And so my journey in Sitka comes to a close . . .

July 12, 2017

I’m back home now in Virginia and, while I love being home, I’m missing my Sitka home and friends.  This season was filled with wonderful people who became wonderful friends.  I feel certain our paths will cross again and I hope it will be sooner rather than later.  My home is your home – come and visit.

I’m struggling with where to begin so I will begin at the end.  These folks gave me such a heartfelt send off for my journey home.  They came with sparkling cider and donuts from Grandma Tillies (remember me telling you about her lavender donuts in my April 17 blog??).  Just in case you forgot, you can see a picture of my half-eaten donut there!  Here is a great picture of all of us just after our sparkling cider and donuts!

Me and My Rangers (I feel like they are all my friends and family now.)

The final two weeks here have been filled with all sorts of adventures.

Angie (our Chief of Interpretation) and Dusty (her husband) took a few of our rangers (of which I was fortunate to be one) out on their boat for a little fishing and a lot of sightseeing.  There is almost nothing more beautiful than a day out on the water to feel the power of mother nature and the beauty of God’s creations.  The waves, the blue of the water, the animals who live and breathe in and around the water, the trees and land that surrounds the water, so much to be in awe of in this world.

Here comes Angie & Dusty to pick us up.
All aboard!
Sea Lions sunning on a buoy. They are as big as a brown bear!

Videos of the Sea Lions:

sea lions on buoys

Sea Lions on buoy

Beautiful Island in the ocean.

It was a ‘see-you-later’ party for Amanda Kemp as she completed her six-week stay in Alaska writing pre-school story time programs.  What a fabulous young woman she is and will continue to do wonderful things in her life and her profession as a special needs teacher.  She captured a very dear spot in my heart and our paths will cross again with certainty.

Amanda stands in the forefront. She is determined to live life to its fullest and will definitely grab for all the gusto she can find!

I made my last visit to St. Peters by the Sea Episcopal Church.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the opportunities to hear Rev. Julie Platson speak.  Her homilies touched my soul with words that are heartfelt and gave me pause to consider so many things about God, faith, hope and the core of my spirituality.  I would listen to her daily!

Plus, the fact that she plays a song on the piano at the end of her homily makes it even more special.  One Sunday I recorded her and find myself listening to it every morning.  Hope it speaks to you in some small way. (Ignore the video as I was trying to be discreet during services.)

St. Peters Piano Solo by Rev. Julie

My Birthday was a grand time in Sitka.  We celebrated by getting everyone together for a delightful dinner.  These guys were so gracious to come together and celebrate my 68th!  What fun.

They all came!
And treated me like a queen.

I sent postcards to all the grandchildren this year.  One a day for all the days I was gone.  I bought postcard series so that each would have a unique set of cards and started each day sitting at my desk writing to them.  In doing so I found that I have missed writing letters.  I ended up incorporating letters to friends and family as well.  But most of all, I felt connected to each and I’m hoping they felt connected to me.  Here’s the last set of cards going into the mail on July 4.

The post office on Lincoln Street downtown Sitka. My morning ritual included a stop here.
And off they go!

Working at the Park is always fun.  Last time I was here I was working solely for the gift shop and staying in the Visitor Center at Totem Park.  This year I was able to branch out more and began conducting tours of the Russian Bishop House as well as serving tea outside the house on cruise ship days.  I learned so much about Russian American history and this house.  The best was the day a grandfather from Russia brought his granddaughter to visit.  He wanted to show her where his great great grandfather went to seminary in the mid 1800’s.  They were so moved to be able to see the inside of it.  Historical places do make a difference and connect so many of us to our past.  With so little of Russian American history available for us, this house is extremely important to preserve.  Thank you NPS for doing what you do best – preserving our parks and historical sites and teaching us about them.  And thank you for letting me be a small part of this mission.

My last day at work on July 4 included serving tea at the Russian Bishop House. I grew to love this house and it’s importance to Russian-American history.

 

 

 

My first job as an interpreter – giving tours of the Russian Bishop House.

A special event took place in my absence at home in Virginia.  Thomas Jenkins, my 13 year old grandson who just completed 7th grade at Luther Jackson Middle School, was inducted into the Honor Society.  He was so excited, as was I, and sad to miss this special day for him.  Isn’t he just the most handsome guy and he is a real treasure.

