Seward is a geode. Rough on the outside, but once you peek in, you notice the glow, the jewels, the amethyst and cobalt painted homes. The Russian influence. It’s a town that many who visit Alaska only see as a port from their gargantuan floating condominium cruise ships. Step off the harbor. Walk into it. If you sit still for even a few minutes you’ll smell the sea that surrounds, feel the tides pulse through you, the rain might frizz your hair but it will also purify you. The grass is emerald, the trees are rich, thick green firs that defiantly grow on cliff and rock, the earth is almost coal black. If you’re lucky to be there in Summer, fireweed will grow as high as you were at age four, and you’ll see it wave in the wind and the rain and the tide, too. Mountains shadow the village (it sits kind of delicately on the bottom of mountain and edge of ocean), but the result isn’t gloomy even though it’s seemingly always raining.
They were almost finished and I stood in the middle of the harbor waiting. Listening. My ear buds kept falling out of my ears as I paced forward and backward on the soggy dock, seagulls and arctic terns circling in the turquoise water between the boats, the midnight blue and ice and snow capped mountains filling up my senses, holding me in an embrace of vastness; do I need to say it was magical? That it turned my stone heart to muscle and blood again? That I had walked along the rocks, and the sea otters bobbed in the waves in perfect time with the music in my ears?
My husband and son were on a day cruise to look for whales, orca, stellar sea lions, porpoises, and glaciers. I get seasick in the choppy Resurrection Bay, so I was spending the entire day by myself (ahhhh….). The sun was out and heating up my jacket, so I took it off. My sweater was old when I bought it at the thrift store, heathery cloudy grey, with two perfectly retained holes in the sleeves for popping my thumbs through and hiding the busy, unsettled nature of my hands. I paced a little. I listened to boats sound their horns and tourists’ heeled boots clack clack clack on the planks. I looked at the planks, growing slick with sea spray and green with moss and mold. All senses needed to be acknowledged, so I inhaled deeply and made amends with the rotting fish odor (this was a fishing port, after all. No getting around that smell). When my brain is allowed a little bit of time to meander I usually allow it to go to chimerical lands, as far as it wants to go. At first it went someplace shining in daylight memory (something about my childhood, something very happy and bold and quaint), and then it went down the dark path that it likes to go when I’m not looking out for it.
If my brain were given two roads (divulged in a wood), and if one road was draped in sunlight, dappled in exotic wildflowers, and was home to a dozen precious bunnies, my brain would turn its back on the precious bunny wildflower road and pick the one next to it. The one with decomposing mushrooms that have lost their fairy-tale gleam and were turning back to Earth. The one with twisted and gnarled vines dripping eerily into the path. With too many roots covered in deep jade moss. The result is beautiful, but unfathomably low and sad.
My wrinkled brain, dotted with holes from the bad choices I used to make, pratically kicked the bunnies out of the way and went down the creepy path. It told me awful things, evil things, sad tales of woe and loss. It suggested, in its conniving little bitch voice that –
what if the boat sinks and the humpbacks and their huge folded black eyes are able to see them sink toward the breeding grounds and you can’t get them and the people on this dock will start running and excitedly yell/whispering “a boat went down!” it happens sometimes and it’s their boat and you’ll be all alone and what will you do? who will you call first? your mother or your father or his mother and his father and oh, it will be terribly lonely without your husband and your son, they’re all you have up here so so far away 4,000 miles away from those you love most besides them. What will you say to everyone will you come home or will you stay? You’ll have a lot of time to yourself and isn’t that exactly what you’ve been wanting? Time to yourself? Well here it is here you go just go get a coffee and take the time to yourself and maybe you’ll stay in Alaska maybe you’ll move to Homer like you wanted or Talkeetna and you won’t have to worry about…
I have to slap my silly, trifling brain with a boot to get it to shut up. Kick some reason its way, hold it down like a hyper dog and whisper of course the boat wont’ go down. That the humpbacks won’t get to see the great white day cruise ship sink past them as the glacier calves and fireworks above (I wonder what that sounds like from underwater?). My brain rumbled a bit more, foaming and waiting and wanting to start up the crazy again, but fortunately, blissfully, with great pomp and circumstance in my soul, like a giant Deus Ex Machina, the boat my husband and son are on turned the corner from behind a mountain that’s probably bigger than anything in the Eastern United States (but diminutive in terms of Alaskan mountains), and I was absolved.
The boat cut through the water, turning the water from turquoise to black in its wake, and its girth shook the dock and the whole world floated in its rhythm. They could get off the boat soon. They were almost finished and I had been alone, for a minute there almost completely alone. I decided to get that coffee my brain wanted (might as well appease it some way), and focused my eyes on the water instead of inward.