970 – Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood | Agatha Presents
Another dreamy crossover, Agatha presents a dreamy rendition of “The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood” we take a trip via episode 5 into the Tongass National Forest.
Episode 970 – Quiet Journey of Professor Atwood | Agatha Presents
[START OF RECORDING]
SCOOTER: Friends beyond the binary, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…hello my patron peeps, it’s a little singing for my patron peeps.
INTRO: [INTRO MUSIC] Hey, are you up all night tossing, turning, mind racing? Trouble getting to sleep? Trouble staying asleep? Well, welcome. This is Sleep With Me, the podcast that puts you to sleep. We do it with a bedtime story. Alls you need to do is get in bed, turn out the lights, and press play. I’m gonna do the rest. What I’m going to attempt to do is create a safe place where you could set aside whatever’s keeping you awake. That could be, you know, things you’re thinking about on your mind. That could be from the past, present, or future. It could be physical…physical sensations, it could be feelings related to the physical sensations or the thoughts or just feelings that are there, changes in time or temperature or routine, or something else; work schedule, I don’t know, whatever it is that’s keeping you awake.
When I say I don’t know, I mean I don’t know. It’s important but it’s important for me to be here to keep you company and take your mind off of it, too. So, that’s what my job is. The way I’m gonna do it or I propose to do it is I’m gonna send my voice across the deep, dark night, I’m gonna use lulling, soothing, creaky, dulcet tones, pointless meanders, superfluous tangents, and I’m gonna go off-topic and get mixed up, and then…you know, talk about something way too much, kinda like…I don’t know if that’s what the Hokey Pokey’s like. I know I’ve talked about the Hokey Pokey before but this podcast…here’s the thing, and I say wait a second, the tarnished past of the Hokey Pokey probably is out there but…was that game supposed to teach us something? I guess this was the 80s when I was doing it.
I say yeah, blind allegiance to authority figures, Scoots. I say well, then that makes sense. I guess that they…that fits the time period and…’cause you say it was some authority, whoever had the microphone. Most of the time I was doing the Hokey Pokey was at roller…like, at a roller skating birthday party or fundraiser and you would do the Hokey Pokey there. I have no idea how you could actually do it but apparently I did. Maybe that was…well, maybe I was…I mean, I definitely am a different person I am today than I was now. Then, I wasn’t even a person; I was a child, but I don’t think…’cause you put your right foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your right foot in, then you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, and that’s…well, so I was thinking oh yeah, it’s like hey, just follow along. But now I’m saying at bedtime it can feel like that, that’s what it’s all about; you’re turning all around, tossing, turning. But whatever it is if you’re new, I want to give you some info because my regular listeners say Scoots, I love it when you talk about skating parties and then you get mixed up and then it is hard for you to…it’s hard for me to imagine you on four wheels or two wheels. I’d say yeah, it’s hard for me to…I scarcely believe it. But so, oh, if you’re new, I’m glad you’re here. Let me give you some information. If you’re new and you’re skeptical or you’re doubtful or you’re not sure about this show, that’s totally normal. That’s how most people arrive at this podcast.
Maybe you heard about it from somebody or a list somewhere or maybe you’re just searching for a podcast to put you to sleep or take your mind off of stuff. That’s what I do, but it’s kind of like calling a friend across the deep, dark night and you say can you just talk to me about some nonsense for a while, like in a friendly voice to keep me company while I fall asleep? That’s what I’m here to do, so essentially I’m not really here to put you to…to be listened to. You could listen at any point. You can listen along and I’ll be keeping you company for as long as you need to, but the listening is optional. But also, I’m not really here to put you to sleep. I’m here to be your bore-friend, your bore-bae, your bore-cuz, your bore-sib, your bore-bestie, your bore-bruh, and to keep you company while you fall asleep.
So, those are two things if you’re new, and it’s a very common experience not to like this show when you first get here, or not to like it at all. That’s totally cool. This show is not for everybody so no pressure. No pressure to listen, no pressure to fall asleep, no pressure to like me or the podcast. Just see how it goes. Maybe be an…be like well, let me see if I can get used to this or not. That’s what literally hundreds of thousands of people have said; it took two or three tries before I got used to the show. So, it’s okay, and it’s okay if you don’t get used to it. There’s other podcasts you could check out at sleepwithmepodcast.com/nothankyou. That’s a list of other great sleep podcasts and other things I use to take my mind off stuff. So, let’s see, those are those two things.
