A few years ago I wrote a page about my Alaskan Attraction — namely, the family story that my grandfather, Srdan Đođić, was one of many who caught gold fever and rushed to Alaska with a few relatives in the early 1900’s. I have no definitive proof, but it is my hunch is that they ended up working at the Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska.
A year ago I had the pleasure of visiting Juneau, Alaska. While sitting down to a scrumptious lunch with some family members at The Island Pub on Douglas Island, we realized that the site of the Treadwell Mine Historic Park was less than a mile away. Even though our schedule only permitted for a short, impromptu stroll along the trail, my heart fluttered with excitement nonetheless! I had read about it, and now I would be able to experience the place, even if for only a few minutes. During this quick visit, I was able to capture a few still shots of some mining remnants that littered the path. I wish I had more to share, but I am grateful for the experience and for the few photos I was able to snatch along the way. Please enjoy the above video for what it’s worth! Then find a place where your ancestors walked, and go there for a stroll…..
(c) 2017 to Present, Patricia J. Angus
If you want to learn more about Treadwell Mine Trail, here is a great link!
Crocheted Starfish on a Frosty Log in Alaska. (c) 2017 Patricia J. Angus
The new year has arrived, and I have relocated to a sunnier place on the planet. I will miss the beauty of living in a remote corner of the world, but I recognize that it is now time to move on. New year. New Location. New Life Focus. Something I will miss a great deal is walking along a rocky beach in the summer and taking a deep breath to fill my lungs with fresh, moist air. I will miss the vast horizon where clouds touch the water, left to the mercy of Nature’s paintbrush. I will miss the elegant flight of eagles, the spray of breaching whales, the occasional glimpse of a shy black bear crossing the road, and the sweet innocence of scampering fawns. Last, but certainly not least, I will miss investigating the shoreline with my grandchildren to discover seashells, beautiful rocks, twigs, barnacles, and starfish hiding from the hot sun.
The starfish is one of many creatures I will miss the most now that I am living in the desert again. As a matter of fact, while I was preparing to move in the month of December, the starfish inspired me to create star Christmas ornaments for my family members. I crocheted a small star for each person to represent not only the new star telling of Christ’s birth, but also to represent my tribute farewell to the starfish. In each set of ornaments, I placed a copy of The Starfish Poem with an admonition that each family member make a difference in someone’s life during the upcoming year. I am sure you have read the poem many times. It goes like this:
The Starfish Poem
A little boy walked carefully along a crowded beach
Where starfish by the hundred lay there within his reach.
They washed up with each wave as far as the eye could see
And each would surely die if they were not sent back to the sea.
So one by one he rescued them, then heard a stranger call,
“It really won’t make much of a difference…for you cannot save them all.”
But as he tossed yet another one back toward the ocean’s setting sun,
He said with deep compassion, “I made a difference to that one!”
(adapted from the original essay, The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley)
Much of the world’s suffering and commotion are beyond our control. However, daily we are surrounded by opportunities to touch someone’s life in a positive way. We don’t have to look very far to discover ways we can make a difference in our own homes, extended families and communities. Let us make a concerted effort this year, and always, to feed someone who is hungry, comfort someone who is sick, clothe someone who is naked or cold, or spend time with someone who is lonely. The list of possibilities is endless and as unique as each starfish along the shore. Although each of us “cannot save them all”, we can make “a difference to that one!” Wishing you many blessings as you strive to touch the lives of others throughout 2017!
“There’s no place like home for the holidays…” drums through my brain like a broken record. I think it is a subconscious manifestation of my desire to spend the long, cold winter hibernating with the bears here in Craig, Alaska. But, since there is no rest for the weary, I find myself moving again for the fourth time in less than five years. “So, where is home?”, I ask myself. My life on planet Earth has not quite made 60 trips around the sun, but from my experience it seems that “home” takes on different meanings depending upon where and when it presents itself in the space-time continuum.
Christmas at Grandma’s House
Some people associate the scent of pine needles with Christmas, but for me it is the aroma of Grandma’s cooking. When I was a kid in the sixties, we lived with my paternal grandparents until I was seven, so “home” meant three generations under one roof with an overabundance of strudel at Christmas time, not to mention stuffed cabbage, breaded chicken, and nut rolls. If we were lucky, Aunt Sylvia would send over extra goodies like her delicious thumb print cookies and apricot pastries.