Thomas Jenkins inducted into Honor Society.
Red Squirrel who plays on the Totem Pole at the Visitor Center.
Good-bye to my wonderful accommodations and to the Chief of Maintenance who took such great care of my housing!

 

So Long to the Junior Rangers – both young and old who made our days with their joyful enthusiasm.
So Long to Davey Lubins and the Esther G Sea Taxi for the wonderful ocean voyage and the chance to learn so much.
So long to the bears who I’m thankful never came to visit me on walks to and from work.
Thank you Raptor Center for all you do to heal and release those you can, and care lovingly for those you cannot release.
Thank you Mike Johnson for the world’s best smoke salmon ever!

Special thanks to everyone who provided remembrances I will cherish.  The silver bracelet by Jeff Sheakley is beautiful and I wear it proudly; the Raven picture that now hangs above my desk and reminds me of the wonderfully creative (and ornery) bird that he is; the beautiful forget-me-not plate I have on my dresser; the coffee cup I use each morning and the wine cup I use each night; the kitchen towel that hangs ready in my kitchen, as well as the many good thoughts and well wishes.  And a special shout out to Adrienne . . . “Yo Adrienne,” I loved introducing you to Rocky and that you introduced me to Lord of the Rings. Woo Hoo!  Thank you all for your friendship and oh so many kindnesses.

And so it comes to a close.  Fittingly, my drinking buddies, Parker and Cindy, met me at the Bayview Pub for some of their famous Bacon Bleu Fries and a drink to toast “friends forever.”

Bacon Bleu Fries – so very YUMMY!

 

My drinking buddies – Cindy & Parker – the best ladies for evenings of food and drink.

I left with new skills, new experiences, many new acquaintances and some dear friendships.  We will meet again my friends.  Thank You Sitka National Historical Park for the best in volunteer opportunities!

The kids here in Virginia return home on the 22nd from a visit with their Dad – I can’t wait to see Cameron, Thomas and Michaela.  The kids from Texas come to Virginia mid-August.  Can’t wait to see Reid, Luke & Jack and show them around DC.  Adrianna and Dominic are home now so its been wonderful catching up with the two oldest ones.

Until my next adventure . . . Blessings to all,

Mara

 

Hello once again . . .

I have a shortage of pictures and words this week. Not sure what my problem is but there has just been little in the way of news.  We did have a going away party for our Lead Ranger this past Sunday evening at the “White” house. She is moving to Death Valley National Park in Death Valley, California. She has been in Sitka for 2 years and did such a fabulous job. She will be missed and we all wished her well as she gets closer to family in this move.  We also had to say goodbye to Aries, her faithful companion.  That made us all very sad.

We say good-bye to Ranger Em.
Ranger Em’s best friend – Aries.

The Sitka Summer Music Festival began last week. I attended my first concert Saturday evening. It was truly incredible. A Performance by the Attacca Quartet was astounding. These 4 young people are simply beyond talented. They formed at Julliard in 2003, played at Carnegie Hal in 2007 and was selected in 2015 as the Quartet in Residence by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And here they are in Sitka playing to a crowd of about 50 people with the ocean as their backdrop. WOW! Just WOW.

Tonight my housemate Amanda (boy am I going to miss her when she leaves) and I are attending another concert. For those of you who are familiar with the cello you will recognize the name Zuell Baily. He has been featured with multiple symphony orchestras, not the least of which was Indianapolis (for my Indy friends). He is here for the entire festival and will be playing this evening as well.  What we see here during the Sitka Summer Music Festival is really beyond expectation. It lasts for about a month and for anyone who loves classical musical, I encourage you to add this to your bucket list. The venues are very small and the talent extremely large.  What an opportunity for those who attend.

This week has been quite rainy. Not our usual misty rain but more downpours as we get in certain areas of the lower 48. Thursday night the rain was hard and the winds were strong. It reminded me of an Indiana rain storm. Friday morning the rain continued and I learned that rain pants in your backpack offers no help in staying dry. You have to put them on! On my walk between locations I experienced a full on water spray from a truck “speeding” down the street at 40 mph. They hit the puddle hard and the spray was a mighty force, landing dead center on this lonely person walking down the sidewalk (which was me!) Drenched, I moved on to work where I never did dry completely before closing shop at 5:00 and returning home under the continued rain. It took a while to get warm again. You’ve heard the expression “cold bones”, well, I had them all afternoon!

