Alaska: Connections and Tips

Connections

Coe Connections

Poster by Coe Student

It’s amazing how many connections you will find when you travel to Alaska. My winter journey started with a fine chat with a Coe College student headed to the Twin Cities for a physics presentation.  As a Coe grad, I was excited to hear about his work and know some of the professors I have long admired.

From Minnesota to Anchorage I visited with several X-C skiers taking part in the Tour of Anchorage and actually caught a glimpse of them on the trail later.

We literally bumped into Iowa State fans while walking to the Ceremonial Start to the Iditarod.

 

Note on Plane

Thoughtful note from a parent.

On the way back I found on my seat a sweet note from a fellow traveler apologizing in advance and a few “goodies” in a small bag.  How thoughtful! And, the infant was quiet most of the way, fussing only briefly.

Since my trip March 2017, I’ve met three people bound for Alaska, visited with a half dozen who plan to go there, and many who have traveled and are eager to share their adventures.

Tips

Alaska offers so much each season so check out the Alaska websites of the areas you plan to visit.

Winter or Summer Solstice events abound, and you will want to take them in.

Loving the Skhoops in the outdoors

Brain Ohlen, David and Brenda Hack of Alaska. Skhoops keep legs warm in winter.

Clothing:  No matter the season you visit, plan for the varied weather in Alaska that can range from bitter cold to balmy days.  In winter everyone really knows how to dress to stay warm and be able to move. A great innovation is skhoops which are insulated skirts. They come in varied lengths and women slip them on over their office clothing when they go out for short walks. They sure are handy for long times outside as an added layer against the cold and they allow movement!

Alaska towns have all sorts of indoor activities like concerts and even in the sophisticated venues, dress ranges from nice casual to formal.

Everyone knows how to keep the feet warm with well insulated, waterproof, and comfy boots.

All sorts of hats are the rage no matter the season.  In winter people cover their faces and in summer they shield themselves from the sun, wind, and bugs.

Money

Alaska is expensive so make sure your credit card is up to date and bring cash.  Some places take only cash.

Lodging

Visitors have a range of choices for lodging.  Some stay with friends.  Others use hostels and hotels and motels. Airbnbs are popular. Some folks like bed and breakfasts and lodges because they interact with locals. Lodges in Alaska are different from bed and breakfasts.  So, check out what is included in the price.

Food

King Crab

Great meals in Alaska

Just like the lower 48, Alaska has its food trucks with tasty treats for those on the go at festivals.  Cafés have lovely choices and attentive servers. Breweries are all the rage in Alaska. Perhaps one of the most elegant restaurants in the Anchorage area is the Crow’s Nest perched atop the Captain Cook Hotel downtown. It is a testament to the resiliency of Alaskans as it was part of the renovation of Anchorage after the 1964 9.2 Good Friday earthquake that leveled much of the city.

One Alaska suggested for visitors to get in shape for walking, skiing, hiking and fat tire biking which is a terrific way to get around in winter as well as summer.  Alaska is wild. So, stay within your limits and have a guide for those out-of-the-way trips.

Alaska in any season offers up a wonderful adventure.  Consider winter when bugs and bears are sleeping and food and festivals abound.

Labyrinths: Walking Meditations

Worship outside of a church comes in many forms.  For the service, several members shared their ways of being mindful and growing spiritually. These included listening to music, engaging in specific meditation times, and singing. My contribution was this short talk on how walking a labyrinth daily has been an important part of 2018.  Since late December 2017, I have walked either the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth or when traveling found a labyrinth to walk, or used a small cloth lap labyrinth and as a last resort, used my palm to mindfully walk a labyrinth.

“Carry On” Lyrics from the American Indie Pop group, FUN.

“If you’re lost and alone

Or you’re sinking like a stone

Carry on.

May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground

Carry on.

Carry on, carry on.”

The lyrics of this song often scroll through my mind as I walk a labyrinth daily. Walking a labyrinth is my meditation.

The song reminds us that none of us is perfect.  We can chew on our faults, making them who we are.  Or we can acknowledge the negatives things like wrong doings, surliness, inconsideration, not listening and then we can choose,

Yes, we have a choice, to acknowledge positives in our lives and work towards them. To make them part of who we really are.

We are Holy Spirits Bound in Human Bodies. Frailly Divine you might say.

Walking a labyrinth daily provides me with this time and space. For me to pause…Ground…Center in the moment…and Mindfully walk with a Grateful Heart.

