Day 7 – Great Balls of Glass!

August 8, 2018

Skagway, Alaska: I want to be that kind of person who takes a cruise and wakes up with the first rays of dawn, throws back the curtains, and marvels at the scenery. Most of the time, I am that kind of person, but today it was grey and cold and rainy. Instead of throwing open the balcony door (Rhonda Blakey is right – balconies are worth every extra penny) and breathing in the fresh air, I threw back the curtain and saw the balcony of another cruise ship so close that, if someone had been out on their balcony on their seventh level, they could probably have told you what color undies I had on. Thank goodness I was wearing undies!

We docked in Skagway early, and while it is beautiful here, it’s a different kind of beauty than we’ve seen so far. It’s dense green, and because of all the rains this week, the water looks muddy and fast…a lot like the Tioughnioga River did in my hometown in upstate New York. It was the kind of day that made you want hot tea and fuzzy socks. Thankfully, when with the kids yesterday in town, we all realized we had run out of socks that actually cover your ankles, so we picked up a couple of pair of matching socks. Today I wore the blue ones with an adorable bear fishing on them. It was also a day for layers, and since I don’t get to wear my beloved turtlenecks in Florida very often, it was great to be reunited with my old friends.

Today was another first – my first time at glassblowing. Actually, I think it was the first time for any of us at glassblowing, but I hope it’s not my last. It was so much fun! We took a bus to a botanical garden and got a quick lesson in how to blow glass from Travis, a master glassblower who actually went to college and got a degree in Fine Arts to become a glassblower. One by one, the ten members of the group had a chance to don a blue Kevlar jacket and walk step-by-step through the process of blowing glass. We chose our own colors and designs, and Travis guided us through each step, patiently explaining the how and why, and finding ways to compliment each of us on our designs and color choices. It was a great, warm and dry place to be on a cold and wet Alaska day, and it was so cool to learn how to make designs in the molten glass.

Because I live in Florida, I chose to do a ‘hurricane’ pattern, which involves a big heavy pair of iron tweezers which are held in one hand. You grab a small chunk of the molten glass as it is being spun, and you pinch and twist quickly to create a little point. Even after watching others do it, it’s harder than it looks because the hot glass is the consistency of taffy, so you have to grab and pinch a little more than you might have imagined. Once you have your designs in, Travis sticks it back into the furnace and you turn it slowly a bit more. Then the master brings it over and turns it on a spit-like thing made of ball-bearings and tells you to blow into a little tube as he continues to spin and shape the sphere of glass.

As the glass begins to cool, the colors you’ve chosen begin to come out, and suddenly, you’re looking at this masterpiece you’ve helped create, and you think you’re all that and a bag of chips besides. It made me think maybe I should have gone to school to learn how to blow glass, and it made me think of how cool it would be to try stained glass next, or maybe get a group of friends to take mosaic lessons from Anita Prentice. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it totally kick-started my imagination and made me want to do anything creative. Maybe that’s what doing something new is all about?

We were treated to a lovely lunch in the tea room at Jewell Botanical Garden, where we ate fresh green salad, split pea soup (okay, Dan at my split pea soup because I grew up in the era of The Exorcist and Linda Blair kind of ruined split pea soup for me forever), and salmon quiche. Judging from the group assembled, real men do eat quiche – at least salmon quiche. A bus dropped us back off in town, where there were the usual shops, and the kids had a blast trying to find a way to spend their daily souvenir allowance, and we had a blast walking around town in the wind and rain – really. I do wonder why there are so stinkin’ many jewelry shops at every port of call on a cruise. Do that many people really buy jewelry from a stranger? Or buy jewelry on a trip at all? It’s something I need to do additional research on when I get reliable and cost-effective internet again.

While the kids and Dan stopped in a fried dough shop, I snuck into a quilt store and picked up a few fat quarters that were totally Alaska-themed. One was a piece celebrating fire weed, the beautiful pink flower we learned about from Tlingit Thomas the other day. I haven’t made a quilt in years, but I think the burst of creativity this morning put me in the mind of getting a piece of fabric for a square or two every time we travel somewhere.

We’ll be leaving Skagway shortly, and I’m about to head up to dinner for my evening glass of wine and chance to relax with Dan and Alicia and the kids, but I decided to do a little writing early today, in order to get a good night’s sleep tonight. After all, tomorrow is the Hubbard Glacier, and I’m so excited about having a chance to see it and maybe see a few seal lounging or frolicking and see pieces of glacier fall off and hear the sound it makes when a piece shears off.

But for now, it’s nice to be sitting in my cozy room, looking out at wet rain/snow mix falling nearby, and know that I’m so lucky to be experiencing so many new and exciting things and giving my imagination a booster shot both by trying new things and having a chance to write about them later. Tomorrow is our last full day aboard before we head to Seward and then Anchorage and home, and I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed every day, every stop, and so far, every excursion and new experience.


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