Saturday, May 16, 2015

Halibut Cove, Alaska. My summer frontier.

A view front the top of Ismailof Island, Halibut Cove, Alaska.

  They say Alaska is the last frontier.  It's a place people have flocked to in hopes of never being found.  Fresh starts after displacing those slates we've been carrying around on our backs, whose weight has slowly brought us closer and closer to the ground.  Closer and closer to the grave.  Heavy hearts, burdened backs, and buckling knees be damned!  This is a place for release, and I am going to find some answers here.

 The truth is, we can find answers anywhere, we just forget in the day-to-day to listen for them.  Familiar settings dulling our intuitions because we have expectations of what will be just around the corner.  When living in one place, people never ask you "What's next".  When you are stationary people simply accept the status you currently hold, in profession, education, living quarters, etc.  In being anchored to a place, we allow ourselves to be anchored to expectations.  There are some who forget to let go of their anchor as they cast it overboard, and sink in a flailing panic, forgetting themselves as they disappear into an abyss.  Some cast anchors, yet forget to take down their sails, leaving themselves pulled in two directions.  Others drift along, letting the ocean take them where it will.

  Why am I using so many nautical references?  It probably has something to do with my current locale.  I have recently taken up residence in Halibut Cove, Alaska where I have acquired a summer job.  I live on a very small island, just off the mainland, eastward, across the bay from Homer.

 As it happens, I have had a very great run of finding adventure in my life. This time adventure was disguised as an old acquaintance who called me on the phone and offered me a job in Alaska. This is an atypical occurrence.  How many times are we sitting at home when someone calls and offers us jobs without even searching them out? Let alone one as adventurous as this one?  I thought it best to oblige the offering.  I have noticed the mannerisms of universal hands at play.  They speak with silence through delicate gestures, guiding us onward, and scooping us up into white crested currents of excitement, delivering us to the doorstep of opportunities and rare lifetime happenings.  What insignificant, ungrateful mortal would I be, if I were to ignore such an invitation?

  I turned in my notice at work.  I informed my family and friends that I would once again be on the move, and none of them seemed surprised in the slightest, which was ironic, because I think of all the people shocked at my leaving, I was the most caught off guard.  Wasn't I suppose to have found the answers to all my wandering questions in my last venture?  Shouldn't I have found myself in a zen-like trance, engulfed within the nesting space I was to have created for myself after months of finding out "who I was", while hiking the bush of New Zealand the year prior?  Wasn't I suppose to be on my way toward a steady relationship, marriage, a white picket fence, kids, a dog, and a lifetime of pre-answered queries?

  I do hope to find stability in my life at some point again.  I do miss it, but as it stands now a stationary life hasn't worked out quite yet.  At this moment I have no reason to be anywhere particular.  Perhaps some day there will be a shift, and I will find a reason to stay put.  An anchor to hold me a bit more still through the tumultuous waters of life.  In the meantime...Alaska.

The first view of my new home as we crossed the bay.

  I met up with a few co-workers on the last flight from Anchorage to Homer.  Our flight attendant was the funniest attendant I have ever seen.  As soon as I took a seat, the gentlemen next to me, gestured toward her and said "Oh good, she's the funny one!"  Boy was he right!!! She started off, what I will refer to as her "set," because she used the 45 minute flight as a platform from which to crack jokes to a captive audience, by introducing herself.  "My name is Diana Ross, but I'm not a very good singer, so I do this instead.".  I have never been to a comedy show where the comedian not only provides an ab workout and tears from laughter slit eyes, but also provides cookies, and refreshments.  She is renowned through the area.  Anyone within 200 miles of here knows of her hilarity.  What a great introduction to Homer. 

  We stopped at a grocery, stocked up on a few items, and drove out to the edge of the Homer spit to catch our ride across the bay.  The 4.5 mile spit features the longest road into ocean waters, in the entire world, taking up to 15 minutes to travel by car.  Pretty cool! We transferred supplies, boarded a boat by the name of the Creel, and made our way to Ismailof Island in Halibut Cove.  My new home.