This coming Monday will mark my 68th birthday. I’ve been blessed with gifts and cards. Melissa and the kids sent decorations as well as cards and added gems to my beloved hankie collection. Amanda (my housemate) is making dinner for me and we will celebrate with friends. It will be one of those birthdays to remember for years to come.

One of my hankies that arrived in the mail from Thomas.

Thanks to all for the birthday cards and wishes. I had forgotten how valuable hand written notes were and how enjoyable they are to read and re-read. I found boxes of cards after my mom passed away that she had kept for years and often re-read them. I can honestly say I never really understood why she would do that and honestly thought it a little odd.  Wish she was around to apologize to her as I now more fully understand how important these cards are and how you can relive the moment over and over again.   I keep every card and very often sit down with them before bed to enjoy them over and over. The words, the writing, the artwork . . . all the expressions of love are not wasted and bring my heart incredible joy. We should all remember this and send our loved ones, even if they are close by, a handwritten note now and then. It’s a worthwhile experience for all.

We have a third housemate . . . Francesca arrived this past Monday and will be working with the collections department as a museum collections intern until December. She is in her mid 20’s and recently graduated with her masters degree. She is from New York and will be a great addition to the park’s cultural center. I’ll get some pictures before I leave so you can “meet” her in pictures.

I continue to embroider and am now working on quilt blocks for a very special boy who loves frogs. I’ve also made it my mission to watch the entire “24” tv series and am now on the final season. I will be sad to see it end as I’ve found Kiefer Sutherland to be a good actor. I’ll catch up on the new “Designated Survivor” when I return to the lower 48 as I read he is in that one as well.

Less than 3 weeks left for me in Sitka and then I will return home to Virginia. It’s been a wonderful trip and yet I am ready to return home. I’ve missed everyone and look forward to enjoying some time with them again real soon.

Jen and the boys will be visiting Virginia in August, September will include a road trip to Indiana for time with family and friends, and October will include a trip to San Francisco with Melissa and the kids to show them where their grandparents (my mom and dad) were married and lived while Dad was in the service. Big plans for 2018 include a high school Graduation for Cameron and a PhD graduation for Melissa. And along with all of this I hope to do more volunteer works in the park.

We will talk again next week. Till then, take care and be blessed.  Here are a few more random pictures just for fun.

Remember that skunk cabbage just blooming at the beginning of my time here? Well the yellow blooms have gone and the leaves are quite large now.
Friends and work mates from Em’s going away party.
More friends and a chocolate oreo cake which I intend to make again. It was really good!
You are never too old to be a Junior Ranger!
Today’s cruise ship sits proudly just outside the library window. What a view!

It’s been awhile . . .

June 10, 2017

It’s been a while since we last “talked” via blog.  Normally, you folks are my Saturday conversation each week but I was distracted last week.  Reid and Jennifer came to visit and we had a fabulous time!  Allow me to tell you all about our time together.

The week leading up to Jen & Reid’s arrival was full of anxiety and expectation.  I could hardly wait to see them.  They arrived Friday afternoon and we made a quick stop at the hotel to check in.

Jen and Reid looking good.

Our first adventure was to the Fortress of the Bear where I had scheduled a “meet and greet” with Balloo, the largest of the brown bears at the Fortress.  We were able to see and learn about all the bears but the highlight was getting to actual feed Balloo.

The bears just chilling on a summer day!  Check out those claws… oh my . . .
Reid feeding Balloo.
Jen feeding Balloo
Balloo just enjoying himself. Looks like he needs a beer and a remote for the tv!
They have 3 black bears which are quite a bit smaller than the brown bears.
Brown bear
The light color is from his heavier winter coat. He will shed the light and become a much darker brown bear.

The Raptor Center was another highlighted stop.  What a beautiful place where they can provide the right healing care to help these birds return to flight whenever possible.  We were able to see a red tailed hawk as part of their interpretive program.

Raptor Center’s Red Tailed Hawk

Thanks to daughter Melissa I received a care package that included all the makings for an wonderful dinner of pasta and sauces.  All we needed was the lettuce and bread.  And we had enough to invite the rangers over to join us.  What a really great evening we had.

