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Comments Off on Our Town – December 19, 2019

Our Town – December 19, 2019

| Animals, Ghosts/Spirits, Guest Written, Nan Metashvili, Our Town, Ravens, Tourists | December 19, 2019

The Soupster and his companion regard a woman.

Submitted By Nan Metashvili

A bemused out-of-season tourist was wandering around town. She had made it as far as Totem Park and was enthralled with the eerie images high atop the poles. That looks like a Raven, she thought with awe, glancing from the carved image atop a pole, to the shiny black bird hopping around in the branches above her, and making sonorous clonking calls. The light rain did not seem to bother the tourist and the lack of any other people around also pleased her.

As she strolled – following her local Japanese custom of “forest bathing” – her worries eased and a feeling of contentment and rightness dawned. Yes, the giant cedars were soothing and the chattering of Ravens made perfect sense.

Then she approached an open area, with signs explaining that it was the site of a great battle. Many years ago the Tlingit people, in their fort of young saplings, had fought against the Russian occupiers of their lands. A feeling of admiration and solidarity came over her as she read about Katlian and his battle against the foreign invaders. Her own people, the Ainu in the far north of Japan, had met with similar troubles.

But then out of the corner of her eye, she saw a strange little creature. Very strange. A creepy feeling started to rise up from her very kidneys, and little tingles of fear grew, like spiny prickles of sea urchins on bare feet. The creature seemed not quite human, with whiskers long as sorrow, a furry, pointy face and teeth as sharp as ignorance. It leered at her.

Fat rain filled clouds crossed the sky; it grew dark and she became more and more uneasy.

A soft chortle of laughter then caught her attention, and she turned to see two shadowy figures climbing up from the rocky beach to the path under the trees. “Psst! Nels!” called the Soupster, “is that a Kushtaka over there? Making funny faces at that poor lady who is getting worried?”

Rain drips on spruce boughs
Berry bushes wait for sun
The surf crashes on.

With easy laughter, the two waved at her, and although the rain then came, rather heavily, it seemed the air was lighter. She glanced back at the Kushtaka, which no longer seemed frightening. It seemed more like a rather special kind of sea creature, one with rich fur and incredible swimming skills. She even smiled at it, and it seemed to smile back.

With a loud caw, the nearby raven flew off. As it took flight, an ebony feather floated to the ground. Bending over to retrieve it, the tourist noticed that it had come to land beside a tiny carved star and a miniscule wooden dreidl. “Wā” she cried.

The soft laughter from the shades on the shore faded.

She stood in the rain holding the three gifts and commented to herself
“Sitka really is very peculiar little town, but I like it.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 11, 2016

Our Town – August 11, 2016

| Downtown, Ghosts/Spirits, Our Town, Small Town Stuff | August 11, 2016

The Soupster witnesses the meeting of the living and the dead.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2008

Nearly everyone was pleased with the blossom and tree-filled visions of Betsy and Lawrence Brooks, writ large in the municipal flower beds and green strips in Our Town. The Soupster would have said every single person in town was pleased, but as a scientific observer of human behavior, he left the door open for a few oddball Nature haters.

Only Lawrence actually worked for the city — as a gardener and landscaper — but Betsy could usually be found working alongside him, just not for pay. One irascible codger of the supervisory variety tried to shoo Betsy away for insurance reasons, but Lawrence had enough moles at city hall to call ahead if the codger was afoot and Betsy would temporarily vaporize.

They were an exceptional team. Lawrence, red-green colorblind, compensated by refining his sense of line and contrast, Betsy handled color decisions and was a top-flight plant nurse. After more than four decades, the couple were as much of a local institution as any of the buildings they beautified. So when they decided to skedaddle South to be closer to the grandkiddies, and after they promised to visit often, the city honored the Brooks with their likenesses set in a brass memorial in their favorite garden on Lincoln St. “Lawrence and Betsy, landscapers,” their plaque read, “1960-2002.”

Ambling downtown, picturing a mocha milkshake and skewer of grilled king salmon, the Soupster saw an older tourist staring gravely at the Brooks’ memorial. “Sad, isn’t it,” said the man, as the Soupster came alongside.”So young.”

