August 29, 2010

The Other Four Senses

It certainly is getting closer to the time when I must look forward, not back; the time when I think about where I’m going instead of where I’m leaving. So I’ll wrap up my little project of observing Alaska through all five senses. After last week’s entry on sight, here’s a quick look a life in Juneau with the other four senses.


Costco was already in Juneau when I moved here and I basically had no qualms about shopping there. But many long-time locals will tell you that in spite of the high cost of food and goods in Alaska they initially boycotted the giant cement block when it first infected the town. But eventually Costco’s prices won over many locals and their relatively unblemished tomatoes won over the rest. After all, anything other than the most strict subsistence life in Alaska largely requires importing food. A lot of food. From far away. That food arrives primarily by a multi-day barge trip and the produce shows it. I’ve received many-a-voice mail message sharing which store has just-ripe avocados or fresh, crisp apples; that’s treasured information.

August 17, 2010


In her essay, The Way Winter Comes, Alaskan author Sherry Simpson writes, "What I really want - others confess this longing too - is for the land to possess me, to name me." She considers that people spend a lot of time trying to figure out who they are, or how to belong. But perhaps the more important task is to consider the place. And so she gives up on her effort to belong by naming things around her and hoping the place will name her in return. Instead, she just offers simple descriptions of her immediate surroundings, which places her right there within them. And so I am inspired to do something similar – solidify my relationship with this place just by observing it, through all five of my senses.

I’ll start with sight because that’s easy: Alaska is feast for the eyes. A splendid wonderland of visual awe. Last week, a friend, Katie, called and before I could say hello she asked, in hurried tones, “What are you doing right now? Can you be down at the dock in 15 minutes? For a flight-seeing tour?" I issued a one word response, "Yes!"

August 10, 2010

A Beer at The Alaskan

“Home is noticed most when it is left.” I leave Alaska in 2 weeks. I’m looking around me with eyes both old and new: I’m noticing the breathtaking beauty all over again, contemplating my good fortune to have lived in such a place and seeing quiet details I haven’t noticed for quite a while. I'm strolling down Memory Lane as I go about daily life; every corner brings a tender, private smile to my face. I’m reminiscing.

Over the winter, one of Juneau’s favorite goings-ons is the Wearable Arts show. True to Juneau style, the show is a compilation of talent that ranges from: “This is uncomfortably bad but we’ll cheer awkwardly anyway” to: a prideful, surprised “Someone around HERE can do THAT? Who? Shouldn’t they be on a bigger stage somewhere? This is amazing!” Every community performance that I have been to in this town (and that’s a lot - it’s a looooong, dark winter, ladies and gentlemen) has included acts that induce both of those reactions and everything in between. But I’m not going to reminisce about the Wearable Arts show; I’m going to write about the bar scene afterwards.