Sitka, Alaska, Home Base

I have posted a lot of photo blog pages from Sitka this summer and wrote a letter for family and friends.  This letter is the best way to introduce you to my home town and guide you to the picture pages in this blog.

August 19, 2013

Sitka, Alaska

Dear Friends,

Such a summer!  It is hard to believe that the “Back to School” section of The Sentinel is out.  But the days are getting shorter.  Sunrise today was at 5:38 and sunset will be at 8:31, just under 15 hours.  We are losing 4 minutes a day.  I’m sitting looking out over Jamestown Bay and the Gulf of Alaska.  A fine mist hangs in the air under a variegated sky, with occasional breaks of sun showing patterns of bright and dark on water dotted with purse seiners hauling in a record catch of pink salmon.  Sometimes the mist turns into a light rain.  This is way the weather in Sitka is supposed to act, except that it is warm, in the 60s.  But for this summer it is an unusual day.  We have seen a lot of sun and temperatures in the 70s.  Everyone’s saying that this type of summer comes around only every 10 years.  Actually it’s been 9, 2004 was also such a summer.  It is the type of summer when I feel absolutely compelled to play Samuel Barber’s Summer Music on a Raven Radio classical show.

This is the summer that we needed to attend to a decade’s worth of deferred maintenance on our house.  We have a new roof, new front doors, new gutters and downspouts new front doors and we have replaced some rot.  The main project was a retaining wall, tied into bedrock that will keep Mt. Verstovia from its continued slide into our house.  The retaining wall opened up new opportunities.  The retaining wall reaches to about the height of our second floor living room.  We took that opportunity to open up space in our back wall to build a sliding glass door that opens out onto a bridge to the retaining wall.  I had always viewed our house as ocean view, looking out over Jamestown Bay but had forgotten that the house is also at the edge of the woods.  The new back door opens up into the rain forest giving us a whole new perspective on our home.  We also have a new terrace in front of the house held in by a wall made up of rock taken from the mountain side when we built the wall.  That gives us a south facing garden.

The fine weather gave us time to do a lot of those things we had always wanted to do someday when the weather was fine.  It was fine most of the summer.   For our anniversary we took a flightseeing trip over Baranof Island looking at the glaciers, lakes and coastline of our island.  We got out on the water several times to enjoy whales, sea otters, and sea lions.  This year appears to be record setting for the pink salmon run.  We see hundreds of thousands of salmon schooling at the mouths of rivers preparing for their final, fatal, swim upstream to spawn.  And upstream we see them spawning in the gravel beds while further upstream the bears wait.  We have good views of salmon jumping in front of our house while squadrons of Eagles perform virtuoso dives off of the spruce and cedars to pick them off.  We watch both troll and seine fishermen from our deck.   I think I’ve spent more time on our deck this summer than all the other summers in Sitka combined.  I have a Sitka tan.  When was the last time that happened?

This summer we’ve enjoyed Sitka’s cultural renaissance.  Major events have been bundled and branded as Sitka Fest.  The driver behind this renaissance is the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which took over the old Sheldon Jackson College campus.   The summer started with the Sitka Summer Music Festival in its 42nd year.   It has always been an annual highlight but the last two years under the artistic direction of Zuill Bailey have been new and adventurous.  This year we heard one of the Bartok string quartets, and music by Stravinsky, Britten, Villa Lobos and Webern from the 20th century and several new pieces from this century.  There was also more Baroque than usual.  Of course we enjoyed the usual festival standards from the Classical and Romantic Periods, so I got my share of Brahms and Schumann.  I particularly enjoyed the open rehearsals watching Natasha Paremsky and Navah Perlman put together a Chopin four hands and the Rubens Quartet assemble a Bartok Quartet.

The Fine Arts Camp brought in performers and artists from around the country and we enjoyed theater and jazz.  Then came the Sitka Seafood Festival with stages of entertainment and the Sitka Highland Games where grown men and strong women in kilts toss telephone poles (Cabers).  The Conservation and Historical Societies sponsored events, including a history cruise where we visited World War II sites.  It was a wonderful summer.

P1060968 (1024x768)But now the skies have largely cleared, the rain has stopped and the clouds are gathering in a way that will produce a spectacular sunset.  The sliding doors are wide open and the cool sea breeze is running through our home.  Enjoy the rest of the summer and all of the fall.

Take Care,

Rich McClear

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