Other things that can throw new listeners off other than creaky…what are creaky, dulcet tones? Well, a voice that’s neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but on the unpleasant side of…you say well, yeah. That’s creaky, dulcet tones. Pointless meanders, I think I’ve already demonstrated that. Structure of the show can throw new people off and that’s totally normal, too. Our structure is very different. The structure’s very intentional because the goal of the podcast is to ease you into bedtime and to be here for you on a reliable basis twice a week. So, let’s see, so what can I tell you about that? Oh, structure of the show.
The show starts off with a greeting; friends beyond the binary, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls so you feel seen and welcome and you know this show ideally is built on…as I learn more and more about being empathetic and compassionate, like, hopefully that becomes a stronger and stronger foundation of podcasts. Then there’s support for listeners, then there’s support so the podcast can be here for free from sponsors and listener-type stuff, then there’s the intro. Now, this is where…the business throws some people off but some people think the business just carries on to the intro, but really the intro starts on six, eight minutes into the show and goes on and on and on for somewhere between ten and twenty minutes. The intro’s purpose is to ease you into bedtime.
It’s for new listeners to say okay, I kind of barely understand what he’s talking about of what to expect and I think he’s mentioned cup…you know, self-care, not to try to conquer self-care, not to try to conquer sleep but to ease us into bedtime. So, the intro is a way to get some distance from the day. But the regular listeners, as you become a regular listener, if you do, you kinda work it…or you change it up. Listeners change up how they use the show all the time, so these are just some examples. So, the majority of people wind down during the intro, whether they’re getting ready for bed, you know, brushing their teeth, brushing their hair, brushing their pets, maybe even brushing your tub. Give your tub a brush. I mean, one, you might like it, and two, it might be relaxing.
Maybe not though ‘cause you say a light brushing. Maybe do some…I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the best idea ‘cause I’d say that’s more of a scrub, Scoots. I’d say yeah, that’s what my tub said. I’d prefer a scrub than a brush. So, but maybe you’re brushing something else. I don’t know. Trying to think of other things you’d brush that would be pleasant. Maybe brush your rug. That could be a thing. How come…there’s a lot of soothing things people don’t know about. You say, rug brushing…oh, to clean your rugs? No, no, no. Have you never brushed a rug before? Holy moly. What kinda rug you got? Doesn’t matter. Don’t answer it because it could be…if you…what kinda brush you have? Oh boy, are you in for a treat. Oh, you don’t have a rug? You got a floor?
Oh man, you got the…you got a side of a…you ever brushed the side of your sofa? Oh man, it’s one of those things I’ve never tried but I’ve imagined I’ve tried it and it was so chill. Sounds terribly boring and…yeah, oh no, well, I do it while I’m listening to a sleep podcast and I’m unwinding. So, I don’t know, other listeners are in bed getting comfortable and drifting off, other people are stretching or doodling or doing a craft. A small percentage of listeners are falling asleep. Oh, so cozy. He looks so cozy there, oh boy.
2% to 3% of listeners skip ahead about twenty minutes and start the show there ‘cause they want to be closer to where the story starts, and then on Patreon it’s a little bit easier for people that listen all night long or like story-only episodes or like all-intro episodes, and then there’s some people that are starting the show in the middle of the night when they get up, so hello. Good eve…good re-evening to you. We’ll have to think of a good greeting for that. If you’re…listen to this let me know ‘cause goodnight…nighty-night. Maybe that’s what you say after midnight. Instead of saying goodnight you say nighty-night. [00:10:00] Nighty-night blight…I don’t know, I can’t think of any words…empowering words that rhyme with that, but…so, my brain…that was just a long pause. I tried to think of something.
I said all my words are…the only silly word I could think of is tighty-whites but everything else I say well, that’s not very sleepy and tighty-whites aren’t super sleepy, either. Well, tidy ones would be. You say oh boy, your tighty-whities are tidy. Anyway, so, that’s the way the intro kinda…for most people, it eases you into bedtime as part of your wind-down. You’re not necessarily…you don’t necessarily need to fall asleep to it. You could, but it’s designed to give you some distance from the day and then I…then there’s our…more business. That’s just where a lot of companies like it, between the intro and the story, and then we’ll start our bedtime story. Tonight it’s gonna be a crossover episode so it’ll be really, really fun.
