mountains

Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Staying in Focus:Re-springing Your Step/Mountain Weekend

Daily Prompt: Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

 

The last experience I had that left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated occurred last summer, when my husband and I and our friends, Kathi and Don, spent a weekend at the Cabins of Willow Winds in Asheville, NC.IMG_3539

Although last summer was not exceedingly hot or humid at home, the weather the weekend we were in Asheville was absolutely wonderful. We were worried because the forecast was for rain, but all we had was a brief shower one afternoon. It was in the evening that we really noticed the difference. The cabin had floor to ceiling windows, which we cranked open, and the most delightful breeze of cool mountain air flowed in, carrying with it the sounds of nocturnal creatures, insects and frogs and the like. Those sounds brought back memories of the summers of my childhood spent in a cabin near a lake. There, I would be lulled to sleep by the nighttime chorus of frogs and katydids.

We took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed up to the visitor center atop Mount MitchelIMG_3526l and ate lunch at the restaurant there, the wall of windows providing a spectacular view.IMG_3527IMG_3478 IMG_3481 IMG_3388 - Copy - Copy IMG_3392 IMG_3426 IMG_3435 IMG_3437 - Copy IMG_3448 IMG_3456 IMG_3471

We went on a ghost tour, and walked through the botanical gardens. IMG_3542Kathi and Don tried their hand at fishing in a pond on the premises of the cabin and we made our dinners in the cabin. Last year was an especially tense one with family illnesses and other stresses, but those three days in Asheville stand out as a small oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.IMG_3600 There’s something about mountains that have always had that effect on IMG_3586me.

Blue Ridge

the mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites the crystal drops

of early morning dew

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I feel a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek

in the mountains, in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the problems

that quite often trouble me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit seeks the mountains

here I find my inner peace

-pc 97

Mountains

When the pressures of life build to a peak

Some people find solace in shorelines and sea

But it’s often the higher ground that I seek

For it’s always been mountains for me

When I stand on a ridge at the top of the world

From worry and care I am free

I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled

It will always be mountains for me!

-pc’03

 

Staying in Focus: Singing the Blues

We have just returned from a wonderful week in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If nothing else, the photos I took this week certainly explain why they are named  the Blue Ridge  mountains:IMG_3615 IMG_3608 IMG_3609 IMG_3490 IMG_3493 IMG_3503IMG_3469 IMG_3476 IMG_3477

The following poems were written in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first in 1997 and the second on this visit in 2014.

The  mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites

the crystal drops

of early morning dew;

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I sense a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek;

in the mountains

in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the questions

that so often elude me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit needs the mountains

here I find my inner peace.

 

 

when the mountains beckon

I know that I must go

to the places where the

land is lifts up,

and crystal waters flow ;

where what I see brings peace to me

and I at  last can find

a haven where, most easily

I can rest my weary mind.

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:

 

 

Book Cover small

 

Although written with children in mind, the story is one you will never forget, a story of friendship, acceptance and tolerance for those different from us, of family and courage and sacrifice. It is a cautionary tale written to remind us how beautiful, yet fragile, is our world,  and how important is our stewardship of  it. It is  a story of  a boy coming of age, for readers of all ages.

 

Escape from Mount Sanctuary now available from the Kindle store at Amazon.com. It’s a bargain at only $.99. No Kindle, no problem. Simply download the FREE Kindle app  and you can view the book on your computer.  Here’s a link to the site:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover-ebook/dp/B00JYJ5AZI/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_dnr_2

 

On the lower right hand corner of the page you will see a link to the free Kindle app. The book will be available in print on demand in the coming weeks if you prefer traditional books.

Book Description

 April 25, 2014
What if you had the chance to discover the world all over again? In Escape from Mount Sanctuary, a young boy named Ke does exactly that. Ke has lived his life in special caverns built to shelter survivors and their descendants beneath the Earth’s surface following a cataclysmic event ages ago. Ke learns that there is an “outside” to his world, a world long thought abandoned. Ke is intrigued, especially when he meets a girl (Mira) from an outside settlement and a wolf named Tip, who possesses special abilities. With this pair of adventurers, Ke and his elder friend, Tuck, embark on a journey into a world far more wondrous, and dangerous, than they imagined. During their journey, Ke, a naïve young boy with dreams of becoming a storyteller, learns much about friendships and family, self-reliance and sacrifice. By journey’s end, they all come to realize that courage is not measured by one’s size or one’s age, but by the conviction in one’s heart. Their story celebrates the joy of discovery, the wonder of our world and the rewards of perseverance. It encourages its readers to follow their dreams wherever they may lead. It is about discovering the world all over again.

