Thursday, December 1, 2016

Miracle at Glacier Bay

Grand Pacific Glacier on the right and Margerie Glacier ahead.

With our eyes glancing and gazing off mountainous peaks the Grand Pacific Glacier came into view.  Grey misty clouds covered the sun and blue skies that had awakened us early that morning, so now our sky became one with the snow covered peaks and glaciers. The sounds of cameras flashing interrupted our sense of solitude.  I wondered how we could so easily feel alone with these vast lands and ocean around us, while standing on a crowded deck with hundreds of other people eager to catch a glimpse of nature’s beauties.

The Norwegian Pearl turned toward the Margerie Glacier. In the valleys between the peaks she appeared as smooth as a NASCAR raceway, but closing in face to face she towered twenty-four stories high with jagged and daggered iced crevices.  The ranger’s voice explaining her raw strength and power to churn and eat her way through granite kept me glued to the voice on the intercom. Suddenly we heard a thunder booming sound. The water rings showed circles where the ice had fallen.

The next few minutes the great ice wall continued to break and shatter into the Glacier BayMargerie was calving and we were her witnesses.  Thunder booming and echoing tingled my senses as the grey misty breeze crossed over my shoulders.  The ranger’s voice shouted “What a grand way to sing Happy 100th Birthday to our National Parks today!” The calving continued with our screams of awe filling the air.

Then out of the misty skies my head and heart felt a new voice, one I’d not heard in many years.  “Isn’t that amazing? Finally. I always wanted to see a glacier and feel the cold of Alaska, and now I’m watching this beautiful moment with my daughter.” 

“Mother?” my voice whispered. I turned away from the glacier and searched the deck and the skies. “Mother?” my voice quivered with my heart beat.

“Remember how I loved to travel. When I was young I spent a summer in Estes Park working. I’ve never forgotten the smell of the pines or the gushing of the winds as they swept down the mountains bringing summer rains, but this is bigger than I could have imagined. Thank you.” I stood frozen in time.

“Oh, mother,” I cried as warm tears welled in my eyes, “I wish you could be here now. I wish you could see this. Why did you leave me? I’ve missed you every day.”

“I’m here now. I’m watching this only because you brought me in your heart.  I couldn’t be happier to share this moment with you.”
In a ghost of a moment so much like the one we’d experienced at her death, exactly twenty-seven years before, nearly to the hour, she floated away.  But she was not my seventy-six year old mother, nor the image of the forty year old mother I’d witnessed floating to heaven that day from St. Francis hospital.  Instead my mother who witnessed this miracle of nature at work appeared to a healthy teenager filled with spirit and a zeal for life. Her wavy long blond hair touched her shoulders and her face illuminated like the sun on a pale rose.  She wore a white long sleeve blouse with the sleeves rolled up, long dark pants and brown and white Buster Brown shoes. 

My mother, whose sudden death from sepsis, saved her granddaughter’s life and reunited a family, was with me.  Little did I realize that she’d never left me. I’ve carried her in my heart and in my head all of these years. 

It never occurred to me, when we booked our cruise the year before, that we’d be fortunate enough to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday at a National Park, and the only one on water.  What small blessings we receive from moments we never dreamed possible.

“Yes, mother, I am like you and your mother. I love to travel.  Thank you for giving me this zeal for life.”  God Bless….

For more views of calving or about Glacier Bay please check these links.

Calving at Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Postcards from the Wild: Skagway, Alaska

A Vast Silence reigned over the Land.  The Land itself was a Desolation, Lifeless without movement, so Lone and Cold that the Spirit of it was not even that of Sadness...It was the Wild. 
                                                     Jack London, White Fang

 Wild sprung up around us as the small white bus
 climbed the mountains away from Skagway. 

Switching toward the water's edge and away,
back and forth we bumped and swerved onward to the last port of the Alaskan Gold Rush, the ghost town of Dyea.

We were not seeking gold in the Klondike,
nor hiking into Canada;

Merely dreaming of  a snowy Alaskan dog sled run complete with Huskies and Malamutes.

Alas, there was no snow, no blue-eyed dogs of old who carried with them bold attitudes and acts of defiance.

The new breed, smaller slender and more eager to  run.

Rains gently fell soaking our smiles of delight as the dogs pulled and tugged at our sleds.

Yapping continually, they seemed to generate even more energy. Winter in Aspen couldn't come soon enough for these sled dogs.

Mud, low clouds, and ferns greeted us, not snow.
That wouldn't fall until September. 

Mushrooms, ferns, and rain forest plants lined the
slippery muddy track, but no one complained.
Mushing through the Tongass Rainforest opened our senses to smell of mold, of moistly cushioned leaves and dying debris. 

Our upwards hike opened vistas of the salt water
inlet that carried thousands of souls on their perilous journey North.

Treacherous terrain grabbed our attention at every step,
and awe of the mighty mountains.

Imagining the cold, shivers ran up our spines when we thought of  White Fang and Buck in Call of the Wild.  
Breathing in the cool air and emptiness of the space, my heart beat for the man, too cold, to empty, To Build a Fire

The warmth of sunshine in Skagway greeted us upon return.

Old codgers in their rocking chairs nodded to the tourist, as they showed off their dogs. 
Tibetan Mastiff

Sipping on a beer and sharing a meal, we reveled in our experiences: I could lick the clouds in my face on the mountainside...Wasn't that merely mud from the dogs?...Can you imagine traveling upstream in the bitter cold current...The desolation and fatigue killed so many...The cold.

At day's end, we marveled at the size of our ship,
and sighed in gratitude for living and traveling in 2016.

Skagway and Dyea map of the Gold Rush
*For more information on the Klondike Gold Rush please click on the link above.  It is one of the best sights I've found.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Postcards from Alaska

So much to sea :-))

Fear and worries consumed my summer thoughts.
My writing mind seemed lost and in disarray.
We boarded the ship and sailed away.

Puget Sound lapped at the bow as we gently 
 sailed away from Seattle.
Hours drifted as we sat on the deck and watched
 the island chains on the distant shores.
No internet, no cell coverage, we were alone
 and one with the waters and the world.

Early the next morning we sat and sipped
Relaxed in the quietness surrounding us.
The captain's voice roused our minds
In the distance a pod of whales surfacing
  brought joys echoed in the voices of hundreds
  of awes and ohs from all over the silent ship. 

Nearly two days later we arrived at Juneau.
A Capitol and port city which can only be reached 
 by boat or plane.
How strange I thought, hailing from  the plains states. 

Their only McDonald's closed the day it opened--
 because, of course, it ran out of food. 
It reopened when more food was available, and we
  continued to laugh at our tour guide's stories. 

Our expedition left us nearly speechless with the distant glacier and magnitude of mountains touching water's edge.
Orcas owned the channel and surfaced as if on the wishes of the tourist.

Sea otters swam alongside, perhaps protected by the boat?
Cries came from the other side of the small boat-- humpbacks spouting.
We stood in awe as they surfaced nearby
Spouting then Plunging.
Plunging deep deep into the waters for the abundant foods,
Preparing for the voyage to the warmer waters. 

We toasted to the crew with an Alaskan brew
And Reindeer hot dogs.
Cold and wet we arrived back at our ship
And relished in the vastness of our voyage.