Today is my Mom’s birthday. She was born in 1918 and would have been 98 today. My Dad’s birthday is the 21st and he would be 99. Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 88 (and just a few weeks before her 89th birthday). Dad passed in 1988 at the age of 71.
They were a strong couple who had their ups and downs like everyone. They were both hard workers, strong willed, and wanted more for their children that they were able to secure for themselves. They were both hard workers. Dad often worked two full-time jobs to make it through the lay-offs that occurred so frequently in the automotive business of the 50’s and 60’s. Mom, having had rheumatic fever twice, was forced to be careful about how much physical labor she did and still managed to pull off taking care of her home and working to help provide for all the extras she wanted for her children.
They were so excited when their first grandchild arrived and I recall our drive to Washington DC in 1967 where my brother was stationed in the Air Force in order to spend time with her. Vacations were rare and mom worked hard to pinch pennies that she would save for these travels. And they were very excited about this first little girl of theirs.
They were good parents and I miss them. I’m sure they are spending their time together in heaven with Mom and her questioning of whatever he was doing with the often heard, “Now Michael! followed by a question of “are you sure?”, is that the right way to do it?, etc. ” And Dad’s likely ignoring her and continuing to do what he planned, then taking some time (by himself) to rabbit hunt with his beagles.
Happy Birthdays you two! You are greatly loved and sorely missed by your family.
We’ve been busy in Sitka this week. It was time to harvest the garden at the Russian Bishop House. Local kindergarteners plant the garden in the spring. A very giving local volunteer oversees the garden throughout the summer with the help of park rangers who water and weed. On Harvest day the now first graders learned about slugs from Ranger Anne and plants from Ranger Em. The garden is harvested and the food taken back to their classrooms where I’m told they make soup and all partake. All total there were approximately 120 first graders who learned, harvested and headed back to help make soup. Volunteer Mara helped wash mud off the vegetables and consoled one young man who did NOT want soup. He wanted to keep his carrot and eat it right now. He was not going to put this carrot in the main bag with all the other vegetables because they were going in the soup! (He carried his carrot back to school!)
Big news of the week! Drum roll please. I drove the Bubble Car!!!!! and it was loads of fun. Drives just like a golf cart.
Salmon spawning season is coming to an end and you can smell it for sure. While there are still a few still spawning, many have completed their life cycle and passed on. They will serve as fertilizer for the new growth that will come (both in and out of the sea).
The Naa Kahidi dancers (local Alaskan Tlingit Native dancers) perform weekly. I had not seen them yet and wanted to make sure to do so before I left. Tickets to this event came courtesy of a sweet tour bus friend (Jolene) who comes on ship days with many folks to tour the national park as well as other Sitka sites. She is an Alaskan native and works closely with the Naa Kahidi dancers. Since British James and I had never seen them, she gave us tickets and we attended together. Now I understand why their regalia wear has all the white buttons as well as the different clan symbols on the back. The lights make the buttons glow like diamonds and the symbols on the back of their robes designate their family clan. I also understand what a clan house is too. The clan house was where many family generations lived together. Here are some pictures.
Tommy Joseph continues to make progress on the recarving of the cormorant pole. He carved the feathers this week. What a beautiful site this is to see as something of such magnitude begins to take shape with these intricate details. Not likely he will finish before I leave but it will finish in just a month or so.
Another thing I learned this week was about fish skins and how you can make these into a variety of bowls, bags and clothing. These skins were used to make rain coats in the early years. Hard for me to imagine how many fish skins and the time it would take to gather and tan them such that they could be used. Leota, one of our Alaskan Native artists who works in the cultural center at the park, is making bowls and bags from these skins. She soaks them in alcohol to cure them and than works them into these bags and bowls. I continue to be amazed by the artistry here.
Another kind of artistry here is the Rangers and their interaction with the children. The Junior Ranger Program is a real hit and all the Rangers take it seriously. Once the children complete their Ranger activity book they are reviewed by a Ranger and then sworn in as a National Park Service Junior Ranger. Look at these kids faces after Ranger Erin swore them in and gave them their badges! It’s delightful to watch.
It’s been really rainy this week. Nothing new to the locals. I wanted to get a picture of the Sheldon Jackson College and got a selfie as well.
On a little personal note I will tell you I have had a few ‘graceful’ moments. Not being one of my strong suits it doesn’t take long for me to make an appearance in one form or another. One recent morning, in a downpour of great magnitude, I am walking to work. I have my headphones in and am listening to The Vinyl Cafe as I walk. As you can see in my selfie, rain wear leaves me pretty covered and I actually enjoy the walk. A few minutes pass when a truck pulls up and offers a ride. Here’s where it gets dicey! I climb in. Okay, I thought I might need a boost but I managed to get my leg up high enough to make the “leap” in. I go to sit and find I can’t because I forgot the rather large backpack on my back. And I find I don’t have enough room to make the turn to get out of it. My driver just looks at me as I make these gyrations (probably wondering who this wacko is). When I finally get it off and sit back, she says “Seatbelt?” Crap, the gyrations begin again because I’ve sat on it and can’t get my “arse” to move! Next time – I walk!!!
One last note of news for the week. I have two roommates coming on Saturday! More to follow on them. Can’t wait to make new friends!
As we all know, last Friday marked 14 years since 9-11. Has it really been only 14 years? Why does it feel like so much longer? I wonder if events of such devastating magnitude are like that. Once you have experienced them they are too painful to remember and they must be placed in the deepest parts of our memories. When I think about my children, it seems I always comment that it seems that they were just born yesterday. Forty years passed by in a blur!