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Good Time

 Daily Prompt:Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

IMG_8549 IMG_8563

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/daily-prompt-good-time/

a path of gold from the sun to me You have to see this place!

IMG_8485 IMG_8578

I awaken just before sunrise, after a good night’s sleep free of the crazy, Technicolor dreams induced by my medications. I get out of bed, quietly tiptoe across the room, and peek out between the drapes. The sun has just cleared the horizon and the beautiful hues of pink and orange sunrise dance across the waters toward my feet. As I take pictures of the beautiful scene, I enjoy total silence – no one would believe thousands of people surround me. As the sunrises, it reveals mountains covered with snow, their lofty peaks shrouded in mists. Small icebergs float by, jewels of aquamarine. Slightly ahead and off to the right, I am treated to the breaching of a humpback whale.

The day that has just begun will be filled with amazing scenery, more whale watching, maybe exploring a coastal town, say Juneau  or Sitka, followed by a delicious dinner, an evening’s entertainment, maybe some trivia in one of lounges. The sun is unwilling to set in this Land of the Midnight Sun and we are reluctant to stop for the day because this is an imaginary day and tomorrow reality returns.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray, trapped in time and made to repeat Groundhog Day again and again recalls a far better day in his past life and says,  “… that was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I have that day to live over and over…”

I try, on special days like these, to be present, in the moment, but as hard as I try, the day slips away, leaving only memories. I look at the pictures I have taken on such special days, and think to myself, was I really there?  Why didn’t I pay more attention? But I can close my eye and remember all the beautiful places I’ve seen and one of the most beautiful is Alaska. As I hold to the adage, “Think Big!” I could think of nothing bigger or more  beautiful, than spending my imaginary day in Alaska.  The following is  a poem I wrote following my visit to Alaska in 2012.

This one is a sestina.  It has 6 verses and each sentence of each verse must end in one of six words.  I chose; Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales.  In each verse these words move around according to a preset form.  It ends with a tercet (3 lines) and in each of those lines are two of the six words. It is a form of poetry that uses repetition.

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska

a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers

and did I mention the water is aquamarine?

our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise

we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,

a sudden disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales

we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales

in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska

fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains

slowly they move, ages old, ever changing,  grinding rock and ice, the glaciers

glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise

enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine

so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales

azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise

and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska

to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers

and marvel at the snow- capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains

especially those that surround waters of aquamarine

crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers

in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale

I’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska

has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise

where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,

the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,

I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine

and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale

and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,

which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise

I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales

as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains

and reflects in the waters of aquamarine

it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,

which rise in silhouette above the glacier icefields, in a paradise,

a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Staying in Focus: Focus On: My Last Day

I am so far behind in keeping up with the daily prompts. I am trying to finish the final rewrite of a book project, design calendars for Christmas giving, and write my annual Christmas poem and a bunch of other stuff, including playing  a seemingly innocuous game on the internet called Candy Crush Saga. Beware, it can take over your life!  A recent prompt asked how I would spend my last day on earth.  Here is my plan

On my last day on earth I would want to spend time with my friends and family, but as they may have their own  agenda as to how to spend their last day,  I will outline mine..

I would begin the day at sea, rising before the sun, and watching it as it appears over the horizon. There is nothing more profound than a sunrise at sea. Once on shore I will don my yoga clothes and run through a few routines of the sun salutation on the beach and then meditate to the sound of the waves rolling to the shore. I’d lie on the sand and look up at the sky and try to find objects and faces in the clouds. I loved to do this when I was young, a child’s form of meditation, I guess.

I would try to eat some of my favorite foods throughout the day including a Peanut Butter Bash from Dairy Queen, a sweet potato dripping in real butter and sprinkled with cinnamon, a double chocolate donut from Dunkin Donuts, a cup of IHOP coffee and a stack of pancakes with original syrup, Butterfly Shrimp from the China Paradise restaurant in Wayne, NJ, an Entenmann’s crumb cake, a Reese’s peanut butter bunny and a large order of hot, McDonald’s fries.

