Monthly Archives: October 2012

Travel: Catch as Ketchikan

This summer, my wife and I took the best. vacation. ever.

I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. It ranked up there with Ireland, Maine, Switzerland…you get the idea. I am smitten with vast wilderness, mountains and fields of green and rock.


We took an Alaskan Cruise, which I highly recommend if you are looking for vacation ideas. Along with my parents (who had done the Alaskan cruise before) and my brother and his wife, we set sail from Seattle to head up the Inside Passage of the Alaskan Panhandle. A beautiful setting that words and even pictures don’t do justice. It is 360 degrees of wilderness. Pristine. (And so much more than I can describe in one post)

Our first stop on the cruise, after one day “at sea” was the town of Ketchikan. Our ship docked and we disembarked to explore.

Did you know that Ketchikan gets an average of 162 inches of rainfall a year? That’s an average of 13.5 feet. Yes…It was raining.

Climate is just one of the things that I think Alaskans just accept and deal with. The people we met seemed to be very satisfied with their pace of life and adapting to the challenges that Alaska offers.

After helping my father find an eyeglass nosepiece repair kit… Note to tourist areas…Let some brand name pharmacy set up shop in your area, so that people don’t have to walk a mile and enter every little tourist shop and ask if they have [fill in the blank]. Now, I know they WANT you to go into every little shop. But if you are looking for something specific then it might be more beneficial to have an obvious drug store and people wouldn’t get frustrated… I set off exploring.

I’m not a shopping kind of person, so I wanted to avoid the tourist trap souvenier places. I walked past the jewelry and tee-shirt shops…all of them bustling with activity… into the town.

Up a hill and stone’s throw from the Episcopal Church, I discovered the Ketchikan Public Library and City Museum.

Did I mention that it was raining?

I decided to visit. The library was closed. I’m not sure why, it was a Monday morning. But the museum was open. I like finding little known haunts like local bookstores, museums, and restaraunts .

And, I like to stay dry…so,

I contributed my donation to the city of Ketchikan, and stepped into the history of the town.

The flow of the room went counter-clockwise, starting with various native artifacts of the Tlingit people, natives of the area. Small totems and various toys and tools carved from wood and whalebone. Native people are such experts at using available resources, and their attention to detail is amazing.

There were also items from the early pioneer settlers of the area and mementos from the heyday of the salmon fishing industry. Like this awesome gas mask to protect workers from the ammonia that was used in cold storage facilities.

I was fascinated by the pictures on the wall. The photo shown here, conveyed a baseball game played in 1912.  Because space was at a premium, they played games in the creek bed tide flats when the tide was out. The game would be called when the outfielders’ shoes got wet.

This, to me, was descriptive of the spirit of the settlers in Ketchikan.

Making things work.   Adapting.

Catch-as-catch-can.

Come, Sweet Faint

Come sweet faint, addicting slumber
keep the counting mind at bay,

let the forty sheep outnumber
all the things in matter’s way.

When a lonely darkness centers,
and a shadowed figure haunts

sole encounters in the winters
of the least desires and wants.

Darling fancy over fences,
traverse over fields of green.

Turn your face and so commences
dreams both perfect and serene.

Planting violets and white clover
on the paths you walk in sleep.

Share with me your dream world over
here, no promises to keep-

Interlaced with loving fingers
time with one to reign supreme,

as we touch, our pursuit lingers
in the warmth and glow of dreams.

Poet in Mind: Charlotte Turner Smith

A major novelist of the romantic period as well as a poet, Charlotte Smith’s important collection of poems of sensibility, the Elegiac Sonnets, was first published in 1784. She had an affective perception of nature and her strong sensibility influenced Coleridge, Keats and Wordsworth. She is also considered a strong influence on Gothic writers.

Charlotte Turner was born on 4 May 1749 in London into a wealthy family. She was the eldest child with two younger siblings and received a typical education for a woman during the late 18th century. Her mother died early in her life, likely during childbirth of her youngest sister Catherine Ann. The children were raised by their maternal aunt, as their father traveled on business. Her father’s reckless spending forced her to marry early. At age 15 she was given by her father to the violent and profligate Benjamin Smith, a director of the East India Company. Their marriage was deeply unhappy (she later described it as “legal prostitution”), although they had twelve children together. Only six of their children survived. She fought with her in-laws, whom she believed were unrefined and uneducated. Her father-in-law Richard Smith, did encourage her writing, if only to serve his own business interests (the rest of the family apparently mocked her for her literary interests).

