“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!
I present for you today, the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge, because it is late and I myself am feeling like a relic.
On the far right of this picture is the Arctic Brotherhood Hall in Skagway, Alaska. It is a terribly composed picture. At least, half of my Alaska pictures turned out badly.
Here is a much better picture that I found on Pinterest.
Hopefully, next week you will get a much longer rumination on my cruise to Alaska.
The twist is that I just spent over a week cruising the coast of Alaska with its long summer days – sunset was after 11:40pm and sunrise was approximately 4:20am. I only saw the sun set once.
I’m getting better at this moving thing.
I should be getting better at this moving thing.
I’ve done it enough.
I’ve probably moved over twenty times in the last thirty years.
The last two moves have been the biggest, that is, when I had the most stuff to move. My last move into Saskatoon in 2005, I had a bed, a night table and a rocking chair for furniture and acquired a sofa bed one month after the move.
By my last move out of the city two years ago I had 4 pieces of bedroom furniture, 2 kitchen table with three chairs and 7 pieces of living room/study furniture plus at least twenty boxes (1/2 of them filled with books).
I saved all my boxes from that move because I knew I was moving at least one more time. I went from a one bedroom to a two bedroom at the same rent so I had an empty closet to store the boxes in. For most of my first year living there, I had an empty room until I bought a recliner (so comfy) and moved my old green chair into the empty room. You can see the green chair below surrounded by boxes. It was my quiet room which I never meditated in. When you live alone you don’t really need a quiet room!
As I packed boxes, this time, I moved them into my quiet room so that I did not have to look at them every day. I don’t like disorder! I worked in a library so I also took empty boxes home with me from there – 8 in total. Eight strong, sturdy book boxes.
I gave myself a week to pack so that I wouldn’t have to exist in disorder for too long. Monday and Tuesday I packed the big Living/study Room, Wednesday I packed the Dining Room, Thursday I packed the Kitchen, Friday I packed the Bedroom, Bathroom and Linen closet and Saturday I waited around and read until the moving van came.
When all was said and done, I had three boxes left over. Like I said, I’m getting better at this moving thing. Though, as again, at least 2/3 of the boxes were books. It’s a good thing I get most of my books from the library to read or heaven knows how many boxes I would have needed!
This is my last move. They can bury me here. My stuff and I will only move in small increments now. I’ve moved into my sister’s house on and off since I got here to take care of her dog. It’s easier than him coming here. So I take a little bit of my stuff (book, toothbrush, jammies) with me the days I have to walk him after sleeping over. The bad part of doing this is that it’s been raining and raining and raining. The dog and I got very wet today!
I was lucky in that my nephew could move me since they had to move me along with my stuff. And even though I moved on Saturday I didn’t get possession of my house until Monday and my stuff didn’t get moved until after six as my nephew had to work.
So I spent Saturday night and Sunday morning with my nephew and Sunday afternoon and Monday at my sister’s house. I was ecstatic to finally move into my own house. My last move. My own place. A permanent place for me and my stuff.
I am no longer a renter. I own something. I own something really big. Sometimes this house feels as intimidating as owning an elephant – huge, expensive, exotic.
If I want to, I can paint the walls. If I want to, I can have loud parties. If I want to. I don’t have to worry about damage deposits and cleaning before I leave.
Now I get to worry about other things – like taxes and lawns and long-term neighbours.
Do people still gossip?
Will I fit in with my strange ways and eccentric moods?
I found out my sister thinks me brave because I quit things just like that – she means that I quit places and jobs without always knowing my next step.
I do not feel brave.
I do know that this is my first house and my last move.
I make a home here. I make a home now.
I make a home!
I’ve moved (again).
I have a mostly empty room to fill.
The main (mistress ;-) ) bedroom.
This came with the house. We’re assuming it was made in there because we haven’t figured out (yet) how it comes apart!
It matches my nightstand cabinet really well. How synchronicitic!
It’s hard to tell the colour of the walls in these pictures. The pictures were taken late yesterday afternoon after I read what the Daily Post picture challenge is for this week. Synchronicity abounds. I’ve been in my new place for less than a week.
The big, empty space in the center of the room will, before the Summer is over, house a queen-sized bed. Up to now, the largest bed I’ve owned has been a double. I just fit – head right up to the headboard while my feet touch the foot of the bed. I’ll get to stretch out.
More next week on the grand move and the secret – shhh!