For the record, I have seen exactly none of the above. It’s probably with a fair amount of relief that I say I haven’t seen any bears, although it is with quite a bit of disappointment that I say that I haven’t seen any whales. Fish – I can take it or leave it, although if you ask most people on Kodiak about that, they’ll tell you I’m blaspheming.
I’ve been in Kodiak for a little over a week now, a week that’s had some ups and downs, research wise. Being here, though – it’s rejuvenating. I find myself wanting to go outside, to explore, to find tidepools to play in and photograph. I love seeing the clouds roll in off the ocean, listening to the rain drip down from (
my rainjacket) the needles of the pine trees, the hammering of it on my roof. I love walking into town and seeing the same bald eagle perched on the lamp post every day. I love running on mossy paths, along the ocean, in between quaint houses. It’s picturesque here, and if my research isn’t going exactly as I planned (stressful), I come back through the pine trees, breath the smell of green living things, and feel relaxed.
It’s a different world here – so different from Arizona, and it’s a tremendous relief. It isn’t exactly like Washington (the people are different certainly – much more like the rugged Mountain-Westers from Colorado and Montana – a strange mix of environmentalists and rugged individualists), but the scenery is similar, and it makes me long for places that thrive again. Thrive on the wilderness, believe in cultivating gardens not simply for show, but for practicality. It’s charming at the same time that it’s practical. And if Kodiak doesn’t exactly have everything you’d hope for in the way of retail, it certainly makes up for it in sights and smells.
There truly isn’t all that much to do in town. It’s becoming something of a tourist destination (so I hear), but many of those tourists go to the wilderness lodges on the more remote parts of the island. These are the places where people hunt (elk, deer, bear, duck) and fish (halibut and salmon mostly), hike, kayak, watch whales, and take pictures of the landscape. You can be a tourist in the city of Kodiak, actually, but it’s a different experience. There are several small museums in town: The Alutiiq museum (and corporation) and the Baranov museum both showcase different parts of the history and culture of Kodiak. Kodiak, and Alaska generally, used to be part of Russia, and as a result, there is a substantial focus on the Russian Orthodox Church here. The two harbors (St. Herman and St. Paul, though they’re better known as Dog Bay and Mainland) are each named after Orthodox saints. There is a teaching seminary here, as well as a church (complete with the musical bells that make Orthodox churches so distinct). I was surprised at the extent to which the church was a focal point in town, but it’s certainly hard to miss it. The church also runs two businesses in town: Tidal Wave Second Hand, and Monk’s Rock are both affiliated with the teaching seminary.
Among other things, there are several places worth checking out: the Dead Humpy Gallery is a great place; the owners both fish, but he does amazing photography, and she does some incredible screen-printing. It’s a super cute place to wander around. Harborside Coffee is also a great place to pick up a drink and watch the boats out in the harbor. Kodiak is a strange mix of the idyllic harbor town and the gritty reality of a fishing town; it’s easy to slip into both parts of it, but it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile the two. I’m fairly certain I could spend years here (and probably would love to) without truly understanding the many facets here. But it is certainly a wonderful place to call home for a month, and I’m certainly enjoying meeting with people, talking to them, and learning more. It’s a hard place to complain about, in part because it’s so quiet and beautiful. It isn’t necessarily a town at ease with itself – there are things underlying the surface here that are fascinating and concerning by turns, and I’m not sure that it’s a town where it’s easy to immerse yourself (especially as a non-fishermen), but people are open and kind, and that makes all the difference.