Ultimately worried about Charlotte and his grandchildren’s future, Richard Smith willed the majority of his property to Charlotte’s children. However, the will was tied up in Chancery court, since he had drawn up the will himself. Charlotte’s husband illegally spent a third of the money, which landed him in debtor’s prison. Charlotte moved in with Benjamin at King’s Bench Prison in December 1783. Here she wrote and published her first book of poetry, Elegaic Sonnets (1784), from which the following is taken.

SONNET I.
THE partial Muse, has from my earliest hours,
Smil’d on the rugged path I’m doom’d to tread,
And still with sportive hand has snatch’d wild flowers,
To weave fantastic garlands for my head:
But far, far happier is the lot of those
Who never learn’d her dear delusive art;
Which, while it decks the head with many a rose,
Reserves the thorn, to fester in the heart.
For still she bids soft Pity’s melting eye
Stream o’er the ills she knows not to remove,
Points every pang, and deepens every sigh
Of mourning friendship or unhappy love.
Ah! then, how dear the Muse’s favours cost,
If those paint sorrow best–who feel it most!

Here you see her voice in Gothic tones. There is a sadness in her poetry that could only originate from her personal experiences. It is interesting that she chose the Sonnet as her primary form. The Shakespearean Sonnet had fallen out of favor at this time, but it seems to fit her style very well.

She writes of melancholy and disappointment. Yet, being a student of the Romantic Style, she accomplishes it with form and structure. It gives a beauty to the dismay that she must have felt.

SONNET XXXV.
TO FORTITUDE.
NYMPH of the rock! whose dauntless spirit braves
The beating storm, and bitter winds that howl
Round thy cold breast; and hear’st the bursting waves
And the deep thunder with unshaken soul;
Oh come!–and show how vain the cares that press
On my weak bosom–and how little worth
Is the false fleeting meteor, Happiness,
That still misleads the wanderers of the earth!
Strengthen’d by thee, this heart shall cease to melt
O’er ills that poor humanity must bear;
Nor friends estranged, or ties dissolved be felt
To leave regret, and fruitless anguish there:
And when at length it heaves its latest sigh,
Thou and mild Hope shall teach me how to die

She obtained a legal separation from her husband in 1787. Her writing career continued as a means to support her children. She turned to writing novels as it provided more income than writing poetry. She is said to have stated that she preferred poetry to prose. During these years Smith helped to establish her children in marriages and careers, struggled with her many creditors, and begged publishers for advances on her books. For more on her writing career, see Charlotte Turner Smith.

She never achieved the financial stability to allow her a comfortable retirement. Her literary career lasted for 22 years and her father-in-law’s estate was not settled until after her death in 1806.

Apostrophe
TO AN OLD TREE.

WHERE thy broad branches brave the bitter North,
Like rugged, indigent, unheeded, worth,
Lo! Vegetation’s guardian hands emboss
Each giant limb with fronds of studded moss,
That clothes the bark in many a fringed fold
Begemm’d with scarlet shields, and cups of gold,
Which, to the wildest winds their webs oppose,
And mock the arrowy sleet, or weltering snows.
–But to the warmer West the woodbine fair
With tassels that perfumed the summer air,
The mantling clematis, whose feathery bowers
Waved in festoons with nightshade’s purple flowers,
The silver weed, whose corded fillets wove
Round thy pale rind, even as deceitful love
Of mercenary beauty would engage
The dotard fondness of decrepit age;
All these, that during summer’s halcyon days
With their green canopies conceal’d thy sprays,
Are gone for ever; or disfigured, trail
Their sallow relicts in the autumnal gale;
Or o’er thy roots, in faded fragments toss’d,
But tell of happier hours, and sweetness lost!
–Thus in Fate’s trying hour, when furious storms
Strip social life of Pleasure’s fragile forms,
And awful Justice , as his rightful prey
Tears Luxury’s silk, and jewel’d robe, away,
While reads Adversity her lesson stern,
And Fortune’s minions tremble as they learn;
The crowds around her gilded car that hung,
Bent the lithe knee, and troul’d the honey’d tongue,
Desponding fall, or fly in pale despair;
And Scorn alone remembers that they were.
Not so Integrity ; unchanged he lives
In the rude armour conscious Honour gives,
And dares with hardy front the troubled sky,
In Honesty’s uninjured panoply.
Ne’er on Prosperity’s enfeebling bed
Or rosy pillows, he reposed his head,

But given to useful arts, his ardent mind
Has sought the general welfare of mankind;
To mitigate their ills his greatest bliss,
While studying them , has taught him what he is ;
He , when the human tempest rages worst,
And the earth shudders as the thunders burst,
Firm, as thy northern branch, is rooted fast,
And if he can’t avert , endures the blast.