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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Signs of Spring

On a flight last week to Anchorage, this is what I saw: hundreds of miles of ice fields. Doesn't look much like spring, does it? And yet, it is spring in Alaska. Ice is melting, temperatures are rising (51 degrees yesterday in Juneau in the sun) and down jackets are disappearing. I am (desperately) looking for signs of spring. I noticed one a few days downtown. Here is a photo of it:

I took this photograph on South Franklin Street, looking up towards Mount Juneau in the background. Puzzled? A simple truck, you might say, loaded with some kind of materials. What does this have to do with spring?

Take a closer look. This red truck is carrying wooden pallets that are used for transporting freight. They are ubiquitous here. And they are used by young people for bonfires on the beach, a sure sign of spring. Stacked up, they produce a magnificent blaze. Although their use is discouraged because of the nails and staples left behind, young people are taking heed and cleaning up after bonfires.

I found another sign of spring today that couldn't be photographed because it is a sound, not a sight. It was the symphony of bird song that followed me as I walked along the Kaxdegoowu Heen Dei (Clear Water Creek Trail) next to the Mendenhall River. The tiny birds - so many of them - hopped from branch to branch, and it seemed they vied for the loudest sound. You can't see them in this photo, but they were there, reassuring me that spring really is here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Taku Winds, Formerly Known as Hell Winds

Severe weather is a fact of life in Southeast Alaska. Storm surges, dense fog, heavy snow, dangerous ice, heavy rainfall, high winds.... we endure some extreme weather conditions here. For my money, the winner is - the Taku Winds! We all can tell grim stories of being blown off our feet or being hit by flying debris. The capricious Takus can be dangerous in the air and on the water. And they cause irritation - extreme irritation depending on how long they blow. And they have been blowing for weeks now! Like the Twinkie defense, I believe the Taku Winds could be a viable defense in court. And until now, no one has seen the positive side of the hurricane force gusts - 72 mph or greater -  that keep us shivering inside for days at a time. A young student from University of Alaska Southeast, Ryan Cortes Perez, experienced the wind and responded with the largest wind chimes I have ever seen.

He strung them between two old pilings left from the days when the Treadwell Mine was running on Douglas Island. You can see from this photo how venerable these pilings are.

Even the way he installed the heavy logs with rope and wire is beautiful, simple and clean. I love the way the rigging looks.

And now all of us can enjoy his take on the hell winds because instead of being driven to mayhem, he was driven to creativity.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wearable Art Show in Juneau

Every year, the Wearable Art Show knocks everyone's socks off. This year - the eleventh! - was no exception. So many aspects of this creative output astonishes me. 

It isn't just the work itself - the extraordinary labor that goes into the clothing. The beadwork in this outfit - top and bottom - took five solid months to complete. Look at it. The skirt is made entirely of bugle beads!

Nor is it the playful thought that underlays what people create. The theme of this year's show was "Illuminate." And this ethereal angel is made entirely out of the pages of "rational" science books.

And it isn't even the inventiveness that takes our collective breath away. In this ensemble, Alaskan Brewing Company beer bottle caps cover her bustier, cuffs, crown and although you can't see it, her lighted back piece.

It is all of these aspects of the show that make it extraordinary plus a playfulness that these young people have in spades in their duct tape underwear.

One of the best parts of the show is its inclusiveness. It is an all ages show. And when you encourage young people to use their creative gifts in a way that affirms them by the whole community, you have a place where everyone can flourish.