Two coiffed scowling crones in line for tea.

There’s nothing to do on this ship.

I know, I know. We were on Celebrity and there was always something to do. They had an art auction.

I think those are on the way out.

I think you’re right.

There’s nothing to do.

That’s because they think everyone is going to be sightseeing.

Feh.You see one glacier, you’ve seen it all.

Where are you from? asks a third.

New Jersey.

THE GARDEN STATE OF EXCITEMENT, I wanted to shout. Later we passed them as they were sitting down.

Well this is nice, said one.

It’s something, said the other.

Because this is just an everyday sight. This.

Nothing much to say about this day, except: long awe. An endless procession of solemn silent stone heaped on either side, fit for nothing but Bruckner. I walked around the top of the ship and listened to the seventh and drank it all in. So here: enjoy. Under one minute.


Charming little town are the three words everyone says if prompted; unlike many of the Alaska stops I recall, which were bare shivering places hunched on a hill in the drizzle, this place was lovely and modest, and did not seem to exist to sell you gold or tanzanite. Whatever that is. We took the tender to the town, which is always fun. That extra nautical touch. Cast off! Lines clear! Harpoons at the ready! Mizzen the hoist-mast! Once in town we wandered towards the steeple of the church, lanced as it was by the orthodox crossbeam. Inside a reminder that they have this thing down: the incense, the haunting music, the Byzantine icons, all contained in a creaky wooden building that held the souls and aspirations of generations of Russians. Who of course had to leave because they had the place sold out from underneath them.

Here's 38 seconds of the interior.

We strolled next to the museum, which was run by the church. They had a big picture of Nicolas #2, former Tsar, arrayed as an icon. I had either forgotten or never known that he was elevated to sainthood. And here he was in a small Alaska town, staring down beatifically from the wall.

We walked a goodly way to the house where the Bishop - I assume he was the Metropolitan - lived. A humble place:


. . . and the rooms were full of old quotidian details, which I love.

Such as:

A ballast stone from a Russian ship. A little googling revealed that it's Finnish, from the town of Espoo. The Stenswik Brickery was closed in 1939.

You also see the plate unearthed that Russians buried to establish their ownership of Alaska. Twenty were buried. One has been found.

Up to the old fort location; while we reveled in the view a bald eagle flew overhead a fish in its claws. First time you see it, why, it’s magnificent! After ten of them you stop goggling.

Herewith three views, the first from the fort, the second from the ship, and the third from a scrap of shoreline unspoiled by man. Almost. As you'll see later.




On down the road to the National Forest. I have no particular interest in totem poles. No specific interest either. Indigenous culture, like the riches of the Orient, is a dead spot in my passions - and it’s so tied to a specific place and people I almost keep myself from drumming up interest and fellow-feeling, because it’ll never be part of me, and will always be something adopted.

Unlike, say, Italian Renaissance art, which is so completely native to North Dakota culture.

Well, at least it was something I grew up with. It was what you saw in Church. That’s enough.

Anyway: I’m sure there’s much I’m missing, but there’s a sameness to it all. Either the style discourages individual style or the individual touches are simply beyond my ken. Probably a bit of both, wouldn’t you say? If you had to guess? There are basic icon styles that must be observed, and probably room for the artist to add a trademark flourish. Doesn’t mean it’s Bernini.

It’s still interesting to come across them in the woods. I don’t think they were originally put in the woods, though. Symbols of wealth and status go outside the head guy’s house. Putting them in the woods is like having your Caddy tricked out with gold trim and parking it in the forest.

One minute:


At the end I came across a memorial to a E.W. Merrill, out on a spit at the end of a path. You feel as if you’ve come across a relic of a bygone civilization.

Perhaps you have.





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