The small Alaskan town of Petersburg is a place where time is told by the tides. High and low will let you know when you can come and when to go. Water winds its way through the land from the narrow sloughs out to the sea where the latest catch is being brought home. A rain forest rests along these shores with lime-green lichen coating wet, dark stumps on shady paths. The contrast of color makes green life glow in the dim light that filters through endless tiers of hemlock branches. Moss grows thick underfoot and if you aren’t careful you might just lose yourself to the quiet. This is a magic place, where America still retains its wild roots and unparalleled beauty. Where bald eagles soar and whales leap from cold waters. The same water glides against glaciers eventually splitting apart ancient ice and pulling pieces into its embrace. Large fragments come to rest on beaches, leaving a gallery of bold blue sculptures carved by wind and water into modern art.
Next to these giants walk tiny people, Alaskans and one girl from Michigan. They are new friends already as this is a place where one becomes instantly known. Petersburg is where a familiar face is seen on a trip to town, or out the road, on a hike and in the harbor. It’s a place where friends become family and community can be counted on. On cooler days, Norwegian knit sweaters keep the chill out and heritage in. Celebrations are shared and small town events hold big time charm. This is a special place where I was lucky to lay my head for a short while and relax into its ways. I stomped through puddles in borrowed rubber boots and kayaked over water smooth as glass. I bird watched and blundered over new names of flora and fauna I’d never known. Harlequins and Goldeneyes, Lungwort and Devil’s Club became part of my days. Walking over the spongy Muskeg, I often stopped to admire the curves and grace of skunk cabbage in bloom. A simple yellow curve from its flower created a living Georgia O’Keefe painting out in the wilderness. Nature’s art is everywhere here and the canvas is wide.
When our bodies tired, we settled in for the night with a homemade meal fresh from the sea. Lox, halibut and shrimp filled my plate with no question of where it came from. This is a place where your food is born from folks you are on a first name basis with. Everything is local here and hardworking people bring their bounty home with them and share with others. After a long, peaceful night’s rest, we’d get up and do it all again.
This is America the beautiful with mountain majesties and spacious skies. The kind of land people write songs about. When I first glimpsed the endless snow-capped peaks from the plane I felt a sense of pride. Even though I still had miles to go, I knew I was already, in a way… home.