I very recently returned from a trip to Alaska – my first cruise ever. I didn’t know what to expect — both from Alaska or from the cruise, and both were surprising. Overall, I totally enjoyed the cruise in spite of eating way too much delicious food. It was one of the smaller cruise ships and they even provided fantastic commentary much of the time while cruising. The last day was at sea (on the way to Seward) and there were 12 foot waves and 45 mile and hour winds — much to my (and many other passengers’) discomfort. I realized at that point I was ready to get off the ship! However, the six previous days were pretty calm with both sun and rain, and I could have spent the entire time on the top deck watching the sea and the land pass by. I couldn’t get over the colors. The jade green waters, the blue and purple mountains, the white of the fog, clouds and snow, the green of the leaves and trees, and the blue of the ice. One of the days I took an excursion on a catamaran up the Tracy Arm Fjord to the Sawyer Glacier. It was my first time seeing a glacier meet the water. It looked like a river of ice, flowing between the mountains to the sea but frozen in time. Where the ice met the sea the ice formed 300 to 400 foot cliffs of blue ice. The catamaran kept its distance from the glacier as ice can suddenly jut out from the sea and can be quite dangerous. Just as we arrived to view the glacier, the guide announced that we probably wouldn’t see any calving (when ice breaks from the glacier and falls into the ocean) like you see on National Geographic, because if we did it would mean it was happening a lot and there would soon be nothing left. About 30 seconds later a huge chunk of ice broke off and crashed right into the ocean! Our boat was in front of the glacier for 20 minutes and we witnessed the glacier calving five times. It was quite spectacular and very disturbing at the same time. Later in the cruise, we made our way to the Hubbard Glacier (I think it is the largest glacier in the world). We were there for less than 20 minutes and saw that glacier’s 500 foot ice cliffs calve three times — again, a bit disturbing. At one of the ports, I took a four mile hike with seven other people and two tour guides in an old growth forest. It was so green and wild, with moss and different mushrooms growing, bear claws on trees, wild flowers and berries, and a river flowing through it. It made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park at times. One of the other hikers was saying that he thought Global Warming was a media concoction. I bit my tongue. The tour guide (a 28 year old guy) diplomatically said that a better way to think about it is as “climate change”. I couldn’t believe that with all the talk on the cruise about the glaciers melting faster than ever — and our witnessing so much melting, that someone can’t open their mind enough to accept the fact that the average temperature on earth is getting hotter quicker than ever before. Research is very clear that our lifestyles (from the industrial revolution on) are helping speed the temperature rise. I really don’t understand what people gain by being so closed minded. Is it so they can keep justifying their beliefs, even if all the evidence of the world is against them? I don’t understand that at all. When you are standing before something so humbling as a mountain, or the ocean, or a forest, if you allow yourself, you can realize how insignificant we all are. How beautiful and how insignificant we are. Life is bigger than all of us, and somehow we got it in our minds that we are more important that all of it. That we are above it all. I got a real clear sense of how living in our minds is not living in reality. And now being back in the “human world” for a bit, slowly things are becoming important again and find myself losing touch with the “world”. I guess we are only capable of digesting so much at one time. Life is so overwhelmingly beautiful that maybe it is too much to be present with that experience for more than a few days at a time. Perhaps our minds can’t handle it.
I’ll close with a photo I took of awe inspiring Sawyer Glacier. I took it as our boat was leaving the glacier. There are two other boats in the photo. I’ll also leave you with an appropriate quote from Buddha:
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
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