Dinner with all thanks to a great care package from Melissa.

Saturday we spent walking in the park and enjoying the day.  It rained of course but then what would you expect from the rain forest!  Sunday we began early on a boat cruise with Davey & the Esther G Sea Taxi.  I used him two years ago when Melissa and the kids were here.  He is just wonderful, passionate, insightful, and made for a really great 4 hours out on the ocean.  And, yes, we saw a whale! along with sea lions, sea otters, and much more.

The Esther G. Sea Taxi
Davey Lubin, captain of the Esther G. Sea Taxi.
Amanda, my housemate, joined us on the outing. She is delightful!
Ranger Kyle came along as well.
Here we are. From left to right, Ranger Kyle, Amanda, Ranger Cindy, Reid, Jen and Mara.

Things we saw from the water!

Check out these eagles.
Sea Lions.

Things I did not get a picture of were the sea otters and the humpback whale.  I was too busy looking and forgot to take the picture!  But I was able to get this picture and it’s my favorite of all.

My favorite picture – Reid and I out on the ocean!

 

The kids left on Tuesday morning and I went straight to work from there.  Seems like the week has flown by and I’ve only 26 days left here.  I’m so glad I came and I am so ready to go home.  Can’t wait to see the rest of the kids and Gus.

Today starts the Sitka Fine Arts Music Festival and I have tickets for several concerts, the first of which is tonight.  So I will cut today’s blog short for now.  Hopefully I’ll have more words for you next week.

Love & Blessings to all,

Mara

 

 

Birthday celebration in Sitka

This week I celebrated my birthday and was treated to so many kind deeds.  So many cards, from near and afar.  So many kind words.  Great conversation over dinner and birthday cake.  It was certainly a birthday I will remember fondly.

My birthday morning began with streamers on my door (Thank you Amanda!)
Wine and Friends
Food and Conversation and some more work on the difficult puzzle.
Amanda’s famous Dump Cake make a great Birthday cake. Loved it!

From beginning to end it was a FABULOUS birthday.

With only two weeks left here I’ve been staying busy at work.  In addition, I have another new housemate who arrived this past Wednesday.  We’ve had fun this week, especially once I learned  that none of the three had seen the ROCKY movies.  We are in the midst of a ROCKY marathon!  What fun.  We have laughed AND cried.

This little 500 piece puzzle has kicked our butts! The pieces are NOT interlocking and there appears to be duplicate pieces.
After 5 weeks and multiple people it is done. Yes, there was a duplicate piece!

 

This puzzle was THE most difficult puzzle I think I have ever done.  Thanks to Aunt Jane for supplying hours of frustration as we worked on this.  She managed to keep us busy for over 5 weeks with a little 500 piece puzzle!  My sweet young house mate Amanda may never do another puzzle.  Ha! And I guarantee she will never do one without thinking of this one.

Sunny day Slide. These kids were having so much fun.

We had sunshine on Friday after many days of rain and clouds.  It was glorious and with temperatures in the low 60’s it brought out some summer fun among the locals.

Their laughter was infectious!

One remaining picture this week that was a must share.  I was sitting in the library on this glorious sunny day and looked up to see a sailboat with the sail up.  We don’t see that too often in the sound.   In fact, I’ve never seen a sailboat with the sail up!  Had to take this picture and even from inside the building it is a glorious picture!  I hope you enjoy this one.

Sailboat in Sitka Sound

Last for the week is a short video of my friendly Raven who greets me each morning as I walk to the post office.  He sits on this perch and makes his call to mimic a dog barking.  Enjoy.

Happy Memorial Day from Sitka . . .

May 27, 2017 – Happy Memorial Day

This week has been a cool, cloudy, and rainy week but today has made it all worthwhile. The sun is out, the temperature is in the mid 60’s, there is very minimal winds, and the peace and serenity of the island is in full force today. The snow, still abundant on high, is melting and soon will be gone.

Beautiful Sunny Day!

 

 

But back to earlier in the week . . .sun was not a part of this past week’s attire.  Rain and clouds were everyday occurrences. Not offensive rains, but mild and steady rains. The winds, when they get above 5mph, can make it colder than the temperature. Visitors off the cruises were a little damp and chilly but they kept cherry attitudes for the most part and enjoyed their time here.  Rains brought them inside the Russian Bishop House and our tours were normally full to capacity.  I met many interesting visitors and spent several hours serving tea and visiting with them.