I give thanks: to the day and the season regardless of the weather; the plants and animals; our home; Rich and our families; our bounty.

I ask for blessings on those in need, trauma, who are far away, with whom I have had disagreements and whose actions I disagree with.

I ask Divine Love that is within me to help me remember to open my heart and mind to grace and compassion.

Walking the labyrinth helps me catch and dispel the grumpiness that sometimes overwhelms me.

Speaking scientifically, by choosing to center in gratitude I change the brainwaves by allowing neurotransmitters to reinforce certain pathways.  Positive pathways. I allow time for resolution of matters as I form habits of gratefulness and positivity.

Spiritually, this allows time and opens space to choose to walk mindfully; to invite in peacefulness that I work to carry through the day.

As I carry on, I remind myself that peace begins with me with the sound of my feet upon the ground.

From Abraham Maslow: “The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”

From Linda Mikell, Veriditas Council member and skilled labyrinth facilitator, “People tell me time and again that the labyrinth has an aspect of awe and wonder about it.”

Swallowtail Soiree

Guest Blogger, Sheryl Ochs

On a jaunt to the garden to retrieve some herbs for my freshly cooked carrots, I paused in surprise to see 12 small black caterpillars, each with a tiny white stripe in the middle, chomping away on my only parsley plant.

Caterpillars on parsley.

Caterpillars happily munch parsley leaves.

I knew that parsley was a butterfly host plant, and I knew that Swallowtail butterflies were partial to it, but the only ones I’d noticed before were bigger, fatter and striped with yellow/green.

Seeking advice from a trusted website, I discovered the tiny black caterpillars were indeed the first instars of the caterpillars on their way to becoming Swallowtail butterflies. As I watched what I called “my children” grow, I saw each of the four instar stages in which they shed their skin.

Each morning and evening I’d head to the garden to make certain they had not succumbed to hungry birds or other predators and each time I was relieved to count 12.

Swallowtail Caterpillars

Caterpillars on parsley.

Before the caterpillars finally vacated, they mostly decimated my parsley leaving only a small sprig for my next dish of carrots. A small price to pay for the pleasure of watching them grow to adulthood. Now they’ve meandered off to form their chrysalises and I anxiously await an influx of beautiful butterflies to grace my yard.

 

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail butterfly on cup plant.

Take Time for Sunrises and Sunsets

“Take Time. Make Time”
Guest Blogger
Connie Sjostrom

Sunrise

Sunrise comes early in Summer.

After working 40 years of my life, I was fortunate to be able to retire early.  Always a multi-tasker while I was a working mom, you can imagine that much of my spare time was, well, not really spare. I vowed early on that my children should not miss out on “mom time” because I was working. That meant that some other things had to give a little.  Like housework…that was easy

to cut. The only “extra time” I allowed myself before the family began to stir was a cup of coffee and a scan of the local paper WHILE I blow-dried my hair   But getting back to my original point: when I retired, I knew it was going to take a bit to adjust to my new normal of no schedule. I developed two mantras –the first, “Slow Me Down, Lord”, and the second followed “Take time, make time.”

Like time to watch the sunrise.

Farm Life

Growing up on a farm I saw few sunrises mostly because I was already in the barn milking and there wasn’t a lot of extra time in those days. Milking 50 cattle morning and night…usually with only two people milking. You get the picture.

Arkansas sunset

Arkansas Sunset
Photo by Connie Sjostrom

But, I saw lots of sunsets — mostly from a tractor. Back then we worked until it was dark, and sometimes later depending on the season. Still no camera handy. And if I did get a shot, I had to wait until the roll was full to get it developed. And usually, a few weeks for it to come back not to mention the trip to town to drop it off and pick it up. It was a real thing.

Commute

When we first married my husband and I enjoyed small town living but that involved a 45-minute commute to work and little extra time to catch the sunrise. Even when we moved to the country 27 years ago, I was still up early and getting ready for my day. We had the perfect spot — on top of a hill facing East-southeast. But until I retired I was hit and miss on taking the time to actually catch the sunrise.  And then, I didn’t always have a camera at the ready, so very few were ever captured.

Fast forward to my retirement years. I now have hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures of sunrises and I am so glad I can share those with others who may not have the time or the perfect location to view these masterpieces of creation. While Facebook has its drawbacks, being able to share a sunrise photo instantly is definitely a plus.

Sunrise this time of year is @ 5:30 a.m.  Take time, make time!