We had a bright, shiny aluminum fake Christmas tree in our small living room. Every year Mom and Dad would get out the tree (stored in its original box), and we would pop each poufy branch out of its paper tube and attach it to the silver tree trunk. With all the branches in place, I thought the silver tree appeared dazzling with ornaments old and new gracing those sparkly branches. My dad’s beloved model train circled beneath the tree every year since I can remember. In addition, a growing collection of Christmas cards adorned the large mirror above the living room couch, and Grandpa’s old nativity figures sat in a special place, either on top of the television or under the tree. As time wore on those old shepherds and wise men wore out, and a newer and better manger scene took their place. Fifty years later, I confess that baby Jesus from Grandpa’s old crèche is still hiding in my jewelry box. I think fondly of Grandpa and Christmas Past every time I open it.
A Holiday Home of Our Own
One day we moved to a “home” a mile away, and Mom and Dad began establishing their own Christmas traditions. Mom wanted a platform for the tree in the worst way and paid someone to make her one. Every year she set up the platform, covered it with some type of Christmas cloth or paper and set the tree on top of it. Something nice about the platform is that you could slide empty boxes or wrapped gifts underneath where they could not be seen.
At some point, we got a new fake tree, a life-like green one, to set up on the platform. Mom sewed Christmas ornaments from pre-printed ornament fabric that was very popular at the time. She stuffed them like soft little pillows with loops of gold elastic to hang on the branches. Every Christmas brightly colored little pillows of all varieties weighed down the fake tree, and plastic icicles draped each branch atop the ornaments. Dad set up his train set around the base of the tree just like every year before. The platform made a nice even surface for the track, and we enjoyed playing trains for hours on end.
Our family did not go out much, and we did not get together with extended family and friends for big meals or holiday celebrations, so we spent a lot of time looking at the tree platform and playing with the train and nativity figures. Culinary preparations now decentralized from ethnic food to meat and lots of it, such as ham and turkey. Mom wasn’t much into baking, but nevertheless strudels and cookies found their way into our new “home” anyway, either from Grandma or Aunt Sylvia. Sometimes the goodies were leftover donations from Christmas parties at the Duquesne Croatian Club where Grandma worked part-time as a cook.
When I became a teenager, some parts of Christmas shifted from family and “home” to my larger world of friends. I loved getting dressed up and going to holiday concerts, the school Christmas dance, and the annual Christmas party for the Duquesne Junior Tamburitzans. I guess I liked spending time with my friends more than family, because what teenager doesn’t?
Our family did not attend a specific church, but every year I tried to attend a church service on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I went to midnight mass with the Catholics or other times I worshiped at a candlelight service with Presbyterians. Those first few years of keeping baby Jesus in my jewelry box instinctively made me realize that there would be no Christmas without His birth. I enjoyed feeling the spirit at those gatherings and attempted to sing and play Christmas carols on my guitar when I got “home”. Efforts to include family members usually failed, because I sang too high and screechy, and I got booted out of the living room in no time at all.
Of course, there was always the presents to look forward to. By the time I was a teenager an uncanny tradition developed in which Santa would give me about 15 to 20 bucks to go buy my own gift. Sometime after my December birthday, I would select, purchase, and wrap a gift for myself then place it under the tree until Christmas. At least I got a gift and was thankful for it. It was something to enjoy alongside our holiday meal consisting of massive chunks of ham smothered in mashed potatoes and canned corn. (I still love ham.)
Christmas with Kids
Then it was off to college and a family of my own and through those years there was always a longing to go “home” to parents and grandparents and lifelong friends — familiar places and faces, dear to the heart but far from what I now called “home”. Of course, we began our family in the late 1970s on the cusp of an economic recession. It was difficult to make ends meet, so “home” moved from one apartment or house to the next. Holiday memories consisted of writing many Christmas cards, sewing homemade gifts, and making long-distance phone calls that lasted ten minutes or less. There was no Facebook or Skype to close the distance gap. I learned to make some of the ethnic dishes my grandma used to feed us (although I am still working on the strudel), and threw in a holiday ham or turkey provided free by my husband’s employer. At long last I entertained the little ones by singing carols with my guitar, and instead of complaining, they sang along. All those little pillow ornaments found their way to my tree followed by printed pillow crèche figures to be tossed around by toddlers, puppies and kitties too!
