ERROL CASTENS: Thoughts away from home

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

My wife, Sue, and I took our first cruise a couple of weeks ago. I had noticed last fall that Michael Card, our favorite Christian singer, was going to be performing for a group on a cruise to Alaska, and since we’d talked for years about going there someday, we decided this was providentially someday.
With a shipful of people from all over the world, we were amazed to run into several other Northeast Mississippians on board, in addition to getting to meet Mr. Card, Dallas Holm and several other Christian musicians.
The price of shipboard phone and Internet service proved a good incentive to break the addiction of phone and computer temporarily.
The trip and the people we met reinforced that we’re all wired differently. On tours at every port, there were people busily trying to get every possible photo and other people who’d take only an occasional shot, preferring to see whatever was in front of them in real time. (Ship’s naturalist Brent Nixon half-joked that most photos of whales are like most photos of Bigfoot: They show where the creatures allegedly had been.)
It’s the same with shopping: Some people feel they haven’t really been to a place until they’ve hit its souvenir shops. Other travelers direct their time and money to experiences. Of course, even the spend-for-experience folks don’t agree on whether quality lodgings and fine meals are equal in priority to sightseeing and adventuring.
With gorgeous scenery to compete with, Alaskan architecture often reflects a preference for function over form. Even the bus shelters we saw were utilitarian – shipping containers with one side cut open. (In a nod to style, however, the openings were arched.)
Regarding that stunning scenery, Alaska’s motto ought to be “Grandeur.” There’s so much to see in every direction that it makes one’s neck hurt.
There’s a particular majesty in a bald eagle, magic in whales, playfulness in seals and porpoises. Fjords with their myriad waterfalls generate mystery; glaciers and their imperceptible but unrelentingly grinding currents instill awe; mountainsides of old-growth forests defy the imagination; and oceans and channels and bays and harbors inspire thoughts of voyage, adventure – and home.
People don’t leave their quirks at home. Heard one wife on a tour bus say to her husband, “I’m hot. Take off your jacket.”
My bride was equally quirky. In the Seattle airport, as we waited for a dawn-30 flight home, a glow over the horizon shone directly in her face, interfering with her efforts to nap. Groggy and exhausted, she whined, “Oh, no – the sun’s not coming up right there, is it?” I was too amused not to answer, “Historically, yes, it does tend to rise in the east.”
Contact Daily Journal reporter ERROL CASTENS at

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