The cruise ship arrives in Centennial Harbor.
Rangers Erin and Kyle serving Russian Tea in front of the Russian Bishop House and trying to keep their hands warm!

 

Here are the Tenders taking folks back to the ship for their afternoon departure.

Home life has been relaxing with lots (and I repeat LOTS) of continuing embroidery. I think I have now completed 8 sets of pillowcases, 12 drying towels, and multiple handkerchiefs. It makes for quiet and very relaxing evenings. My house mate Amanda  just finished the book The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah. She enjoyed it immensely and her recommendation was a good one. I just purchased on Kindle and will start it tonight!  We are also working a puzzle (thanks to Aunt Jane) that is only 500 pieces but a real doozy to complete.  The pieces are all cut the same and not, I repeat NOT, interlocking.  I think she is trying to get even with me for something!

Love Normal Rockwell
I’ve put together 2000 piece puzzles that were much easier.

 

Thought you might like to know that Lawn Art lives in Sitka as well. I see this every day on my way to work and marvel.

There must be a story behind this.

May 22 was my twin grandsons 10th birthday. It’s so hard to believe that my youngest ones are now in double digits. They had a great birthday. Here they are dressed up for a Make-a-Wish gala evening and another enjoying their birthday gift from Grammy.

Happy Birthday Luke & Jack. Handsome boys for sure.
Birthday Play.

Daughter Jennifer and Grandson Reid arrive this coming Friday. I am SO excited to see them and show them Sitka. I have scheduled a 4 hour ocean tour to see (hopefully) puffins and whales and sea otters and sea lions. We also have a kayak trip planned and time to visit the Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bears. Mixed in between will be many walks and talks.

Rangers Cindy and Parker. We are Friday evening dinner and drinking buddies. I have really enjoyed getting to know them.

Happy Memorial Day. Enjoy your weekend and take a moment to remember our service men and women.  Thank you to each and every one for your service and for allowing me the opportunity to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Blessings to all,

Mara

 

Busy Days . . .

We’ve been busy this week with the largest visitor day of the year on Thursday.  . Over 5,500 visitors were on the island from 3 cruise ships. Our tours were constant and packed to maximum capacity at both park locations.  Two of the ships anchored in the harbor where we could easily see them.  The 3rd ship anchored at the Ferry Dock about 6 miles outside of town and bussed in to town.  Here’s a picture of one of the ships parked at Centennial Harbor in town.

Amazing how close the ship was to shore. Tells you just how deep the water is! The small boat is one of the tinders that take passengers from ship to shore for their excursions.

Last week the garden was tilled and made ready for the local kindergarteners to come and plant.  Each year they plant the garden in May, Rangers and staff weed and water it throughout the summer, and they return as first graders to harvest it in late September.  The vegetables they harvest are taken back to school where they prepare a stew for feasting.  They plant the things that would have been planted in the 1800s such as peas, carrots, onions, potatoes, beets, kale, and rhubarb continues to grow as well.

A view of the garden.
Another view of the Russian Bishop House garden just before it was tilled for planting.

After they planted on Monday, I came in to work Tuesday morning to find the ravens had pulled the onions and a few potato plants.  Those ornery guys didn’t hurt them, they just pulled them out and left them!  Ravens are so smart.

The ravens pulled the onions.
And some potato plants too.

I now have a house mate!  Yes.  I was beginning to feel a bit lonely.  Amanda Kemp arrived on Wednesday evening.  She will be a senior at Eureka College, Eureka, IL and will serve the park here as an education resource for the story time program.  Watch for more news about her and a picture or two next week.

Thanks to my Aunt Jane and others as well I’ve managed to not lose one pound while here.  Take a look at this box of goodies that arrived this week.

Goodies – and more Goodies!

I only have one video this week that I captured while walking the totem park trail.  Hope you enjoy the birds and, of course, the view.

Listen to the birds

I did get a chance to stop and tour the local Lutheran church that was established in the 1800’s as well.  A lot of the builders and craftsman that were brought here by the Russians were Finnish and so they built a Lutheran church here as well.  It is a very pretty church and you can clearly see the clean sleek simple lines of their design.  I love the altar pieces.