“Come again?” asked the Soupster.

“But a delight to see city gardeners so exalted,” the man continued. “I myself own a landscape firm in Los Angeles. We are forgotten there among the glitz and bling and blather.”

“I don’t think you understand…” said the Soupster.

“Of course I do!” insisted the tourist. “I more than anyone know of the power of living plants. They have the ability to heal the wounded soul. To watch things grow is to embrace life!”

“Sure but…” the Soupster tried to say, but the older man cut him off.

“Still, it is nice to see the appreciation… at the end,” the tourist concluded sadly and slowly began to move away.

And, as these things will happen sometimes, Lawrence and Betsy Brooks — back to Our Town on one of their frequent returns and looking like two fit, tanned fiddles — came marching down the other side of Lincoln Street.

“There they are!” said the Soupster. “This is what I was trying to tell you.”

“Who?” said the confused tourist.

“Lawrence and Betsy Brooks!” said the Soupster, pointing.“Right there!”

Had they been in a cartoon, the tourist’s head would have spun completely around. He looked at the Brooks, then at their likeness on the plaque and then back to them, several times.

“Do you want me to introduce you?” the Soupster innocently asked.

As the older tourist hurried off, “You people are very, very strange,” the Soupster heard him say.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 8, 2010

Our Town – April 8, 2010

| Ghosts/Spirits, History, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | April 8, 2010

The totem pole-lined paths through the woods of Sitka National Historical Park were silent, dark and deep. The Soupster strolled through an evening mist, alone.

This is the park’s 100th birthday, the Soupster remembered. While reaching 100 years old is the ultimate achievement for any human, 100 years for a mountain is a blink of its eye, if a mountain can be said to have eyes. A forest park must fall somewhere in the middle, the Soupster thought.

The shadows played with the Soupster’s vision. He thought he saw a person – dressed in furs and leather, with a fierce Raven battle helmet and face mask, carrying a blacksmith’s hammer – moving quickly between the shore and the screen of trees.

That’s K`alyaan, the Soupster thought. Katlian, who led the Tlingit fight against the Russians in this very spot in 1804. The Soupster remembered him from a famous painting. It was to commemorate the 1804 battle that the park was established in the first years of the 20th Century, becoming official in 1910. K’alyaan lived long after the battle – but not long enough to be running through the forest in 2010. A ghost? The Soupster wondered…

As if to answer his question, like a small gust of wind, a tall, friendly-looking guy with a mustache whooshed past. He juggled a camera the size of a small television, a tripod and a backpack full of photographic plates. He hurried in the same direction as K’alyaan. The Soupster could see through him to the trees and poles further down the trail.

That’s Elbridge Warren Merrill – E.W. Merrill, the Soupster marveled at the apparition. Served as the first, sort-of-official, superintendent of the new Historical Park and was instrumental in its formation. The Soupster had just seen some of Merrill’s fantastic photos in an exhibit gallery in the Visitor’s Center. There would be several more showings this summer of Merrill’s historical photographic art.

After glimpsing an ethereal, grandfatherly ghost of novelist James Michener ambling ahead, the Soupster stopped in his tracks. Michener lived near the park when he wrote his book “Alaska.” All three men – eh, ghosts, had been in the park while they lived.

The Soupster knew the park staff planned a big re-union this May for anybody who ever worked or volunteered  for “Totem Park” or the Bishop’s House over the years. Maybe these specters just arrived at the reunion too early.

The Soupster felt an itch and turned. His jaw dropped. Standing before the Soupster was a transparent iteration of his father’s late brother, Louis.

“Uncle Looey,” the Soupster blurted. “How can you be here?”

“Well,” said Lou, surprising the Soupster by speaking. “Your Aunt and I came up here on a cruise a while ago and we helped the park on a clean-up day.”

“You never told me.”

“Well, Nephew,” Uncle Lou said. “It was our Third Honeymoon and you and I always get into spats and then she takes your side.”

“And here I thought I was the bad one for not ever having you come and visit me here,” the Soupster said. “Not even once.”

“Well, look at it this way,” said a ghostly Uncle Lou. “I’m here now.”

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Would you like to create an Our Town?

The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.

If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

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