If you ever wanted to check it…the podcast out, it’s called The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood. We’ll be covering Episode 5 but it’s just another sleep-style podcast; chill bedtime stories kind of on a Sleep With Me Level; a little bit silly, a little bit immersive, so that’s The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood and we’ll be doing Episode 5 tonight, In the Songass National Forest. So, that’ll be our story, then the show ends with some thank-yous. So, that’s the structure of the show. The other really important thing for you to know other than it’s okay not to like the show — just give it a few tries and that that doesn’t work for everybody — is that the reason I make the show is because I know how it feels tossing, turning, mind racing, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep.
Yeah, I’ve had it all and other ones, too. Yeah, I don’t want to get into it, but…so, if I can help you, whatever you’re going through, get some rest or take your mind off of it or keep you company if you can’t sleep, that’s really important to me. That goes deeper; on the second level is your sleep is important. You deserve a good night’s sleep and if I can help, that makes our world a better place. If you can face the day with a little more energy tomorrow, that’s great and that’s powerful, or if this becomes part of your routine or you graduate from the podcast and you develop your own sleep routine, that’s amazing. So, I’m really glad you’re here. I really hope the podcast can help you. Give it a few tries. I work really hard. I yearn and I strive. I really hope I can help you fall asleep, and here are the ways I’m able to do it for you free twice a week. Thanks.
Alright everybody, this is Scoots and I want to shout out to Ellen and Fitz just in case they’re listening, my friends Ellen and Fitz who introduced me to Chris Mancini who makes the podcast The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood, and I may have talked about this in the intro, but I’m recording this out of order. It’s a sleep podcast. It’s a chill podcast, The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood that Chris makes, and this is gonna be a tribute episode similar in a way to Vast Horizon. I’m gonna turn things over to Agatha because you can’t keep Agatha off the podcast, I guess, and she’s really good at these episodes where she’s taking someone else’s writing and storytelling and putting it in a different context.
But so, then you could also listen to the original version in your podcast app of choice; The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood or there will be links in the show notes that you could just use that’ll be a little bit easier. But I want to thank Chris for letting us use his writing here and create a episode out of it, so it should be pretty fun. So, without further ado…oh, who’s Agatha? Agatha was a…she’s a professional storyteller, or she runs a class in another world. Back a long time ago, we had a couple series called…what were they called? After the Glass Slipper. They were about Cinderella’s life after the glass slipper, but they were really about the life of her stepmother, Agatha. Agatha’s just…we’ve always kept in touch. We come across the universe…has become really close friends.
Currently, Agatha is a teacher and a sentient pit of lentils who teaches class. She lives in a swimming pool and not that that’s very important for any of this, but I know people are saying well, who’s Agatha? I said well, let me try to answer that in the next five hours. But really, so she teaches a class or co-teaches, actually, a class about the myths of her world so she’s big on these…when I say…well, I say hey, I got a myth. Oh, which of the great books is it from? I said, Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood. Oh, wow. So, here…without further ado, here’s Agatha. She may refer to you as children even though, you know, she means it in a…she’s used to teaching children but she also talks to me like a child, so what…and I say well, don’t you work for me, technically? So, without further ado, here’s Agatha the storyteller.
Oh, hello, hello, hello everyone. This is Agatha, your friend, your teacher, and hopefully I tell this tale from The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood with great aplomb. I’ve listened to the show a few times. I really enjoy it. I use it to relax. Scooter has to…he said…I said can I take your phone or a phone like…? He says no, you can’t take my phone into another world. It would disrupt time-space. This tale does have some time-space mentions. So anyway, this is…and we’ll see how many episodes we get in here, but this is from the podcast The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood, Episode 5, Hiking into the Forest. This is where Jonathan travels to Alaska’s Songass National Forest…Tongass National Forest which is the fourth-biggest forest with 26,256 square miles in total area.
Oh, I forgot you don’t believe…even in my world…even…did you know even gnomes use the metric system in my world? Gnomes, orcs, and orgs both use the metric system. Anyway, welcome back. Okay, this is Episode 5 and I’m speaking as your friend Professor Atwood and…as your narrator, and we’re just getting started. Now, you may have noticed our adventures don’t always have consistent lengths and that’s true. That’s really just the nature of adventuring. Some will be shorter, some will be longer. It’s not really up to me so much; it’s about what’s in store for me and let’s be honest, who among us really knows what’s waiting? So many good things and so many positive surprises.
