2019 Life Logs, Day 254: A Day for Remembering
Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Weather: Overcast AM, Sunny PM, Windy; High 79, Low 63 degrees F
Location: At Home in the Cottage, East Falmouth, MA
It was a day for remembering the victims of 9/11 and their families, for thinking of my good friend Lynne Kirwin who lost her mother on this day a few years ago, and closer to home, a day dedicated to thinking about Mark who passed away on September 11 three years ago. I headed to Falmouth Heights Beach thinking I would spend most of the day there sitting on the water’s edge relaxing, reading, and reminiscing. But that plan was foiled by the wind. This was what Winnie the Pooh would call a blustery day. The wind was blowing right onto the beach and was strong enough to make you feel like you were being sand blasted. Plus, there was no sunshine. It was just miserable. So, I walked along the water and then down Falmouth Heights Road to where Mark and I lived once we moved off the boat. I followed the path we often walked together which took me along the harbor and through MacDougalls’ marine where the wind was whistling through the masts of the sailboats at the dock and on moorings. It was a very familiar sound. But somehow today my thoughts weren’t focused on our sailing years. I kept going back to when Mark and I first met and made the decision to head to Alaska in hopes of buying land and building a life there. We were to become part of the 70’s ‘back to the land’ movement. My mind probably went in this direction because I am reading a non-fiction book by Mark Adams called Tip of the Iceberg. It is a story about the author’s contemporary travels through Alaska retracing the 1899 Harriman Expedition. Harriman, a railroad magnate, gathered a large group of America’s best scientists, naturalists, and writers and put them all aboard a steamship that took them to the far reaches of Alaska. Reading this book has reminded me of places Mark and I visited in 1974 and today’s ‘remembrance’ gave me the chance to relive that adventure. I think I would have to write a book to tell the whole story, but the bottom line is that in March of 1974 we drove our white Ford truck, with everything we owned in or on top of it, about 1,800 miles from Bloomington, Indiana, to the Canadian border in Montana, and then another 1,600 miles through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon in Canada to reach Haines, Alaska. This whole time, we slept in the back of the truck in the freezing weather and I learned to cook frozen food on the camp stove. It was March, but it was not yet spring in the north lands. The trip was not what I would call fun, although it certainly was an adventure. But the further north we got, the harder it got. The snow-covered gravel Alcan Highway (the Alcan in Canada was not paved back then) stretched out in front of us for what seemed like forever. The days were dreary making our photos look like they were taken in black and white, not color. There was just white snow and what looked like black trees. Nothing looked green. Our first stop in Alaska was Haines as it was first on our list as a place to live in Alaska. Everything we had read indicated that the beauty there was overwhelming, but all we saw was more white and black. There were a few eagles and huge mosquitoes sitting on the snow, and we immediately found that the people who lived there were just not our cup of tea. We just didn’t fit in. We left our truck near Haines and hopped on a ferry to Juneau. Still not our kind of place. We drove to Anchorage and all the way down to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula, again supposed to be drop-dead beautiful, but it just didn’t look like that to us. Then we headed north of anchorage to the Matanuska Valley where we finally saw a little bit of sunshine, but by this time, we were pretty certain that Alaska was not the right fit for us. We drove through the state park part of Denali, through McKinley Park, and on to Fairbanks. By this time the snow was melting and this part of Alaska looked like a desert. I’m not even sure we stopped in Fairbanks. We headed southward as fast as we could to get back to the Lower 48. The book I am reading makes we want to return to Alaska during the late spring or summer months so I can see some of the beauty I hear others rave about. But until I do that, I will continue to think of Alaska in the black and white and rough and tumble terms that Mark and I saw in the spring of 1974.
By the time I had walked all through the Falmouth Heights area and back to my car at the beach, it was almost noon. I drove to the other side of the harbor and just sat for a bit trying to decide where to go to get out of the wind and then I thought of Quissett Harbor. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? It was our home on the water for three summers and the inner harbor beach is protected from southwest winds. As soon as I thought of this, the sun came out. Perfect. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach at Quissett and finally got to relax, read, and reminisce some more. But even though I was looking at our old anchorage, I continued on with the Alaska theme. It was ironic that I got a text from Justin and Jo during this time. They had just arrived in New Mexico for a visit and had gone directly to their converted Greyhound bus that is still there in storage. They had found Mark’s old felt hat. It was fairly new when I met him and he wore it all time. Justin sent a photo of Jo wearing the more than well-worn hat with the peace sign and broken gun pins still in place. That brought back more memories and when I got home I searched for a picture of Mark wearing that hat. I found it hard to believe that I could find only one picture. Surely there are more, but I’ll have to dig a little deeper to continue that search. And that is for another day. I didn’t get to see the Goldstones today, but I just got a beautiful email from Heather telling me about her bedtime discussion with the boys about Granddad. As Sam said, “Sad but okay.” We will be together for dinner tomorrow night at a restaurant on the water in honor of Granddad.