Two thirds through my journey home and wildly disoriented already. It’s late afternoon Wednesday in Honolulu, 26 degrees, and I’m sipping a cup of tea in bed, feeling zombie-ish and between time zones… In San Francisco where I spent the past two nights its 14 degrees and cocktail hour, back in Sitka it’s 3 degrees and nearly dinner time, and home in Myocum it’s just after lunch on Thursday at the end of a very rainy week, with about 120mm falling on our little patch to fill the dam before I arrive.
So – in honour of disorientation I’ll work backwards. I decided to switch around my homeward route, leave Sitka early and visit my lovely aunt – Dad’s sister – Margaret Rose and her husband Bennet in San Francisco, seeing as how I was on the continent. Rosie has had health issues in recent months and it was a great chance to swing by for a short visit and hang out together, even if briefly.
At the end of last week in Sitka I hit the goal I’d set myself for this time – getting to 40,000 words in my new manuscript. Not everyone writes like this, but setting a daily or weekly word count works
well for me. It gets the words down on the page, no matter how lame they appear, and that’s the way a book gets written – from the shitty first draft through to the final polished thing. What that word count really represents is good momentum – a head of steam that I hope will keep propelling it onwards when I get home and other distractions kick in. Oh yes, and the title has changed already – it’s now Five Ways to Kill a Fish.
Carol meanwhile has created a romantic comedy masterpiece called I Think I’m in Love with Richard Nelson, in which an entire relationship is lived out via the notes that a housesitter writes to her host, who she’s never met. Carol would read me the daily updates, which generally left me helpless with laughter. She’s instructed me to point out that any relationship to the real world is merely a coincidence.
Sitka’s cold snap continued for the bulk of our stay – we had wonderful glorious thick powdery snow that fell in magical flurries for several days, which gave plenty of opportunities to play. Then forabout ten days where the temperature remained below freezing (minus ten at night, around zero in the days) and the cold winds blew and blew across the bay. The snow ploughs created huge dirty piles of snow all around town, and the remaining snow was compacted onto roads and footpaths, turning them into terrifyingly polished ice rinks. It was impossible to leave the house without ice cleats on our shoes, and our 30 minute jaunt into town became more like a 60 minute mince, eyes fixed on feet. Luckily no spills.
Carol had been keen to reprise her Ship of Fools – a driftwood sculpture and related performance piece that she created some years back in Bermagui. In a very gung ho way we decided to just do it. We headed out to one of the “beaches” adjoining Sitka’s Totem Park, and started dragging around great hunks of driftwood to make a wonky and wacky ship. We worked on it over a few days, in sun and snow, and then Carol wrote a piece for the local paper on it – inviting people to join us at the ship on my last day in Sitka for a bit of poetry.
Well – within 24 hours we discovered we’d broken at least two local bylaws and the law enforcement arm of the park service was onto us – we were advised we could avoid a fine if we came down and dispersed our creation at once and cancelled our gathering. We rugged up well against the freezing wind and minced as fast as we could down to the park. What had taken days to create was spread out again in about 15 minutes and we ended up having a pretty funny yarn with the ranger, who saw the light hearted side of it, fortunately.
Gathering was shifted to the pub, and it
was great to have a final hang out with Sitka friends, not to mention more of those great parsnip and carrot fries. During our visit we had some wonderful times with Sitka friends old and new – particularly Blossom and her kids, Carolyn and Dorik, Mary and Lucas, Blue Canoe writers, Liz, John, and Peter – all of whom showed us such generous hospitality – with lovely meals, lifts, surprise food drops, radio programs, and a host of little adventures.
It’s been an interesting time in Sitka – seeing how of course life changes in two years – some of our old friends have moved away, some new people have come, people’s lives have shifted, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Alaska doesn’t seem like an easy place to live these days – very expensive, and like the rest of the USA, people seem to struggle hard for work, healthcare and decent pay. There seemed a sombre feeling this time, which I think is at least partly due to the change of government. It’s tough – and some hard won gains are being lost in health, arts, funding and environment.
I’m looking forward to getting home. In spite of all my jaunts – maybe because of them – I’m a homebody at heart and every adventure comes with a dose of homesickness. I couldn’t wait to leave the January heatwaves in Australia, and now I can’t wait to get back to March’s autumn rains, and friends, and family, and of course my darling Andi, who’s not only kept the home fires under control, but has project managed painting and re-carpeting so the house will be all crisp and clean and sparkly when I get back. One more sleep – can’t wait.
Thanks for sharing the adventure.
PS – HarperCollins got in touch while I was away to bring forward the publication date of my already finished novel. It’s now called Sixty Seconds, and it will be coming out in October 2017.