I mean, we could talk time travel and visiting the future but then you have paradoxes and that’s what you say…Scooter even told me that joke; I got it. What does a pair of…what does a pair of suburban dad…what do you call a pair of pants on suburban dads? Paradoxes. Not anymore though, Scooter said. Now it’s…any…oh, so, time-related things, the inclement time weather. I’ve hinted about this earlier; nothing’s predictable. Even if you could see into the future, what you’re seeing is a possible future that could alter just by you observing it, like that movie with heroes. I snuck…I learned how to stream. I come from my world, the world of castles and horses and carriages. I like that Paul Rudd. No one asks me in my world, Agatha, who’s your favorite movie star?
I say well, I prefer someone that’s a star of television and film; Paul Rudd. They say like mud? I say well, yes, I love mud. I love Paul Rudd, but he’s great. He was in a time heist. That’s why I thought of it. He’s also heisted my heart, though I would…if anyone could love a woman who’s a sentient pit of lentils, I wonder if it could be Paul Rudd in another world that he’s not a part of that…okay, I gotta get back to the story, though. We’ve got uncertainty, time variants, principles, fluidity, linear nature. You gotta take that stuff with a grain of salt, science salt. If you get too bogged down in the mechanics, you risk losing the bigger picture. Time is like one of those Magic Eye paintings that was popular a while back.
You could only see the whole thing if you look at it from a specific angle and a specific distance, and sometimes no matter how hard people try, they can never see it. Sometimes it’s more important to peer into the present to really see what’s going on in front of you, which is what we’ll be…[00:20:00] I’ll be looking for on this next journey so take a step back, broaden your perspective, and when you’re dealing with the present you always want to make sure you can see the time forest for the time trees. Now, speaking of trees, I thought I’d go on a solo hike for my next journey. Like I said before, sometimes it’s great to have your own crew. Sometimes you get to meet a new crew like I, Professor Atwood, boarded Captain Flynn’s boat, and sometimes you just go it alone.
Professor…oh, Bradley was going on vacation so the timing worked out. Now, what does a lab explorer’s assistant…where do…does a lab explorer’s assistant go on vacation? I mean, when your job’s to go to places that are very interesting or to prepare someone else for those places, where do you go to relax? Well, Brad like those all-inclusive resorts and I don’t blame him. The less planning he has to do, the better. That’s his job. It’s interesting that most of these resorts plan all these activities for you and he likes to have the option, but mostly he just wants to go somewhere and have the option of doing things and choose not to do them, and I get that. Also, there was no pending experiments and all of the plants were hibernating, so there was nothing for him to take care of.
I told him to have a great time and to take lots of pictures of him not doing anything. But he said that taking pictures was doing something, so he couldn’t guarantee it. Oh, that Bradley. You know, that reminds me of another person, ‘cause then Scooter started letting me watching movies with him and I thought it was funny that the man who portrays…he’s some sort of Norwegian god or something. Oh boy, is he…oh boy. But he called a racoon a rabbit and that was a gag on two or three movies which I found every time I laughed, and Scooter laughed, too. But the man who played…so, it took a while because…this is why I’m not supposed to come to your world and do these things, these electronic things. Don’t worry; I mean, I’m not gonna tell anybody in my world anything about it except Paul Rudd and Thor.
But what was my point? Oh, Bradley. So I said, that racoon is from…is not a human…from a human world. Scooter said no, and then he said CGI. I said what you saying? Then he explained and eventually he introduced me to another Bradley. Oh boy, Bradley Cooper. No one believes…so, I was again with some of Scooter’s family and I said did you know Bradley Cooper’s that voice? They said no, it’s not. I said yes, it is. That’s…so, that got me banned from your world for a while ‘cause it was a heated disagreement. Okay, back to our story, though. But before Bradley left, he had prepared everything for my journey. I was going for a hike. Not just any hike; I was going to Alaska’s Songass National Forest. The Songass is the nation’s largest national forest and covers most of southeast Alaska.
It’s bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the coast mountains and the Canadian border on the east, and spans five hundred miles of southeast Alaska. It is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. Now, coastal temperate rainforests are very rare, at least of course like I said before, like the ones you know about. They only occur in about six places outside of Alaska. The vast majority of Alaska’s coastal temperate rainforests are old growth which means exactly how it sounds. It consists of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaska yellow cedar. Alaska yellow cedar…mature coastal temperate rainforests are extraordinarily complex and stable habitats. Over thousands of years, many wildlife species have evolved to exploit this habitat.
