Unplugged for a Week Along Alaska’s Inside Passage

Just yesterday, our extended family returned from a week in Alaska celebrating a landmark birthday of our daughter. She and our son-in-law observed the occasion by treating us all to a week-long cruise in our country’s northern-most state. Here are my reflections on this never-to-be forgotten experience.
 Unplugged for a week 
In Nature’s wilderness.
We cruised Alaska’s Inside Passage
12 pilgrims (five of them small children)
Finding divine presence
Including games
Of Yahtzee, Go Fish,
Poker, War
And endless rounds of Monopoly.

We started out
In Petersburg’s fishing village
With its canneries
Reeking of halibut and salmon,
Boats of all sorts,
And Alaskan natives
All wearing Levis,
Weathered baseball caps
Padded parkas
And rubber boots
Reaching beyond their calves
In the mid-August rain.
Our vessel was a 100-foot yacht
Called “Golden Eagle,”
With its crew of five
All under 30 –
Its captain of 27 years
Eager to talk of God
Justice and Karl Marx,
A wondrously skilled cook,
Two naturalist guides
Wise and competent beyond their years,
And a delightful 20-year-old concierge.
With them, we hiked, kayaked, fished
And immersed our selves
In Alaska’s stark wonder
Beyond anything
Previously experienced:
Spruce-covered mountains
Blue calving glaciers
Whales by the score,
Sea lions, seals, otters, bald eagles,
Wild churning waterfalls
And a steaming hot spring
Beside an icy lake,
All the while
We read Michener's Alaska
With its tales
Of seductive cave women
12,000 years ago
Of huge mastodons
Saber tooth tigers,
And giant Grizzlies 11 feet tall,
Of sailors, miners, clergymen
Saints and remorseless sinners
Who slaughtered unsuspecting natives
And purposely vitiated them
With rum, racism and rapes
Of native teenage girls
Afterwards kicked and spat upon,
Of heroic Eskimos
With their mighty sled dogs,
And enormous capacity
To endure cold, long journeys
Stupid Russians
And even denser Americans.
It was the familiar story
Of imperialist settlers
And their colonial theft
Of native wealth
Arrogant beyond belief
Imagining that white men
Have a Manifest Destiny
To ravish, torture, and kill
Their humble betters
Everything in their path
Leaving chaos in their wake
And Mother Nature prostrate,
And bleeding to death.
Once we entered
An empty lighthouse
On a tiny island –
A stubborn relic
Of FDR’s New Deal,
A sometime research center
For maritime scholars
And whale-trackers
Who live there like monks
Each summer
And sleep in spartan bunkbeds
Leaving behind crude sketches
Of whales with
Signature painted flukes,
Along with
Flashlights, compasses, charts
And scattered coffee cups –

All proof
Of purposes other
Than ours
And of transcendent life forms
In that vast harsh outpost
Across the well-worn foot path
That became
Captain Bering’s Strait
For millions
Man and beast alike.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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