Friday, September 14, 2012

It's more than just a cruise to Alaska || Bend Oregon Photographer

Planting Seeds of Memories
Honoring the Past with Eyes to the Future
{originally published in True North Parenting Magazine, June/July 2012}

Have you ever had someone bless you with a gift so huge, you simply didn’t know how to say thank you? Our family adventure to Alaska was just that, but this is not an article about Alaska. It’s not even about how to travel with children. Really – it’s my lesson in appreciation and honoring memories that affects untold generations of our family.

Rushing through life – how often do we take moments to reflect on our past, as well as plant seeds of memories for our children to take into their own future? What memories will churn in their heads as important moments to teach their own children about family, about legacy.

As with many families, ours comes with a rich history. As a child, visits to my mom’s parent’s always included some anecdote of their childhood – some story about Grandpa Miff growing up in Hawaii, or Grandma Nancy’s adventures in Montana. Fortunately, grandpa was a writer & publisher, ahead of his day in terms of computers and published an extensive family history. Setting down in book form, a map of past generations, documented for my children to discover and enjoy. It included the stories I’d always heard about – and now, as an adult, am so grateful he took the time to do it.

What a gift.

When my grandpa passed away, it felt monumental. I think our entire family felt a collective loss of a man who held the key to many pieces of not only our own family’s history – but world history as well. Reading his first-hand account of the Pearl Harbor attacks as a resident of Oahu is a treat for history and WWII buffs alike {If you are interested, read about it here}. How lucky are we to have possession of his memories in a form that we can share with the next generation. It has certainly instilled in me a drive to document my own experiences so my children can share and pass along to their own kids.  No surprise – but it is certainly a driving force in my own journey with photography.

When grandpa’s estate was settled, my mom tucked away a “Travel Fund;” an incredible and lasting gift from Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Miff. It is a way for our generation to create experiences together that will surely live long in the hearts of my brother’s and my children. It’s been tucked away for years, waiting for the cousins to be old enough to really enjoy and appreciate (and remember) our adventures. I never would have guessed our first big trip would reinforce and provide reminders to honor the past, as we create experiences with the next generation.

In sorting through some boxes of family memorabilia last winter, my mother came across not only the journal of her grandmother’s from a 1925 cruise through Southeast Alaska, but also a small packet of souvenir photographs from Sitka – the departure city of our cruise. Not only were we able to create our own modern day memories on this incredible adventure, but we were also able to read through and have the kids imagine their great grandmother Nancy as an 8 year old girl, experiencing the very same thing for herself, and what that journey must have been like in 1925. The journal referenced on several occasions how Nancy received adoring attention from staff and fellow cruisemates alike, and I can’t help but draw the same haunting parallels with our own journey. The five cousins were indeed, adored and cared for by the entire village of our cruise – staff and fellow cruisemates alike.

In front of the Mendenhall Glacier
Reflecting back on the fresh memories of our trip – I love that my mom was able to share a room with her oldest granddaughter, Katie, spy for whales with Max, kayak in a beautiful Alaskan cove with Hannah, and get silly in front of the Mendenhall Glacier with all five cousins. My brother Todd spied a mother bear and cubs with Sam on a Zodiac ride, and my husband and Sarah took pictures of everything in sight. Sister-in-law Beth was always ready with a project for idle hands, and I got to explore tide pools with all of them. I loved observing and photographing each member of our family soak in Lindblad’s Expedition’s Southeast Alaskan adventure. Breakfast and lunch we spread out, visiting and dining with the other guests, but every evening we’d come together at our very own tables for dinner, feast like kings and share our day’s highlights.

Coming home from any vacation can be a bit of an adjustment, trying to hold on to memories and the relaxed pace of being away for a bit. Oftentimes it can feel like the vacation never happened as you jump back into mundane tasks like housecleaning and grocery shopping. For me, for this adventure in particular, I know we’ve just come away from an experience that will, indeed, live long in our family history. And even more endearing, I know my kids and their cousins feel the same way.

Thanks grandma and grandpa. It was worth every penny.  

Our Mother's Day (and my husband's birthday) portrait!

Hiking with our naturalist in the beautiful SE Alaskan coastal terrain 

Perhaps my favorite adventure from the trip - zodiac tour of an ice field at the base of a glacier. Incredible. 

It is tempting to be paralyzed by the prospect of a “forever memory.” I find it important, however, to simply provide the occasion and framework for our family to enjoy – document the adventure through photography & journaling… and share the experience to inspire other families to honor their own sense of history. While I am grateful for our epic journey to Alaska – the time spent sharing time and experiences with my mom, brother and our families could just as easily been accomplished at a weekend retreat, camping in the woods, or overnights at Grandma’s house. Shared experiences are an important aspect of building your family foundation – these common experiences strengthen the bond and connection not only with your own children, but across family ties into aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Not a tangled web we’re weaving – but a strong network of experiences & bonds. Take the time to plan seeds of memories with your own family – and be sure to Enjoy. Document. Share.

Here is this article as originally published in the June/July 2012 issue of True North Parenting Magazine (begins on pg. 38):

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