I saved plastic ice cream buckets from Thanksgiving and decorated and filled them with homemade sugar cookies and oranges so my kids could deliver treats to the neighbors. We purposefully set aside all the tasty gifts brought over by reciprocating neighbors to savor during our Special Christmas Eve celebration which took place in our “home” and included the story of baby Jesus and other inspirational tales. After story-telling and movie viewing, the children were sent to bed on a sugar high while we wrapped dollar-store gifts into the daylight hours. After a sleepless night of wrapping and keeping watch for peeking peeps, Christmas morning came, and we napped as the children played, safe and sound, at “home”.
My grandmas and grandpas and dad and husband have all gone “home” to Jesus now, spending Christmas on the other side. My mom is in a “home”. And, I am a gray-haired granny hopping from one adult child’s “home” to another, knowing I have family all over the world who love me and allow me to share in their family traditions. Over the past year and a half, new generations of family have taken me places I’ve never been before or have helped me develop new perspectives of places I know like the back of my hand. Recently I have left a piece of my heart in San Francisco, Sasebo, Honolulu, Monterey, Seattle, Phoenix, Juneau, Sacramento, and Prince of Wales Island. It has become clear to me that Home is not the building we dwell in, nor is it a place in which we hibernate. “Home” is, indeed, where the heart is – family, friends, and memories. So, I’ll keep humming that little tune, because whether near or far, there is No Place Like Home for the Holidays!
Step away from the noise of the World, and chillax with some of my favorite Blog photos…….Note: Video has been updated since the original publish date of November 10, 2016 — and Now you can watch via my YouTube channel! Be sure to subscribe!
A single candle flickered within the paper lantern, glowing warmly as it floated upon the rippling water. Other lanterns followed, one by one, as the current carried the collective downstream illuminating the river. I sat on the water’s edge contemplating what the lighted river represented – guiding lights that lead spirits of deceased loved ones back to their homes. Interesting that I should have an opportunity to visit Japan, especially to experience the Obon festival, near the second anniversary of my father and husband’s passing. Surprisingly, participation in the festival brought intense emotional release and awakened an inner desire to move forward. I felt a definitive end to debilitating grief coupled with increased strength to walk onward in my own human experience.
While charting my course into new waters, I thought about the future of this website. The website began as a hub to centralize all my personal family history projects – stories, research, and personal history blog. My intention was to make life easier on myself and simplify the sharing of information with family and friends. I didn’t even give it a fancy name. Four years later the website still remains. Not a day goes by that it does not get at least a handful of hits, and although the site has been nearly dormant for the past two years, it has led to many offline discoveries that were priceless to me and others. Incidentally the most popular posts statistically, by far, are those pertaining to Duquesne Croatians.
The Japanese lantern experience took place a month ago. This week Japanese people gather to view the Harvest Moon, but last night we decided to view an American movie instead. The film was the recently released story of Kubo and the Two Strings, the adventures of a young, paper-folding, story-telling Japanese boy who ultimately learns about the enormous strength and power of family. The story takes place in Japan of long ago with a super-sized Harvest moon, animated origami characters, plenty of Asian magic and mysticism — and paper lanterns accompanied by ancestors’ souls. The moment the lanterns appeared on the screen, I promptly received a message from the Universe. Something stirred within me, and I knew it was now time to resurrect this blog and resume my family history endeavors. The objective and tone of my posts and pages may vary slightly from what you have seen in the past, but it is time to get back to the business of family and ancestors. Hopefully, my memories of the paper lanterns will symbolically remind me of the guiding light of my ancestors’ love, beckoning me to follow the stories of their lives. My plan is to chart a course and follow them wherever they may lead. I invite you to follow along with me.
It’s been therapeutic to blog about my Alaskan Journey, and I hope others who find themselves in a similar situation may connect with some of the feelings I have shared in the process. Now that I am actually living in Alaska, Inspiration is leading me in new directions, and I can’t wait to share some of the other things I have been working on. Thanks for traveling with me! In celebration of what would have been my husband’s 59th birthday, I write one last Alaskan Journey…..click here to read it.
While rehabilitating after My Big “Trip” to Alaska, I cannot explore the island as much as I want. Despite the fact that I hobble with a limp, Trixie Trots are still in daily demand, so I have made the best of it by taking photos of nature along our route. There is beauty all around if we take time to notice. Hopefully I will find and post more beauty as the seasons change. Click HERE to Enjoy! Which is YOUR favorite? — Leave a comment!