Habitat…interesting how I say that, but understanding the complexity of this habitat is only now beginning to be understood and much more scientific study is needed. It’s not really my thing. Professor Atwood, of course, I’m speaking as, but I have had some colleagues studying it. But I doubt I’ll run into any of them without a helicopter and I promised myself this was one hike where I would not bring the helicopter. Now, at roughly the size of West Virginia, Songass National Forest is also the largest national forest in the US and a home to approximately 70,000 people living in thirty-two communities including the state capital Juneau. Now, the First Peoples have continuously inhabited the Songass for more than 10,000 years, residing with salmon, bears, wolves, eagles, and whales.
Living from the land is still a way of life there, kind of a tradition and necessity since there’s plenty of fish and wildlife in the region. Well, not all-year-round but as much as I like hiking, chances are you won’t find me in Alaska in the middle of the winter. Now, I knew the train…terrain, some of the terrain would be unforgiving but I wanted to make sure I brought everything I needed. So, I…oh, I sat…Bradley and I upgraded my satellite phone for emergencies. I wonder if I…Professor Atwood, I could borrow that so I wouldn’t have a…’cause then I wouldn’t have trouble getting a signal. I would also be use…bringing the usual hiking and camping gear; backpack, phone, GPS, rope, analog compass…this is like…the compass is…like one-half of the Podman; not the first half…maps, books on lore about the forest, food, water, first aid kit, rappelling of forest friends, a small portable power source, a few changes of clothes, and my portable mandolin.
Oh, I could hear the strings playing for me right now. What’s great is it sounds like an actual mandolin but through remarkable acoustic engineering, it is the size of a small ukulele or ukulele. I think those are both correct. So, I was ready to go when I flew into the Ketchikan Airport and now, that in of itself was a bit unexpected ‘cause you’d think the Ketchikan Airport would be in Ketchikan but it isn’t; it’s on another island and you have to take a ferry from the airport to get to Ketchikan. Once there, I took a crisp, clean breath full of mountain air and just soaked it in as the water gently broke against the docks. The town was amazing. It’s so beautiful, almost like a coastal Italian town. You have a port, the city, beautiful trees and mountains all crammed lovingly into the same space, like everything is trying to be in the picture you’re about to take and get crammed in there.
It was just what I was hoping for. This is very relaxing. Even telling this story is relaxing me. The town itself has great food. I don’t think it’s called the salmon capital of the world for nothing. The problem is, I don’t like salmon. I know by now you’re thinking Professor Atwood is quite a picky eater. You should try having a diet when you’re a sentient pit of lentils. It really restricts your dietary…actually, I don’t even…I’m self-sustaining which is…that confuses me as well. Now, this is not…that was me speaking, not Professor Atwood. But I will say this as Professor Atwood; as a picky eater, when you find something that’s truly great, you enjoy it all the more, like when I was in the UK and they served me fish and chips. So, while I passed on the salmon, I had some crab cakes for dinner and it turned out just fine.
[00:30:00] Then after dinner I was not ready to turn in, so I went down to Creek Street and stopped in a club that had live music. It was jazz night and I was worried about sitting in but then I saw somebody brought a washboard, so I didn’t feel odd about it at all. Normally, they don’t let washboards and mandolin players sit in but they seemed to make an exception for me and my new washboard friend Benny. Oh, I liked…that reminds me of Benny the Cab, or Benny and the Jets. Benny and this washboard. Benny and their washboard, actually, Agatha. He was actually pretty good. We did a lot of riffing long into the evening and the jazz trio Running Cog…Running Cod were very magnanimous, so I can’t say I’m a professional like they were. Turns out Benny was, though.
He was a studio washboard player and he was just there on vacation. I was ready to head back to the hotel but Benny suggested we go to the midnight lumberjack show. Turns out there’s an actual lumberjack show in Ketchikan but there’s an underground show at midnight just for locals, but Benny said he could get me in there, you know. You can’t explore without trying new things, so I said sure. So, we went through a hidden door at the back of a local tavern and entered a really large room with a pile of sawdust spread out at the center. Now, I as Professor Atwood but I as Agatha am learning every day and familiar with traditional lumberjack competitions with axes and log-rolling and log-sawing, log-climbing. A lot of things to do with logs, basically, but I didn’t see anything like that set up here.