 Above pictured on the left are four of the employee cabins.  One room cabins with a loft and a cold water sink.

  The building on the left pictured above here, is Dave's shop, above which resides Marian's studio.  (Dave and Marian are the owners of The Saltry.)  Adjacent to the studio is one more employee room.  The middle building is dry storage for the restaurant, the shower and the laundry room.  Above is another employee quarters.  Just above that center building on the hill is a tiny white cabin.  This is where I live.  The final building on the right is The Saltry, the wonderful restaurant I am working at this summer.  The structure to the right of the Saltry is a covered deck with fireplace, built into the edge of a rock cliff.  If you follow the boardwalk further down past the restaurant it will take you to several other properties, a horse coral, 2 galleries, a small coffee shop that I hear will be opening shortly for the season, and you can also find a small post office which is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 9, but then promptly leaves for Homer after opening.  You are welcome to catch a ride into town aboard the Stormbird on post days if you need to re-supply.  I have already had the pleasure of doing just that!  She leaves at 10, arrives into Homer by 11, and departs again at 2 for the voyage home.

My cabin is the old wheelhouse on the Danny J, which is the ship our patrons ride upon from Homer for their dining experience.

  6 horses live here, Piko the dog who sticks out his tongue often after having lost his top teeth to a horse kick a few years prior, and two bunnies.  Carrots and Celery.  Aside from that, bald eagles are a very regular sight.  Just yesterday I helped process cod at a fish processing station they have situated on the deck.  The unusable scraps were thrown into the ocean, and when the tide went out later it was a feeding frenzy between the eagles and the gulls.  It's a constant battle between them, one I never tire of watching.


  On the spit is Homer's famous Salty Dawg Saloon.

  You expect it to be like any other dive bar, full of regulars, slouching over a cold brew and having hum-drum ignorable conversations about what so-n-so did or said, and blah-di-blah blah blah. Then you open the door to this!!!!!!

  Every square inch of wall and ceiling surface is covered with bills.  I of course had to know why.  Apparently, sailors and fishermen use to go in and buy drinks, but if someone whom they wanted to buy a drink for wasn't in their immediate company, they would write that person's name on the bill and tack it to the wall, so when they eventually did make it into the saloon, they would be greeted by a pre-paid drink.  Since then it has just taken off as a sort of good luck charm.  Now people have a tendency to write their own name on the bills and tack them to the walls.  An item I plan to cross off my list before I leave here this year.

  Our official season doesn't actually begin until next Saturday, so up until now, we have been slowly prepping the Saltry for summer business.  Dusting off the winter cobwebs, sometimes quite literally.  So there has been a bit of down time, in which we play a lot of cribbage, sit by the fireplace, have an occasional drink, dine on king salmon caught that very morning, or even last night we had muscles harvested right here in Halibut Cove, and a wildcrafted salad of fiddlehead ferns and various hearty greens. Last week, after dinner it began to rain.  I happened to go outside and catch sight of the most beautiful rainbow, so we all hopped up, donned a life-vest, boarded the skiff and went rainbow hunting!

Double rainbow chasing, an excellent after-dinner activity!

  One afternoon Marian dropped us off at a beach on the mainland and we hiked into a glacier.

  Apparently, it's also on my to-do list to enjoy an old fashioned, with a glacial ice cube before the season is over.  My to-do lists rock.  My to-do list is on the rocks!! Hahaha!!

  For our final big pre-season excursion we hiked out to a little mainland lakeside cabin used by the family and friends of Dave and Marian.

Look at that sultry Saltry crew!!!  Buncha' wonderful riff-raffian rabble rousers if you ask me!

Leisure Lake

Compass photos have become a staple for my travels.

  And that pretty much brings us up to date. The work days are about to get very long.  We have divided up our days off as well as they days we take turns making everyone breakfast. Thursdays will be my day off, or in other words my studio day :)  Let the season begin!!!