Lutheran church alter
Doesn’t this look just like it came off the bow of a ship?

Well, that’s the end of my news for the week.  I hope you have had a good one as well.  Be safe.

Blessings,

Mara

 

 

Spending a day with me in Sitka

May 13, 2017–

This week has been a busy one with two cruise ships arriving on Wednesday and Thursday. That means we had about 4,000 extra folks around town over those two days.   Smaller ships are coming in and out at various times as well as those coming to visit on their own.  Lots of visitors make the days go by very fast.  It does feel a bit strange at times.  I walk to work about 7:00 a.m., before the visitors arrive.  Then I look out at 8:30 and they are everywhere!  Then around 2:30 – 3:00 they disappear.  It’s a bit like an episode of the old tv show Twilight Zone.  Now you see them, then you don’t!

The big white boat arrived this week. She is “GLORIA”. Nice one.

 

Tours, Tours and more Tours!!! Everyone wants to see the Russian Bishop House.

Entrance to the Russian Bishop House

For those folks who love Gardening and Plants . . . here are pictures of the Sitka Rose and a local plant named Devils Club.

Devils Club

Devils Club (aka Oplopanax horridus) is an important medicinal and spiritual plant in this area.  Be careful of it as it’s stem is full of tiny thorns.  When the Russian Bishop House was restored by the National Park Service, they found several dried sticks of it that had been placed in the crawl space underneath.  It is believed to have a spiritual importance in protecting loved ones.

The Sitka Rose

The Sitka Rose are Rugosa roses.  They grow as tall, shrubby, sprawling, multi-branched, plants that need room to spread out. They really smell nice.

 

 

This is St. Peter’s by the sea, the local Episcopal Church.  Thought you might find the story of the front stained glass window informative.  The church was built in 1899 and the windows were ordered from a company in New York.  It seems a Jewish synagogue ordered their special stained glass at the same time from the same company.  After a long and arduous journey to Sitka, the window arrived, and it was the wrong one.  It seems our window went to the Jewish Synagogue and theirs came to us.  Because of the long journey and the time and expense of making these changes, it was agreed that they would each keep and display the windows they received.  Hence, we have the Star of David in the beautiful stained glass window of St. Peters.

 

Well, enough educating.  Now let’s talk about me!  I have continued to embroider this past week and am making great progress on my Christmas present list.  I’ve also continued my daily reading schedule.  One of my morning reads is a Christian daily booklet entitled “Forward Day by Day” which seems to always give me something to ponder about life and faith. Some days the message hits close to home and provides me with a deeper look inside myself.  Sometimes too they are messages which I probably would have liked to ignore a little longer.  But, I suppose a higher plan was in place for me.  That happened this past Friday morning. The reading was as follows:

Friday, May 12 –Wisdom 6:17. The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her.

Every family has a shorthand language – phrases and words that give deeper meaning to the stories and jokes that make up family lore. As soon as she could talk, my baby sister Judea was adding her own phrases into our family lexicon, including my personal favorites: “I hold my own hand” and “Mybyself.”

“I hold my own hand!” everytime we crossed a street, exited a car, cimbed stairs, or took a walk downtown. She would tug her hand away from whichever sibling or parent had reached for her, actually attempting to hold her own hand as we proceeded forward, as we tried to grab an elbow or jacket hood or whatever part we could snag to keep her from running into danger. “Mybyself” was her first rallying cry against control, her first declaration that she was going to go her own way, to earn the hard way.

To grow in wisdom requires us all to humbly offer ourselves up to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit and our communities fo faith and family. It requires us to honestly confess that we need help.  

 

What a great story we can all relate to in some fashion or another.  I must  admit that I am stubborn.  I also admit that I am determined to do all that I can by myself.  In my head I hear those words “I hold my own hand” or “I can do this by myself” ALL the time.  Finding the will and grace and trust to ask and allow help has been the most challenging steps for me in this life.  Maybe, at 68 years old, I am finally getting some grains of wisdom.

Today is Mother’s Day Eve. So many people in my life to remember on this very special day as I am sure there are in yours too. Our birth mothers, adoptive mothers, sisters and aunts who were like mothers, people of no relation who took us under their wings and nurtured us in some motherly way . . . just so many different ways of mothering someone.

