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The Mythst of Juneau in Spring – Juneau, Alaska, USA

The Mythst of Juneau in Spring

Juneau, Alaska, USA

Excuse the euphemism here, but recently I experienced a walk through the mythst (mist), if you know what I mean!?

It was a ‘rare’ sunny day in Juneau, Alaska. There was no ‘mist,’ but I found myself in one anyway, but I called it a ‘mythst’. I had recently explored a book titled Isis and Osiris, exploring the goddess myth (Jonathan Cott, Doubleday, 1994), and thus, I coined the word. Well, the following is what came out of that reading.

Juneau, Alaska sits in the middle of a northwest coastal rainforest in a maritime climate. On the average it is known to get 222 days of rain per year. The clouds drop onto the ‘hills’ of the Tlingit, according a local Tlingit native named Ben.

“The transplants,” he chuckled, “call them ‘mountains’.”

The sky can’t be seen, but a person can still see within the range of the microclimate bubbles or pockets that the clouds allow, and the misty rain during any given day just doesn’t let up.

There really is a lot of bright side to living in Alaska, the Last Frontier. All of the touristy scenery-scapes, art sales and whales aside, the real bright side is the newness of growth, businesses, economics, and cultural academics. In comparison to the lower forty-eight, it’s anything goes in businesses there, within reason and the law, of course. Many businesses learn as they go, taking baby steps in the raw. Sometimes that can be pretty tough, but everyone is in the same boat, so there is a common thread. Cultural endeavors grow through volunteerism and enthusiasm, and again, anything goes.

Recently I attended a show at the Marie Drake Planetarium. The show’s host needed and was in search of volunteers to keep the planetarium going. According to him the schools and state didn’t offer much, if any, support of it. The state showed no interest and offered no financial assistance to support it. So, Michael, that’s his name, volunteered his time and effort to keep the planetarium alive and well in Juneau, Alaska.

Michael’s personal telescopes were set up outside the night of the show so patrons could view the sun. What a priceless preview of this planet’s premium star to start the evening’s performance. One telescope was set to view sunspots, and the other to view solar flares. Many thought the spots to be lint on the lens. In the other viewer a red ball of fire showed waves of fire leaping off the top of the sun. It was truly awesome. Many avid star-finders found their way to the show and helped Michael hand out flyers and star charts. I helped with instruction to the children on the use of a simple solar viewer and felt like a kid myself when I fully realized the earth’s movement as the sun’s image drifted off the paper.

Michael said, “If you want to join you can volunteer and be my assistant.” Then he said enthusiastically, “I will teach you how to run and operate the machine that holds the stars.”

The machine that holds the stars! What an opportunity! To know how to operate a planetarium star-finder is priceless. Sadness flooded me after such a wonderful hour and half of bliss. That opportunity is out there for someone and the right one will come along, but it was not for me because I would leave Juneau soon.

This planet and star man seemed interested in me and asked if he could call, but not until he returned from his trip…he was leaving the next morning, off to Chicago for two weeks to visit his brother. There was no time to talk so that was that.

Michael is a tall man with short, wiry, gray hair. Effervescent energy oozed from his pores. He had a rather nutty professor look, complete with wire-rim glasses. The night I met him he wore a red shirt, bespecked with yellow swirls that resembled a pool of sunspots (storms on the sun) that seem to dance on the red background. The shirt looked similar to the sunspots seen through the telescope that night. How apropos. Often he mentioned the sun when it appeared on the ceiling of the planetarium dome and referred to it when it rose saying, “Now that’s a rare site in Juneau.”

I was the first on the scene to see the star show. Michael made comments that due to the sunny day that he and I may be the only ones showing up. He was wrong, of course. A lively full house showed up. Shock must have set in, because Michael stumbled a few times in his dialogue and acted as though he forgot or perhaps couldn’t see in the dark to set the longitudes and latitudes. All in all, he did well and it was a great time helping, watching and feeling a part of something for a while.

The photo is a shot of a cruise ship in the harbor taken from steps of the Federal Bldg. downtown and 7 blocks from the Planetarium
The photo is a shot of a cruise ship in the harbor taken from steps of the Federal Bldg. downtown and 7 blocks from the Planetarium
It is awesome to view the sun and how it appears to travel across the sky and to become aware of the rising and setting points during each changing month. It blew me away to watch the earth move. A small solar viewer was set up just for the kids. That alone proved the view of the sunspots were not dust on the lens, and further, one could actually see the earth move. The viewer casts an image of the sun onto a wooden plate covered with paper. The image then continues to travel off the paper – things are not always as they seem.

I felt like the sun, in that here I was so close and yet so far because I wasn’t staying to assist and get to know Michael and the star machine. We count on the sun to give warmth, light, health, and vitamin D. It is close to our hearts and yet so far away physically. We take the sun for granted, as well as, our hearts.

As for me, I have most everything I want and I’m so close to having ‘everything’, and yet total fulfillment is so far because I lack a few things to make it all come together and be real, and like the earth, I rotate, traveling from one place to another. But for one fleeting moment the mist lifted in Juneau and I entered into the mythst instead, where I felt hope, joy, life, or at least, the hope of life.

This man, Michael asked, “Are you single, oh, and are you a local?” And then he asked, “May I call you, or you can just come down here and become a volunteer. You can be my assistant. Here’s my card.”
Printed on the card was Mt. Juneau Observatory, Michael Orelove. For one instant I became Isis and was a part of that great mythst, whereby the myth became real. Mt. Juneau towers above the downtown area at an elevation of 3,576 feet high.

Michael referred to his card explaining, “I’m not actually on Mt. Juneau, I just observe it.”

I wondered if his observation was propagated by the 1972 avalanche that caused the KINY radio tower to fall, were he lives is only blocks from the tower.

Although I was elated to be having a conversation with Michael,just as suddenly sadness deflated me. I was headed out of the area that very week. The sadness I felt was for the dead and not yet resurrected Osiris, the cyclical part of self. The other half, the yin and the yang. All the pros and cons were jumping around inside me. I imagined quarks and neutrinos, coming, going, disappearing and I almost wanted to stay, to see this Michael, to get involved, and resurrect Osiris in total, but alas. For one brief mythsty moment I felt good and now instead of that ‘mythsty’ I was misty again. Sadness does that to me. Takes the sun right out of my life like the spring climate is prone to do in Juneau.
But Michael in his planetarium world has control over the sun. When it rises and sets, where and for how long.

As he said, “Seeing the sun in Juneau is a ‘rare’ event.”

I received a message that night and these words say it best…”as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
[Marianne Williamson - Nelson Mandela used this at his inauguration speech in 1994]

Mr. Orelove’s light shines and I’m thankful I was let to see it and that I have permission to do the same. I am sad that I won’t be shining my light in Juneau right now, but I’m thankful I have permission to. In my life, Michael is a ‘rare’ event.

That’s what Juneau did for me one spring day.

I had become Isis for one mythsty moment.


You can join and/or volunteer with Michael at show times: First Tuesday and Wednesday of each month, 7:00 p.m. in the planetarium (North of Harborview School and South of the Public Swimming Pool).

Call for more information, or to become a volunteer at 907-586-3034.

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