whales feeding, numerous bald eagles and a group of sea lions playing King of the Buoy – a sea lion would swim up to the already overcrowded buoy and wait for someone to fall off or get pushed off; there were more lions than buoy space.
I have no pictures of this. The day was too rainy and then we were too busy bustling from side to side spotting the abundant wildlife. Even the tour guide didn’t want to leave the bay. We were out at least an hour longer than anticipated!
Thursday, it was on to Skagway. It was an extremely busy day. We briefly toured the town and then back to the cruise ship to board the bus to take us to our train tour up the mountain back home to Canada then back to Skagway and the cruise ship!
The Whitepass & Yukon Route railway was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and is a narrow gauge railroad.
The WP&YR climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.
It was a scary ride, I’m not a fan of heights, through train tunnels and one thankfully very short, rickety bridge. I sat on the cliff side of the train and avoided looking straight down the many drops along the way. In fact, my eyes were squeezed tight when we went over the bridge.
There was still snow high up in the mountains and we were fortunate enough to see a scrawny black bear heading away from the tracks and up the mountain. After the train landed in Canada where we showed our passports to foreboding custom officials (the United States citizens were disappointed that they were not Mounties) we got out of the train and were bused back into Skagway.
Back in Skagway, we panned for gold. Well we had a tour first of the history of gold mining and then panned for gold. It was a bit tricky, but between the four of us we ended up with $36 worth of gold flakes that went into a charm for mom to keep.
Friday was another sea day. We woke up to a bracing -10 degrees Celsius with a wind chill. It felt like home but we were in the ice fields. The port doors were open just down from our cabin and pea soup was being served on the bow.
My sister spent all day outside enjoying the views. She heard the ice crack off the glacier. I took a turn around the promenade but missed the calving of the icebergs. After lunch, the cruise ship left the ice fields and anchored near Medenhall Glacier for pictures.
When we stopped at the glacier for pictures there was a seagull feeding frenzy. The captain announced that we should not feed any of the wildlife, seagulls included!
By supper time, the boat once again sped up and I lost my sea legs. We had cruised so slowly for most of the day that it felt like I was in a vehicle that had sped from three to one hundred miles an hour in less than a minute!
Saturday would be our last day at sea. I marveled at the kids playing ping pong on the Lido deck. It’s hard enough to play on a steady surface. There were mega shipboard sales everywhere. Mom bought me a t-shirt.
Do I feel spoiled?
Do I feel exhausted?
Am I just another commodity?
I will miss watching the sea with its many blues.
I will miss the quiet library and the crow’s nest bar.
I will miss watching for whale plumes far out in the deep sea.
I see no whales from here where I am 10 stories up high!
A cruise is not something that I would spend money on. I am not the target demographic!
Sunday, we woke and left the ship early. It was on to Seward and Anchorage for three days. There were Tsunami evacuation route signs along the highway. I fell asleep on the bus and woke in Anchorage!
The three days in Anchorage flew by. We visited the zoo and watched the sad animals pacing. We went to the museum. We shopped at the Mall and visited the Alaska Mint. We mostly ate at the same place. We spent an enjoyable afternoon driving up the mountainside through too much rain. Thank the stars I didn’t have to drive. We almost got stuck on a rain-logged side road – my sister is adventurous. We went to a mining town that I would have liked to explore more but the higher we drove the more rain we ran into. We ate at McDee’s where the menu was slightly different from home and the server’s accent mystifying to my ear.
On our last morning in Anchorage, I got to briefly explore a cemetery that if I had been alone I would have spent hours exploring.
They travel best who travel alone.
Though if I did that I do know that I would miss many adventures as it is my family who challenges me to leave my comfort zone.
Happy travels everyone!