Then, there are those of us who are mothers. We mother our children (regardless of their age), we mother our 4-legged children, we mother our mothers if we are fortunate to have them still with us here on earth, and we are the surrogate mothers to those we meet and pull under our wings.

Tomorrow will be a very special day. I’m happy to say that while my mother has passed on, I miss her so much. And while they were many days she was here with us that I failed to appreciate her kindnesses and wisdom, I know them now and thank her every day for being MY mom. I would not be who I am today without her.

And to my very own daughters, I say thank you for giving me your unconditional love;  your grace when I am not graceful;  your gratitude when I deserve it and, more importantly, when I haven’t earned it, and your support when I need to lean on someone without anyone else noticing. You have grown into two beautiful people who are generous and kind and incredible mothers to my grandchildren. I could not ask for more.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all. May your day be blessed with “moments” to last a lifetime.

Love & Blessings,

Mara

 

 

P.S.  Here’s a group of videos for you to watch if you are interested.  No promises on their worth.  I’m learning!

 

 

A quiet and reflective week in Sitka.

May 6, 2017

A quiet and reflective week in Sitka this past week.  The first cruise ship was scheduled to stop here on Wednesday but weather hindered its arrival. With 20 mph winds and lots of rain, the cruise ship cancelled their stop here. It was a cold and blustery day. Thursday came and it was a beautiful day with sunshine galore. The cruise ship scheduled for Thursday arrived on time and visitors descended on the island.

Tours of the Russian Bishop House are ranger led talks that occur every 30 minutes.  I made it through my first tour with flying colors. I must admit, I was frightened to death! But, the first one went well, the second one even better and by the 4th one I was feeling great!

A cloudy, windy, rainy and cold Wednesday.

The remainder of the week here was busy. I did take a couple videos and hope you enjoy.

 

Am hoping this video playlist will work for you.  All you need to is click on the video name and it should play.

Coming up this week is Grant’s birthday.  The loss of him has been a difficult and painful journey and I miss him terribly.  I know there will come a day when I can more easily share stories of him and the wonderful memories he left for me.  For now though, it is difficult to share much.  I’m hanging on to every tiny memory I have.  Time will bring relief and sharing these memories will bring some type of peace I am certain.  I think of him daily and I thank God for the time here in Sitka to relish in the enormous beauty of mountains and water.  It helps so much to be here and feel the power of God’s creations.  Happy Birthday Grant!

Have a great week and don’t forget to take time to tell those close to you the difference having them in your life makes.

Be blessed!

Mara

 

 

Be Blessed,

Mara

 

 

 

Hiking Results

April 29, 2017

Hiking Results . . .

If you found your way to last week’s blog then you know my week was beginning last Sunday with a hike led by Ranger Em. We did the Herring Cove Trail that leads to Beaver Lake. It’s a steep incline (okay, steep for me!) for the first mile or so and you reach the lake after approximately a mile. Beautiful walk around Beaver lake and then mostly a downhill trail as you return the way you came. Given the varying skill levels, (them –  all fast and skilled; me – slow and unskilled but absolutely determined!) we took our time (yes, they were waiting on me most of the time) and enjoyed the beauty of nature.

Ranger Em brought Lady along. What a great trooper she was, always making sure we were all together. She never went too far ahead and never left anyone behind. I was so impressed with her. Here we are all together.

Great shot of everyone

There was a beautiful waterfall as we headed uphill. My picture does not do it justice but I’m including it anyway.

 

At first glance.
Zooming in on the falls

We arrived at the lake and worked the trail around it. Two of our friends actually were brave enough to take a dip in the lake. I took their word for it when they said it was cold and did not feel the need to verify or question their assessment.

Gazing over Beaver Lake. Parts of it were still frozen.
Breathtaking view.

 

As we walked around the trail we came across a bear print. Now that was incredibly interesting. Look at the size of it!

Bear Paw Print
Ranger Em checking out the prints.
Another view of the prints

 

The trails are really well maintained here in Sitka.  I cannot imagine walking this trail without the aids from all the work of those who manage them.  I thank them where ever they are!

 

Another picture of Lady. What a sweetie she is.
And for a little proof that I was on this trail!
The views were breathtaking for sure.