In fact, there wasn’t even one log in the room. But the competitors soon arrived and the crowd cheered. A few people gave Benny and I some subtle, annoyed glances knowing I was an outsider, but Benny assured everyone I was cool. Now, it turns out there was only two competitions for the underground lumberjack show, and the first was making flapjacks. Two stoves wheeled out and the two competitors, after donning hair nets, got ready to face one another. Now, I didn’t catch their names so I just referred to them as Big Beard and Little Beard. Now, Big Beard definitely understood flapjacks. Now, just as a aside about flapjacks — this is Professor Atwood; not Agatha — they’ve been around for centuries; 30,000 years ago, possibly during the Stone Age.
They may have even found pancakes in the stomach of Ötzi the ice person and that’s 5,300 years ago which is not easy to figure out. But I guess you could make educated guesses. Now, in Ancient Greece and Rome, pancakes were made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and milk with curdy-poos. Ancient Greek poets Cratinus and Magnese wrote about pancakes in their poetry. Can you imagine being so infatuated with food, you write poetry about it? Oh, pancake, oh pancake, I’d like to taste you. But Scooter won’t let me come to his place to have them. Boo-hoo. He says I’m from a world where pancakes don’t exist, but then I taught the ogres and the orgs to make them. Tsk-tsk. But also, I’m a sentient pit of lentils, so I don’t really eat a lot of pancakes. Okay. Also, Scooter doesn’t…he said why you gotta sit on my couch?
He said let me put a blanket down first. He says after I leave, people will…he says he rarely has guests anyway, but even people delivering something will say what is that smell? Reminds me a bit of pea soup. Okay, back to the story, though. As Professor Atwood, I’m a picky eater, so most I would do is a haiku but I’d have to be pretty inspired. Now, the name pancake started in the 15th century but became standard in the 19th century of America. Johnnycakes, Johnnycakes, buckwheat cakes, griddle cakes, flapjacks. Early American pancakes were made with buckwheat or cornmeal. Thomas Jefferson loved them so much he sent a recipe to his hometown from the White House. But back to this competition. Big Beard was flipping his cakes with the knowledge of a flapjack historian, but Little Beard was still mixing his batter.
One tip I learned; don’t over-mix the batter. Soon, both were on the griddle and competition was heating up, so to speak, and there was many mix-in options; blueberries, chocolate chips, all with different point values. I wonder if there was a Triple Sow Cow or a Lutz for pan…pancake competition version of that. So, while the judges were do it…doing their judging, both contestants were still…oh wait; no, I missed a thing here. Benny told me that last week someone made a crepe and they were disqualified but it was so delicious they said you’re only disqualified for a month. Now, Big Beard seemed like he was in the lead but Little Beard was not to be defeated. Like, maybe he had a trick up his sleeve. Soon, the pancakes were plated and served to the judges.
While the judges did their judging, both contestants went back to their griddles to keep cooking. Oh, this is nice; they made enough flapjacks for everyone which was a house courtesy of attending the underground lumberjack show. If I, Professor Atwood, hadn’t had such a great dinner earlier, then my mouth would have been watering ‘cause the flapjacks smelled so good. But I declined as I was full. Now, Benny was not and he devoured his flapjacks; bananas, almonds, and blackberries. When the judges announced the winner, it was an upset and Little Beard had won. Turns out Little Beard had taken his time to get just the right ratio of cornmeal in his flapjack to make a buttermilk-Johnnycake hybrid.
So, I took one of those later and I felt like this was almost historic, like I wouldn’t want to miss it, like I didn’t want to just pass on the pancakes. I like pancakes but I don’t even think this hybrid pancake is going to make me write haikus. We’ll see. Then it was time for the second competition and it was a true, honest-to-goodness dance-off. One person was dressed as a fuzzy friend. Now, obviously people say do you have good peripheral vision when you’re in that dancing suit? A dancing furry suit, and also if you’re gonna be on the dance floor with someone else, you say do you really have good peripheral vision? You’re sharing the dance floor with another dancer. Believe it or not, if you run a dance club, these are the kind of things you need to be aware of and create ordinances around.
