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,