Now,  to my personal assessment of hiking which I know you are dying to hear. I’m so glad I had my phone to take pictures. Honestly, by the time I made it up the first mile I was grateful I could still breathe. My calves were in a controlled scream. My eyesight was a bit glazed and yet I was not about going to be left behind. I tried to keep up (you know how I hate admitting defeat) and they were all so very gracious to assure me that I was not slowing them down. Some of the pictures were my only memory of that specific spot on the trail. Would I do it again? Yep, in a heartbeat. There was another hike on Friday but I didn’t go. My calves screamed for all they were worth from Monday to Wednesday. Thursday we visited Castle Hill and walked up several flights of steps. Again my calves went into controlled scream mode and I knew then that the hike on Friday should go forward without me. I’ll go later . . . I need a few weeks to rest and recouperate!

The rest of this past week was daunting at moments.  So much to see and do.  We combined classroom work with visits to local places like The Raptor Center and the Sitka Sound Science Center, learning more about each of them.  These are must see places when visiting Sitka so we want to make certain we are informed and can inform our visitors as well.

We also brought out the period games that are used during the Russian Bishop House open times.  Most of you will remember the cup and ball games but they also have a game called Graces.  We tried it out one afternoon.

The Game of Graces
Kendall playing Graces
Parker playing Graces with Kendall.

As I walked to work one morning I was watching the water as I always do.  There, from the Sitka Sound Science Center Hatchery were two fellows doing something in the water.  Not sure what was happening but I could not resist a picture.

They are doing something to get ready for the salmon but I’m not certain what.

The first large cruise ships arrive this Wednesday and Thursday. They expect about 2,000 guests per ship to come and visit the park and the Russian Bishop House. Rest assured I have lots to do on my talk between now and Wednesday.

Until next week, be safe and remind those close to you how much they mean to you.  You can never say it too often.

Mara

 

 

 

 

Interpretive Training with the Seasonal Rangers . . .

April 22, 2017

Interpretive Training with the Seasonal Rangers . . .

Well, it has been a fairly uneventful week here in Sitka insofar as pictures but a very busy week for learning. There is an intensive two-week interpretation training course for the seasonal rangers and I was offered an opportunity to be a part of it. To be frank, I had no idea there was so much behind the scenes work as an interpreter.

Note to self:  When visiting our national park sites, be sure to join a ranger talk or take a ranger tour.  Remember that hours and hours of behind the scenes work has gone into preparing this experience.  And, by all means, if enjoyed be sure to tell them.

By Wednesday this week,  I was officially brain dead. Full of new information about Alaskan Native Culture and Russian American History no more room existed in my brain to process anything. And then we began learning about the HOW of creating a 15 minute story that would engage, excite and inform our visitors.   By the end of next week, if I desire (as a Volunteer I always have a choice), I will have a talk developed about Russian American History that I will provide to our guests which will leave them with a greater understanding about Russian American History.  And that’s just one topic.  The real rangers have 4 talks to develop.  They really are impressive young rangers.  Stay tuned for my results (guaranteed not to be as impressive!)

As you all know, today is Earth Day. We celebrated in Sitka with a Parade of Species (Sitka loves parades!). When we were told Wednesday at 4:00 that we needed to prepare a costume for the parade I was in shock. Remember, I had no brain power left and those of you who know mean know that I am not creative at all unless it involves time and assistance. Thankfully Ranger Em offered the loan of a slug mask and a sheet to serve as a shell. Here’s our group.

The Parade of Species.

Skunk cabbage continues its growth.  Thought you might enjoy seeing more of the leaves that are growing around the yellow centers. It’s very aromatic too.

Skunk Cabbage

This week was full of surprises from friends and family.  Yummy and creative treats are always welcomed and I thank you one and all.

Some crafty supplies from Cappie.
Aunt Jane always knows how to feed my sweet spot.
Berries and Nuts. Great for hiking food. Thanks Edna.

Another highlight this week was running into this little gadget.  We had a videographer stop by with their iPad on a “robot”.  Looks a lot like a iPad on a segway.  You just never know what you might see at the Visitor Center in Sitka National Historical Park.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Ranger Em is taking us on a hike. She says it won’t be a problem for me and I want to trust her. (keyword there is “want”)  She did say to be sure to bring bear spray with me. Watch for the results next week.

Hope everyone has had a great week.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Mara