Kenai Drive

Kenai

Advertisements

Artist’s Conk

Artist's Conk

While I was in Alaska, I got interested in the area botany.  I spent a solid few days taking photos of the local plantlife before stopping at the Homer Bookstore to buy an identification guide.  It turns out the names of Alaskan coastal plants are as awesome as their shapes.  This fungus I found is called Artist’s Conk.

Something about the combination of this name and shape seems particularly captivating.

Artist's Conk

Halibut Cove

Landing

One day while I was in Homer, I took a boat to Halibut Cove, a small island with no roads.  It’s a community of artists and fishermen, where boardwalks connect many of the buildings and homes.  I was one of the only visitors to the island that day, except for a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers on break from their worksite in Anchorage.  There are not many happier groups with whom to share a boat trip.

Halibut Cove

For most of my time on the island, I was on my own.  I hiked back to the interior of the island in the drizzly quiet.  It is one of the most beautiful, remote, peaceful places I’ve been.  The closest points of comparison I can think of are the Aran Islands and certain places in Maine.  On my walk I saw sea otters rolling in the cove, clusters of seaweed resting on their stomachs.

Sea Otter

While I was there, I also stopped at the island’s art galleries and ate halibut and Kachemak Bay oysters by the boat dock.

An incredible experience.

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Bookshopping – The Old Inlet Bookshop

One of the things I loved about Homer was its bookstores.  This small Alaskan town hosts three, and we dedicated a couple afternoons to poking around in two of them.  During our first full day in Homer, we had breakfast at the excellent Two Sisters bakery, and then went up the road to the nearby Old Inlet Bookshop, located not far from Homer’s main beach.

The Old Inlet offers an enormous selection of used books, many stacked on the floor along the sides of the aisles.  It’s one of those stores where you’re filled with awe at how much there is to read in the world.  One of those stores where you pick up a book you’ve never heard of on a topic in which you never thought you’d have an interest.  And yet there you are, standing in an aisle, transfixed.

I wound up flipping through Jean Henri Fabre’s illustrated book on insects (you can see it in the stacks in the photo above), particularly the pages on cicadas.  I didn’t wind up buying it, but I was tempted.

IMG_5219

The Old Inlet’s second floor is mostly dedicated to fiction and literature, with some history along the back wall.

IMG_5220

The fiction section’s shelves often have books two rows deep, so that you only ever see a small sliver of the store’s collection.  There is something comforting about this magnitude of books.  A comfort that resonates in this particular location, at the edge of an Alaskan peninsula, where there are winters of darkness.

On our trip, at the height of summer daylight, I was struck by this sunlit upstairs space, and the coziness of this wicker-chaired nook amid the novels.

IMG_5224

The owner keeps the literature grouped in rough alphabetical order, separating out the hardcover from the paperback and — delightfully — creating a whole section for short stories.

IMG_5226

I wound up buying this one: Best American Short Stories from 1946.  An amazing find.  J. found the sequel to the John Cheever novel he was reading, and a hardcover copy of The Godfather.

And, to boot, the owner of The Old Inlet is an incredibly nice guy — a former fisherman and a writer in his own right.  He and my husband and I wound up talking for quite some time about running and fishing and writing and books.  He even lent us his phone and tried to track down a local race for J. while we were in town.

I can’t recommend this bookstore highly enough.  Whiling away an afternoon there was an utter pleasure.

p.s. You’re in luck today!  My good friend John over at Oh John Carroll has a terrific new post on Moe’s Books and City Lights Bookstore in the San Francisco area.  Go check it out!

Kachemak Bay

Homer Spit

I just returned from two weeks in Alaska, where I spent my time walking on beaches, hiking the tundra, reading by the midnight light in log cabins, and visiting tiny old fishing, mining, and mountaineering villages.

One of the places I liked most is the town of Homer, an important Halibut fishing capital and a dynamic, creative hub on the edge of the Kenai peninsula.  I wish I could spend a whole summer there.

I’m so excited about the posts coming up in the next few weeks!  Here are a couple images of Homer’s Kachemak Bay to get started.