Rick and Monique

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Seas and the Arctic Tundra

I've been away on vacation, that's why I didn't write.  My wife, I and Mom and Dad H. travelled to Alaska together.  Let me begin with a comparison.

A few weeks ago I took my Dad-in-law on a weekend motorcycle trip.  We geared up from head to toe, put the Triumph in gear and took off.  The ride was awesome.  The trip wasn't perfect.  The wind bucked us around a bit, the weather was pretty good but cool, and the hot tub at the hotel didn't work.  But I don't ride to find perfection as if riding is some external destination.  Exotic lifestyles and joyful perceptions come from within.  We didn't ride away hoping to find Utopia.  Ya hit the road and challenge the vibration, the wind, the gear and the silence not to affect you to the core. 

Alaska was like that. In some ways the vacation mirrored life in its imperfection.  No matter how straight my "ducks" were in their row, some travails were unavoidable. Sounds disappointing?  It wasn't.  Our Alaskan adventure evolved from "seeing" Alaska into all the ways we experience grace by minutes and days.  

I enjoyed watching characters at the airport and in the plane.  This time I entertained myself by watching how people act around the lavatory.  One lady told several people who didn't want to know that she hates "airplane bathrooms" but she'd had a giant coffee and she had to pee worse than ever before (in like her entire 72 year life? Uh Huh).  One simply stands and waits right?  You try not to think that men and women alike are using that bathroom one after another, you try very hard not to think about getting sucked through that little hole and shot out of the airplane at 37,000 feet.  You try very hard not to look at each other, even while you exchange pleasantries.  And you try not to concentrate on the gentleman who just walked out of the bathroom with a curious and curvy smile on his face...I wonder if he does that at his own house?  I will remember the tall, lanky gentleman whom I thought as waiting for the lavatory, but who instead stood near the front of the plane for nearly half an hour, listened to music on his Ipod, then returned to his seat.  Why do I want to remember him?  I don't know, he was tall, lanky and had an Ipod...I smiled as I thought he might've even for a second tendered the thought about what it might feel like to jump out of an airplane at 37,000 feet. 

Like everyone, they disappear into the black hole.  They walk away, and a force akin to gravity pulls them to a destination other than my own.  Ours pulled us to Alaska via Vancouver B.C and the Holland America Ship the "Veendam".  This vacation was really a lesson in adaptation and trust.  We couldn't embark to the ship because more than the usual number of patrons on the previous cruise became sick with something and so they took no chances. They cleaned and scoured every inch of her before they allowed us to embark. SO we enjoyed an all day tour of Vancouver.  We enjoyed a longer tour than we normally might've had and I feel blessed.  We finally embarked after an hour in an uncomfortable holding room, but there were good people to talk to while we waited and I feel blessed.  The servers at the meal seemed quite slow half the time, but the food was excellent and the company enjoyable, and I feel blessed.  Room service was slow a couple times, but while we waited we stood out on the Verandah and marveled at the mountains hugging the sea, at the dolphins and sea lions swimming in our wake, at the eight orcas pushing us into port, and at the ocean marvelously unaffected by our giant ship.  I was blessed.  The giant viewing windows throughout the ship were quite dirty, a fact I found interesting being that the cruise itself was all about what was happening outside.  Maybe with everything else they didn't have time?  I don't know, I can't speculate.  I didn't need windows, I had a verandah.  Either way, turns out the windows couldn't change the beauty of the skies, the majesty of the mountains and the power of the seas.  We were blessed.  Oddly, the cruise entertainment was quite good and I was blessed.  We learned the secret to making martinis and tasting wine.  I can't wait to explore the fruit of those lessons sometime soon.  We might be able to bless you with our new-found skills.  

God held the sun up 20 hours of every day.  Two a.m. might as well have been 2 p.m.  The position of the earth, distance from the North Pole and the Earth's orbit around the sun help explain the phenomenon.  The sun does arc across the vast Alaskan Tundra, but seems to move horizontally along its celestial highway.  Surreal.  

The weather was perfect most of the time and I enjoyed walks through cities like Juneau exploring passageways, walking past Sarah Palin and her Family's house, and roaming back streets uncontested and undiscovered by any other cruiser, and we were blessed.  We biked through Auk Bay and biked outside of Skagway and through the streets of Fairbanks.  We ate lunch atop a mountain and shifted between rocks underneath a delicate waterfall. We were blessed.  The "Formal Night" photos were expensive but five of them captured the essence of my bride and so others now also see by her smile that I am blessed.  Our ship sailed late into one port, but because of the late arrival I was able to wake up in time to enjoy watching her sail in and parallel park.  I'm blessed.

It was in part the power of adaptation that made our trip special and unique.  I never once believed I had to make lemonade from lemons.  God had prepared feasts for the eyes long before I even had eyes and so a minor snafu in service, a little trouble here and there by no means meant I was surrounded by lemons.  We climbed through forests and valleys, we drank water from fresh springs. I felt massive bergs calving from glaciers and enjoyed a man sing the same songs his father played with the great Johnny Cash.  

A grizzly grazed while I and a bus full of marveled guests watched her.  In some ways I felt out of place, this was her home.  She didn't seem to mind.  God built the Dall Sheep's home upon the rock. Moose snacked on tree branches and we saw one Caribou resting in the snow and another running mere feet ahead of us.  I heard the Ptarmigan sing, watched the arctic ground squirrel scamper and I saw the mighty Denali towering over the Arctic Desert.  The days were so clear we saw almost every grand inch of the nearly 21,000 foot mountain.  We enjoyed a soft rain in Fairbanks and the ardent conversation of our Bed and Breakfast hosts.  We were honored to meet servants of the United States Air Force and I was honored to have vacationed with a 24 year veteran of the United States Army.  We were blessed.  I remember a funny little tour guide who while telling the story of the Raven (A native Tglingit Story of creation), sounded just like John F. Kennedy--"and as Tiiiime Paaaased Byyyy" he would say.

I can see my breath in crisp Alaskan air.  Cool air and clouds hang over the mountains as if they also breathe.  I remember Rivers turned silver by dusk's finger-light.  I remember the mighty Bald Eagle devouring a fresh kill, surviving exactly as the creator intended.  I remember the great lakes filled with Loon and Heron.  I remember--One doesn't own Alaska. You find the rain forests, the seas, the mountains and the arctic desert wild and infinite. I can't tell anyone that I simply "saw" Alaska. It'd be foolish to say so.  I entered Alaska with everything I was, and left Alaska different.  Amazing days are like that.  If you leave them the same, you've experienced nothing.  

Alaska is in every terrain like no other place.  God opens her up and she simply and mightily wrestles with your heart.  God reminded me during a small earth quake, one of a thousand felt every year in the giant state inhabited by the toughest of men and women that"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7). 

We were blessed.


Michelle said...

Beautiful pictures! Sounds like an incredible trip.

fasthair said...

Mr. Rick: Sorry I've been MIA lately but as I said, life got in the way. It looks like life was giving you blessings the likes of which few get. Outstanding post. Outstanding pictures. Outstanding vacation. Thank you for blessing me with your words and photos.


Joh said...

Beautiful pictures, Great prose, and remembrances... Good to be there with you and to relive it all again
Our God is majestic and He allowed us a glimpse

Shawna said...

It sounds/looks like you had a wonderful time. I loved the repetition of "we were blessed."

And, I, too, love watching people in airports and airplanes!

Shawna's Study Abroad

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing the blessing of your trip with us! As always you tell it very beautifully. The pictures are amazing!

Evelyn said...

Thanks for the travelogue! It stilled my soul.