But these years were happy years (or mostly so) and comprehensible in small pieces. The acts on 9-11 on the other hand was a moment that was incomprehensible. How do we process an event of this magnitude? It feels like it should be 50 years ago and not just 14 years. So much devastation and pain happened in moments that will never be forgotten. Those who were far away (too far away to take an active part) were left to process the pain of it all when they could do nothing except pray for those involved.
I wonder, was that what it was like for those who experienced the devastation of war? Is that how it feels for those who have suffered travesties beyond our imagination?
For all those directly affected, I send my prayers. For those who could and did help, for all the service providers, and for all the police, fire and clergy, I send my gratitude. I know they were all affected, and continue to be affected, beyond my ability to comprehend.
My church in Indiana has a college ministry. A group gets together and writes notes of encouragement and love to these college students. These care packages are a great way to not only stay in touch with our students who are away at college, but with any one of our family who is away for one reason or another.
Often we do not hear the effect of these care packages. Did this “note” from home give them a boost of confidence for the day knowing that they are loved and missed? Was this just the boost of confidence they needed to master the day or week? Or maybe they felt a little down and receiving this was just the boost they needed to give them the courage to move on.
Today I received a ‘care’ package from these folks and I want to tell you the effects it had on me. I’ve been away just a couple months and I’m certainly not a young college student. In fact, I’m quite ‘seasoned’ and I’ve seen a few storms in my life. I’ve learned that I have to pick myself up on those down days when you are far away from family and friends. I have to get out and “do” something. I have to make an effort to meet new people, try new things, and laugh at myself when one or the other doesn’t work out as I planned. Sounds easy I know but it’s not. Even when it is my choice to be away, I still miss my family and friends. I miss their love and encouragement. I miss them laughing with me (as I know they are never laughing at me) when I try new things and falter. Unconditional love and support is nothing to take for granted and something that we miss terribly when we are away. It’s also something that we can’t replace instantly.
So, to those of you at home, who took the time to send this ‘seasoned’ lady in Alaska a care package from home, THANK YOU! I’ve read your notes over and over. They make me feel loved, missed and unconditionally loved. It is a priceless gift of encouragement and love.
P. S. I know we live in an age of technology where emails and texts have taken over the old ways of handwritten notes mailed in the US Mail! Rest assured, all of those emails and texts are fabulous and loved. But there is something so special about a piece of paper you can hold and touch and read over and over. What a treat! Trust me when I say that the college kids (of all ages) love them!
I’m struggling to accept this is September already and I know this month will fly by as I complete my last month here in Sitka. My days off are Thursday and Friday and when I returned to work last Saturday morning I was greeted with the following above my desk.
When Ranger Emily greeted me that morning she asked when I was leaving. I told her the end of September and then I saw the sign and thought, “Is this my goodbye sign? Are they going to ask me to leave early?” I must admit I did have a moment of panic. Then I recalled Ranger Anne telling me Friday was “Thank a Volunteer Day in the National Parks” and I then knew that it was she who made the sign especially for me. I was so relieved to know it wasn’t a “goodbye” sign. It made me feel so special. Lesson for all: never underestimate the power of a “thank you”, no matter how big or small!
Last Saturday was Founders Day in the Park and we celebrated the National Park Service’s 99th birthday. Can you believe it will be 100 years next year for the Park Service! We had games for the kids, birthday cake, and our mascot, the Byson, made a special appearance. May have been a rainy day in Sitka but it did NOT stop the fun. Take a look!
Another event this week was the pre-school story hour which is held monthly. It was a downpour that day and all the little ones came in their boots (Xtra Tuff’s of course) and jackets. They were adorable and they had so much fun with Ranger Ryan and Ranger Becky. They were awesome story tellers!
By the way, if you have a National Park located close to you please be sure to check and see what activities they have available to you and your little ones. There’s nothing better than a face-to-face meeting with an awesome Ranger or a Junior Ranger Program opportunity where the kids (of all ages) can earn their NPS Junior Ranger Badge. Check it out!
The recarving of the Cormorant Pole continues. You’ll recall in one of my earlier blogs I mentioned this pole was removed from the Park trail as it had been commissioned for a recarving by Tommy Joseph. Well, he’s been hard at work as you’ll see by the picture below. Here’s a picture of the red cedar pole coming into the park for carving. This pole was ferried to Sitka from Ketchikan. The second picture shows the progress made on the recarving.
By the way, for those of you who are interested, Tommy Joseph stars in the TV show Missing in Alaska. Not only is he an artist, conservator and Tlingit master carver, he is an expert on the local legends and tribal folklore unique to his state. He stars in the History channel’s show, Missing In Alaska. I believe there are 3 or 4 episodes completed. Kind of fun to work amidst a local legend!
Weather this week was somewhat different. We had lots of rain Saturday, Sunday, and Monday but then Tuesday came along and seemed to be a bit of a challenge for Mother Nature. She couldn’t decide what she wanted. Here are a series of pictures taken on Tuesday afternoon all in the course of 90 minutes. We had dark clouds, sun, wind, rain, more sun, more wind, dark ominous clouds and more sun. Take a look!
We ended my week with sun and lots of it. Here are some great pictures of a sunny day in Sitka on Thursday this week. Check out the snow on the mountains (which you can see because it is so clear!)