Every Year I visit my childhood stomping grounds in the remote bush of Southeast Alaska in a little village where the year-round population is twelve. I lived in this town and surrounding area for 13 years and it will always be home. I do my annual summer vacation with my daughter and husband and visit for several weeks, enjoying the break from the oppressive Florida heat; fishing, beach combing and just all around decompression from "civilization", and of course visit with all of my family who still live there.
And then again in October I return for a week to visit with my family and check in on my husband Rob who is there for the month commercial sea cucumber diving. And what are those you may ask? A slimy little bottom scavenger sea creature that is a delicacy in Asian societies. Almost all of the product is shipped to Asia, and carries claims of being able to cure numerous maladies, including cancer. I've eaten them a few times over the years, and can easily say I am NOT fond of their taste or chewy consistency.
I just returned from my October trip and I'm now getting caught up on all the work I missed while hiding out in the bush for a week. But, even a week is enough to regroup and be even more excited to get back to my painting easel and prepare for a very large upcoming show at the Miami Art Basel event, one of the largest and most well-known art shows in the world.
Even though it was late in the year the whales where still traversing the straits looking for krill to consume, and we actually saw them several times, including right from our cabin window where they were voraciously bubble feeding, filling up their bellies for the long trip South. The seals also decided to make an appearance and perch themselves on our rocks at low tide, soaking up some of the rare October sun that I brought with me from Florida...and yes, I DO take credit for the sun any chance I can get! Too often I was blamed for the dreary weather when I lived up there awhile back, but now I am credited for bringing sunshine with me, or at least, I make claim to it. Even though some of my family members, my brother James, don't particularly like heat as they are so acclimated to the milder Southeast Alaskan climate. But, they can suffer through it in order to enjoy my sunny presence, hehe :) The weather was surprisingly nice most of the week with only a couple of days of nasty weather where it was blowing 40mph+, which is pretty common for October, so all in all it was an enjoyable trip.
Whenever I am in Alaska I get to visit with my family that lives nearby, my brother James, sister Tara and my parents, so we always make time to get together as often as we can, or that the weather will allow, since my parents and sister live a 10 minute boat ride from my cabin that can be very treacherous waters. Oddly enough they live on a point that separates Clarence Straits from a large bay and sound and the water can be dramatically different on either side of the point. In fact, one day my husband and I were bottom fishing for some yummie cod to bring home for the winter, we were headed in the direction of the point nearby my parents home and the water was smooth as a lake, perfect for fishing out of our little skiff. We figured we would do some fishing then swing over to my parents for a visit and to get a piece of Alder to make a mantel for our new home in Florida, but as we neared the point we saw a black line and white caps, signaling some much rougher waters on the other side of the point. We figured we better go now before the weather really picked up and made it impassable, as it is frequently known to do. And yes, it had some nice 3-4 foot rollers that make it a little more interesting in our little skiff, not meant to be taken out in rough seas of any sort, but my husband has been around boats his entire life and handled it masterfully, so no worries there. Funny thing is, when my siblings and I were growing up we would have to go around this same point every morning and afternoon to get to the nearby school in the village and all too often we would look out the window and the bay was a mass of whitewater too dangerous for our dad and us 5 kids to try and cross, so we would call the school and let them know we weren't able to make it that day, and they would confusingly say that it was flat calm on their side. One of those strange weather phenomena where everything is set up just right to create two completely different scenarios.
Since my parents and sister now have access to the internet, literally within the past year, before this it was not a possibility due to their remote location, they can now order anything they need right off the internet...or I should say Amazon :) You can't beat Amazon's Prime Shipping when you live in Alaska, as typically everything costs 5 times as much to ship up there, or won't be shipped at all. So, it was Wednesday mail day and my husband and I went to visit my parents, and as we were coming around the point we saw my dad in his trusty Bostom Whaler, with Amazon boxes piled high, up near the beach in a little bay. We were wondering what he could possibly be doing, when he pulled out of the bay with a log in tow, a very common sight in this part of Alaska. Driftwood logs are a lifesaver as they provide the winter source of heat for homes in these remote locations, so when you see an opportunity to get a log that may have been lodged up in the rocks until an extremely high tide sets it free, you snatch it up!!
When we got to my parents place we helped unload the Amazon boxes and it was so much fun to see all the fun goodies they all received; it reminded me of my childhood when we would get our Permanent Fund Dividend from the state each fall and us kids would pore through the Sears catalog and select toys and clothes, and of course some yummie treats like sugary boxed cereal, a rarity for us as we were usually stuck with our staples of potatoes or oatmeal for breakfast. When the once a week mail day would come we couldn't wait to see which parts of our orders showed up, as they usually took awhile to all get there...it is Alaska after all. My husband got a little taste of what it was like growing up so remotely, mail day was always a treat!
Another tradition is to have potlucks at my parents whenever we are up there, and this year my daughter turned me onto the most delicious quinoa salad that I had to let me parents, sister and brother in on...although my brother had a distinct disliking for quinoa, haha, he'd never had it before and I don't think he will again, but other than that it was a hit :) And my sister made THE most amazing salmon dip, the added jalapenos were perfect, I think I ate at least, if not more, than half the bowl!!
All in all it was a fun, relaxing trip enjoying family, the outdoors and getting rejuvenated and ready to tackle my Art show for Miami Art Basel in December.
ADOW's Post Script:
I hope you've enjoyed my sister's guest blog. She's one of my favorite people in the world. When we were growing up we were often mistaken for twins, I think more because of our obvious closeness than our looks. if you'd like to read about us growing up in the bush, check the post before this, "Sisters."
My sister is also an extremely successful artist with an international following and reputation. You can see examples of her art sprinkled throughout my blog, but also at her website www.madartdesigns.com, or simply type her name into Amazon: Megan Duncanson. And experience whimsy and color as you've probably never experienced it before. My house is filled with her art, which is a wonderful mood lifter, especially as the day's get shorter.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)