I would watch my favorite movie, Gone With the Wind. I’d also like to watch While You Were Sleeping, Love Actually, Groundhog Day and the Muppets Christmas Carol, during which I will eat as much buttered movie popcorn as I can.   I would watch the last episode of Babylon 5(because it makes me cry), all the Firefly episodes (because it was the best sci/fi series on TV) and Star Trek 5 because everyone else hates it but me, but there are only twenty-four hours in a day, unless I can fly to an earlier time zone. I’ll have to work on that one.

Then I would fly to Sitka, Alaska, with as many friends and family members as are willing to go . We’ll gather round a large fire  and sit under the stars and talk or think about only the good and beautiful aspects of our lives  and the world.

I ‘d  listen to the songs on my iPod:  John Denver, Mike Nesmith, the Monkees, The Beatles,  Sir Paul McCartney, James Blunt, The Plain White Ts, The Moody Blues, Enya and even scary Rob (Thomas). Listening to music, surrounded by mountains and the people I love, is the way I’d like to go…

What I will not do on my last day on earth is count calories, eat lettuce, listen to ‘What Does the Fox Say’ , take my meds (won’t matter anymore) exercise (except for yoga),or waste another minute of my fast diminishing life playing Candy Crush Saga.

I’ll gaze at the stars for a while, saddened that I never had the chance to discover what the universe is really all about. Then I will sit quietly and look to the horizon, until the sun fails to appear and everything fades to black.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap: Alaska

Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap:

Of all the places I have been to, the place I would return to in a heartbeat is Alaska. The untamed wilderness has always calledIMG_8549whale2 to me, mountains and glaciers and  waters of aquamarine.  I counted more bald eagles in one day in Juneau than I had counted  in all  the years of my life combined. But, most especially, it was where a dream of mine came true. It was in Alaska where I had my first encounter with the humpback whales. I have admired these huge denizens of the sea for years, and have supported my adopted whale, Ivory, for twenty years. Alaska is also the place where I experienced my first sunrise at sea. It was a profound experience, watching the sun rise and push back the shadow of night, the golden light spilling over the water , dancing a path of light from the sun to me.  The following are two poems, one a haiku entitled Sunrise,Sunset at Sea and one a sestina, And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea

 

we watch the sun rise
light vanquishes the darkness
and color returns

the calm sea reflects
ribbons of orange and pink
we stand mesmerized

 

 

as the sun rises
it paints a path of gold light
for us to follow
 

as the sun lowers
bands of dark purple and blue
bruise the evening sky

 rays of pale sunlight
reach out across the water
the sun bids farewell

we watch the sun set
the shades of night seep in
the sky veiled in gray

the calm sea darkens
a weary sun now at rest
color fades to black

the green waters stirred by the ship's passage

the green waters stirred by the ship’s passage

                              pc ‘2012

 

 (in a sestina, each sentence in the six paragraphs must end in six chosen words: Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales. In each verse these words move around in a preset form. The sestina ends in a tercet and in each of those lines are two of the six chosen words)

 

 

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska
a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers
and did I mention the water is aquamarine?
our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise
we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,
a disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales


we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales
in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska
fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains
slowly they move, ages old, ever-changing, grinding rock and ice, the glaciers
glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise
enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine
so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales
azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise
and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska
to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers
and marvel at the snow capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains
especially those that surround waters of aquamarine
crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers
in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale
I’’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska
has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise
where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,
the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,
I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine
and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale
and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,
which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise
I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales
as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains
and reflects in the waters of aquamarine
it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,
which rise in silhouette above the glacier ice fields, in a paradise,
a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Itwo eagles
the Sawyer glacier

humpback whales humpback whales

IMG_8550

Focus On: Challenges, and Gratitude


Photo05_3
It has been a year of challenge for us, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. Mom wasn’t able to tolerate the pill form of the chemo, and now, after a week or so to recover from that protocol, she is starting weekly intravenous chemo, which will more than likely cause her to lose her hair as well as having to weather the same side effects .as before – mouth sores, diarrhea and nausea.  We explained the situation as clearly we could, and she is determined to try again.

