We were tasked with interviewing another passenger aboard the vessel. I headed straight towards the old woman underneath the stairs with the bright yellow umbrella, blowing bubbles.
Her name was Carla, a Washington native. She told me she has lived a simple life. She told me how she has always surrounded herself with family, and this is key to fulfillment in life. She grew up with several brothers, raised two daughters, and one grandson. She was a nanny for twenty years and has seen many children grow into young adults.
As we look out on the ocean, she points to a humpback whale breaching on the horizon. We stare in wonder, and she remarks that the beautiful places she has lived have also been a huge contributing factor in her happy and simple life. I can only imagine what other beauties I will find in Alaska as I kayak around Wrangell Island. The mountains that surround either side of the ferry are coated with white, wispy clouds that hide the tops of cascading waterfalls from view and it is hard to imagine anything more beautiful than this.
Carla grew up in western Washington. Commenting on youth’s obsession with playing with cellphones and wasting the hours of the day on the computer, when she was young she’d be on the beach gooey-ducking and enjoying gooey-duck chowder with her brothers. Carla also spent most of her adult years in eastern Washington, right near where I grew up in Spokane. This was where Carla raised her daughters. Now she resides on the west coast, helping her daughter raise her son.
Carla was en route to Prince of Wales Island to see her brother. George, her brother, as she described him, is an old man, a poacher and a wino, who lives off the grid.
Words of wisdom spouted from Carla’s mouth and I drank them in like wine. She told me, simply, that people are most happy doing what they do best and what they love. Carla, in her youth and as an elder, was born to be matron and loved rearing the young ones to be the best they can. George, on the other hand, was a master poacher, elite moon shiner, and has no criminal record.
We shook hands. As my cold and clammy hand met her warm and wrinkled hand, she remarked, “Cold hands mean a warm and kind heart.”