Bootleggers Cove is a charming location in the city of Anchorage. Residing there in a building with stunning and uninterrupted views over Cook Inlet bay and a direct view of the magnificent Alaska Range – it felt sacred. White pinnacles generously bestowed throughout the land were ‘crystal palaces’ that imparted a majestic enchantment across the bay. Just a glance at the Alaska Range sparkling on the horizon would leave me with a sense of awe and exhilaration. Immersing oneself in this commanding view was a priceless encounter.
Located to the right of this vast panorama was the ‘Sleeping Lady’, a spectre of untroubled and placid presence and my constant companion for two years; a fleeting glimpse was enough to fill the human soul with contentment. Mount Susitna indeed resembles a sleeping lady
Alaska itself is a land where the timid and fainthearted may not flourish. A territory that demands courage, determination and endurance – virtues that are rewarded a thousand fold by this land itself. The harsh terrain invites an abundance of outdoor ventures throughout the year – hiking up snow driven hills in winter; skiing in the evenings surrounded by the haze of blue luminous lights; mushing through the snow with eager dogs at the helm; ice-skating at the local University as well as various outdoor water pools that turn into hard ice as soon as October heralds the arrival of freezing weather. Climbing and clambering up into the hills once the frost melts down will reveal brown sharp rocks and cycling along the inlet with the midnight sun shining boldly into one’s face during the precious summer months, will electrify one’s senses.
During the annual fur rendezvous, crowds from far and wide mingle eagerly together amongst all the festivities. Historically, it was a meeting of trappers to sell furs or purchase supplies, and to splurge and celebrate. The renowned Iditarod also taking place every February is thrilling and at times – sad. Excited and resilient dogs always ready for the expedition ahead of them probably had no idea of the hardship they would encounter. Primed and eager to set off with a sled of supplies for the thousand-mile trek to Nome, their enthusiastic barking certainly added to the anticipation of everyone around. The likely death of some of those dogs during their long and exhausting odyssey always brought sorrow to the whole community. It certainly brought tears to my eyes.
The presence of black and brown bears often spotted approaching and appearing in the city of Anchorage, keeps the human population alert. Numerous and hair raising encounters of humans and bears in the outer regions of this state were recorded in stories, songs and personal experiences. There were plenty of moose, an animal resembling a horse and a reindeer, seen in the woods and the bicycle trails around Anchorage. Never very far away from the townships, they even came to munch tree foliage in my friend’s garden.
Mount Susitna actually does resemble the reclining form of an Eskimo lady clothed in her snug and thick garments of natural origin; very fitting in a land of snow and ice where Eskimos’ are the true dwellers of an extraordinary and awesome territory. There does in fact exist an interesting and poignant legend relating to this mountain – a fable that has been passed down through the generations by word of mouth. It is a love story between a young man named Nekatla and a young woman named Susitna. She lay down and went to sleep waiting for her love to return from a dangerous mission. When news of his death reached the village, the villagers could not bear to wake Susitna from such peaceful sleep. They wove a blanket of soft grass and wildflower blossom and gently laid it over her: ‘May you always dream of your lover’ they prayed.
Today Susitna still sleeps through the seasons – dreaming of Nekatla. In winter she is covered by her snowy quilt, in summer you see her resting beneath a green and flowered blanket. It is said that when people of war change their ways and peace rules the earth, Nekatla will return and then Susitna will awake.
Perhaps another visit to ‘The Sleeping Lady’ will be reminiscent of the haunting tale and the peace that this mountain exudes.
Many people have pre-conceived qualms and doubts about life in Alaska – having lived there for five years I regard it as an experience of enormous worth, filled with memories of a land sparkling with life. Wintertime with its ruthless weather conditions was unquestionably fortifying and invigorating. I loved it! People grow healthy and strong; I believe I was one of those many people who fall in love with Alaska. Someone once said of Alaska that mankind has not been able to harness or ravage this untamed land – I wonder why!
I will always remember the tragic incident that caught my attention in 1995. A British female mountain climber who had two young children at home in Britain lost her life in an avalanche on the exacting K2 Mountain in India. She had been the first woman to complete the ascent to the peak of Mount Everest successfully without oxygen. Her husband in a television interview, explained earnestly that she always chose to live her life according to this ancient Tibetan saying:
’ It is better to live one day as a tiger,
than a thousand years as a sheep’.
Surely this portrays the spirit of Alaska and all those who choose to live there – including myself.
“The mountains, trees and rivers change their appearance with the vicissitudes of times and seasons,
as does mankind change also with their own experiences and emotions”
Copyright Charmiene Maxwell-Batten© 2009. All Rights Reserved.
This narration is from my Book about America
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This is a narration about Mount Susitna, known locally as ‘The Sleeping Lady’ and I was fortunate to have this inspirational view everyday, when I lived in Anchorage, Alaska. I also mention the love story that is legend about this mountain – it really is a beautiful part of Eskimo cultural heritage.
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