We are born with an innate strength to survive and hang on to life as long as we can, to struggle to beat the odds for a little more time. Time to be with family and friends, time to enjoy what this world has to offer.

When I wake up in the morning, the world seems full of possibility. I sit in my favorite chair in my “snuggery” and watch the sun rise. It does so, like clockwork, and everyday we can count on it to be there . The birds awaken and the sweet morning air is filled with their cheerful song. We are surrounded by gifts too great to count, and too often we fail to express the gratitude we should have for them.

Sadly, life, the greatest gift of all, is often treated with the least amount of reverence and care and we are bombarded daily by the news of yet another war, another murder, another threat  to our lives and our well-being. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious.

I look at my mother, at 90, facing the fight of her life, for her life, with a strength I can only hope to emulate as my disease progresses. Her current battle has me looking my own mortality right in the face. I can either crumble before it, or refuse to be intimidated, and continue to find joy in the things I’ve always loved – my writing, my  photography, gardening and nature, the joy I find in this beautiful world, in the people I love and who love me  in return. Time passes too quickly not to grasp at joy and happiness while we can.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Parkinson’s disease is the gift which just keeps on taking.” With his characteristic, positive insight, he can acknowledge that even within the diagnosis of a progressive disease,there can be  found a hidden gift. In his  case the diagnosis was a wake-up call. He was, at the time, partying a little too hard, his train on the wrong track. In his book, Lucky Man, he says, “I am no longer the person described in this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life – a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made livable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble, but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.” He goes on to explain that absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, he would have never have embarked on the journey he has taken, or been so profoundly enriched. I am not yet at the point of saying I am glad I have PD, but I admit I am more conscious of the gifts I have been given, and  am grateful for them. Right now, I am grateful for the meds that keep me moving and the researchers working on finding a cure.

At some point most of us will be faced  with a serious challenge. Some of us will win, and some of us will lose, but most of us will have fought the good fight and will know when it is time to let it go. My mother is prepared to take another stab at fighting this disease. With her fortitude, I think she can make it, but I also think she’ll know when enough is enough.  I know I will have a hard time dealing with that and I ardently hope that it is much later than sooner,  In the meantime, we will make the most of our precious moments, and  express gratitude for what we have, right now.. My gift to you, this poem, on gratitude: Take some time to think about what you are most grateful for, and  tomorrow morning, when the sun rises again and the world is full of possibilities, go out and find them.

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tallPhoto06_1 - Copy
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
For treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universeIMG_7633
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
with my close friends, whom I adore
For the doctors who take care of me
For my family, how I love them so
For the best of times, most certainly
and for all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’ filled with heartfelt gratitude.
                       -pc 2012

 

Staying in Focus: From Fog to Reflections

I’ve learned that the essence of photography is light. Most likely it is the essence of everything, but this fact is most relevant in taking photos of reflection,especially nature scenes involving, light, water and wind[. To get a special combination of light and a calm wind, so that the surface of the water is like a mirror is the trick to getting a good reflection.  It takes patience but it does pay off.  However, a slight ripple in the water can bring about interesting results. When looking through the lens of the camera, look for interesting lines,  forms and shapes rather than a concrete object  Often the golden hours — the time just before sunset or at sunrise, when the light is soft on the water is a good time to get striking photos. Catch the wisps of fog as they dissipate  Sitting by a mirrored lake, especially in early morning, as a new day dawns, can be a great time for self-reflection as well. A time to just be with yourself and take stock of things. Clear away the fog, so to speak.

A few years back, my husband Bill and I visited Connemara, the family home of Carl Sandburg.  We were able to tour the home,  walk the wooded paths around the lake, and follow  a trail through the woods to a stony knoll where he wrote the poem, “The Fog”.  How I admire the way he used imagery to describe the fog so succinctly: Talk about inspiration!  After our walk we sat gazing at the lake, letting go of stress and relaxing into the lazy sunshine of  a summer afternoon .

Fog (by Carl Sandburg)

The fog comes
on little cat feet
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

A while later we experienced heavy fog as we crossed the mountains of Tennessee. Here is my humble attempt at capturing the image:

the fog, summoned by unseen hand, rises from the treetops
in wisps of ghostly gray
and melts into the waiting sky.

These two poems came out of that reflection/inspiration moment on our visit to Connemara.

