Friday, May 28, 2010


Alaska is where
The weather might be hot one moment and cold the next.
Layers are important.
Skies have been blue, ocean has been jade.
Whales swim, catching dinner, while blowing water into the air,
A signal of their presence, before diving down for more buffet,
Tail flashing.
The sun rises at 4:15am , too early for humans
And sets at 9:55; daylight at very strange hours.
There is barely a night.

Alaska is where
Glaciers calve, and everyone yells “Oh!”
I think our joy in the sight is a combination of wonder
At the falling of ice from such a height,
And the relief of watching a wall of ice do nothing for 20 minutes.
Seals “drop” pups
(ask the seal – I bet she would be offended by the concept of dropping).
Mother and Father Eagle both incubate the eggs in the nest
And provide for dinner.
Ice flows
In chunks toward the ocean
And down a mountain, imperceptibly creeping toward the water,
Or up a mountain in retreat.

Alaska is where
Mining towns look like West Virginia
With clapboard homes and small town histories,
Rolling hills,
Evergreen instead of maple,
But still a blanket of solid green.
Whitewater rushes in a river,
And creeks are everywhere.
Robins search for worms.
The world is different than home.
There are no snakes, no poison ivy or oak,
Mountains, jagged and snow covered, stab into the sky.
Bald eagles fly instead of cardinals.
Arctic terns, caring for young, dance around a glacier,
Before flying around the world to the South Pole.
You can only reach the capital city by boat, plane or conception.

Alaska is where
The population of a town swells from 1000
To 11,000, when four cruise ships dock.
Tourism has changed part of the landscape,
Bringing jewelry stores.
With diamonds more numerous than the natives.
And tanzanite, gold nuggets and fake totem poles.
Shore excursions promise salmon bakes, lumberjack shows and whale sightings.
A train was built 100 years ago to take gold hunters
Into the Yukon,
Past Dead Horse Gulch,
Echoing with the sound of 3000 pack animals’ cry.
The train hangs on the mountain side,
Rumbles across gorges on wooden bridges,
Climbing a mountain to White Pass,
On a narrow gauge track.
It once carried supplies for the construction of a road
In World War II,
Protecting the state from Japanese bombs,
But now it carries tourists to see
Breathtaking views.
Everything changes with time.

Image: Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau

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