Path along the lake at Connemara, home of Carl Sandburg

Rambles

Beneath the leafy canopy
we stroll one summer’s day
We pause along the woodland path
and watch the shadows play
As sunlight filters through the trees
and gentle breezes kiss my face
We know we’ve found  a refuge here: a woodland home, a sacred   place.                                                                                                  

Reflections on the lake at Connemara

Still Waters

The placid waters of the lake
reflect the leaves of green
my thoughts lie calm, like waters still
my spirit is serene
I let fly loose the tension then
let go the stress and pain

and in my mind and in my soul
I am at peace again.

Here are some of my favorite reflection photos:

A watercolor effect, I like the contrast of the water and the tree branches. See what  a little ripple can do?

                                 
These two were taken at the same lake at different seasons.  The sky was crystal clear in the autumn one, and the lake reflects the beauty of that translucent blue.                           
 
  
Later in Autumn, different lake, still pretty.
 

Focus on: Wildlife and Whale-Watching

I had  decided that the theme of my vacation would be the wilderness and the creatures that inhabit it.  So far, I’ve written about the majestic mountains, the rivers of ice, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking sunrises.   So now I move on to the creatures who call Alaska home.

The whale- watching expedition was the one excursion off ship that I was most looking forward to.  We began the day exploring the state capital of Alaska, Juneau  As we stepped off the boat we were greeted by the largest bald eagle I have ever seen.   He was kind enough to pose for a picture: He hasn’t quite got the grasp of smiling when his picture is taken!

On a more serious note, there are more bald eagles in Alaska than you can imagine.  They perch in trees and on church steeples as you can see in this photo taken by my husband, Bill.  I counted about ten eagles perched in a field as we drove
by on our way to the glacier. After viewing the

glacier, we boarded the bus, which delivered us to a marina where we then boarded a catamaran for the whale-watching adventure.  The catamaran was quite comfortable with both an inside area complete with seats, a snack bar, restrooms and binoculars, and outside decks for close up viewing.  We cast off and almost instantly spied a pod of orcas, also known as killer whales.  They are not, however, whales at all, but are the largest members of the porpoise family,  The first sign  that a whale is present is the spout of water and steam they exhale as they surface.  They move very fast.  The boat captains have rules as to how long they can stay near the animals, so after a little while we had to move on

          

 

This Orca whale is about to dive. Next to him you can see the waterspout of another whale about to surface

Next we spotted a lone humpback whale, which is not unusual according to the naturalist on our boat.  Humpbacks are solitary animals for the most part.  We also learned that they have lungs the size of a Toyota Prius ,  and the sound they make as they blow the water and steam out to take a breath can be heard quite some distance away.  They eat only small fish like herring, which they strain from big gulps of water with the baleen they have instead of teeth.  The baleen  look like long ,narrow pieces of vinyl  which hang from the roofs of their mouths and have strands of hairy bristles which help to trap the fish.  The whales can take gulps as big as 15,00 gallons at a time.  They feast during the summer months on the plentiful herring off Alaska’s shores, then migrate south for the winter to mate and enjoy warmer waters. During all this time they do not eat, so they are  quite a bit smaller when they return in spring and have to eat almost constantly to build themselves back up.  There was excitement among the whale-watchers when we came upon seven humpbacks together.  The naturalist explained they sometimes join ranks to corral the fish and feast together.  The whales came quite close to the boat, but did not breach, so we mostly saw just their tails and backs, but the disturbance in the waters as they swam by, gave us a good idea of their size.

 The whales slap their tails to indicate they are about to take  a deep dive.  They stay down for 7 to 8 minutes, and never surface in the same place they went down so it is hard to capture them with the camera because you don’t know where they will surface and they move fast!

 

As much as I’d have loved to see a whale breach, this was a little too close for comfort!

On our return trip we spotted stellar sea lions resting on a buoy, and in the water a sea otter was  floating on his back .Photo is a little blurry but you can see the stellar sea lions taking five.

And finally what sea voyage would be complete without a seagull escort into the harbor?

I came to Alaska in search of wilderness, wildlife and especially a glimpse of a humpback whale, and I found them all in one of the few truly wild and majestic places on this planet.  Alaska is a jewel to be treasured, enjoyed and protected. and I believe anyone who comes here will be enriched and changed by the experience.  I know I am!