So, this was a dance, and so the first person…the first requirement was to do a dance called the Backpack. I think that’s how they warm up. So, we got ready for it. We got ready to watch it and it was again, the same competitors; Big Beard versus Little Beard versus…oh, so three dancers…versus someone dancing in a furry…fun friend outfits. Big Beard and Little Beard had taken off their flannel and suspenders and really got…well, they put on sunscreen. Interesting; I guess to make the…because they were gonna shine like a diamond in the sky, shine bright like a diamond. This is another reason…so, okay, so this is why I went second, obviously, ‘cause they…you don’t want anybody cooking after they’ve been slathered in sunscreen. You say, my pancakes smell like coconut but taste like something.
Okay, so they were good dancers, though, both Big Beard and Little Beard, but as the…you know, they have those shows — Scooter won’t let me watch them — the secret singer and the dancer in disguise. I’ve brought the…those are the ones I call it in my world. So, one time I dressed up an [00:40:00] ogre as a turtle and that was who won. Of course, I’m the only judge. But anyway, they…the dancing was going on and on and on. It was very good and people were clapping and cheering. It went on for a long time and everyone was getting tired but then someone would pull out a new move or a new genre or the DJ, or they’d go from a DJ to a live band. It seemed like Big Beard had a little bit more energy and Little Beard got tired maybe from focusing on the cooking too much. Big Beard just kept on dancing with joy.
Even the furry dancer got tired out, and Big Beard won. By then, Benny and I were just tired from the competition and we said our goodbyes, wished each other well. He had to get on a flight to head back for a famous studio session with someone and I had to get on to my hike. So, I went to bed. I closed my eyes and I got comfortable. I listened to some more of the adventures of…the Quiet Adventures of Professor Atwood to fall asleep which, you know, it was relaxing. Then I drifted off. The next day I woke up and I was ready to go, ready to head into the Songass National Forest. I did not have to go far because it was right there, because if something is 16.7 million acres, there’s plenty of places to explore. Now, I knew I needed to go where I needed to go, so I got started and I checked my GPS to make sure I was on track.
I do want to say one thing about exploring and camping; have a buddy. Make sure you got a buddy. I’m Professor Atwood but if you’re heading out there, you also want to have redundant communications, a way to get in touch with Bradley if you need to. I mean, I was…I had a plan. I had a check-in system for me because with my GPS phone and satellite phone and Bradley…but have a backup. So, say okay, I’ll talk to you at 2:00 PM. But you could always bring someone. I’m Professor Atwood so I’m professor…I always have my professor part of me…my…daytime professor, evening professor, and not a professor are all parts of me. But bring a friend, then you have someone to talk to. I’m talking to you, of course. You could even bring a four-legged friend along, like a puppy-poo.
I don’t think you should bring a cat unless you’re going to carry them the whole time, and then what if they get sick of you and they say well, I want to go…then you could…so, don’t bring your cat unless you have a tree fort. This is some sort of place…I don’t know if they could have a tree house for cats. You say well, this is where you drop your cat off when it’s sick of being…when you’re hiking but your cat’s had enough of you. But one time I encountered someone who had a dog but no shirt. I said, that’s interesting. You don’t have a shirt at all or you’re just walking around shirtless? They said oh, man, it’s time to blaze, you know? It’s 420. I said oh, interesting, interesting. Okay, then. I’m confused but you seem mixed up too. So, I walked slowly into the forest and I started on a well-worn trail.
I walked step by step, foot after foot. I had good ankle coverage and good socks, too. Those are very important things to have when you’re in the forest; socks that wick your moisture away. Also one of the things I like about hiking is saying oh boy, are these dogs barking when I take my shoes out of my boots. When I’m alone, it can’t bother anyone, you know. I can just say it to myself and laugh. Another thing to remember; I started going…these lesser-known trails is to be respectful and to think about that as you’re walking and to say okay, there isn’t anything else I need to do outside of my hike. One of the things I did was…as Professor Atwood, I have solar-powered portable air conditioners that I’ve distributed in the area. But anyway, I’m just going off-topic here.
As I walked deeper into the forest, the tree canopy above me got thicker, so I knew I was leaving the modern world behind. Now, this is not the same as an Amazonian rainforest. The sounds are not the same. They’re not…they don’t have the same level of intensity where it sounds like life is teeming in every square inch. Here in Alaska, everyone and everything…there’s a little bit more space, a little bit more quiet. I felt the gentle breeze with a hint of coolness to it and I heard birds chirp overhead and little forest friends scurrying around, looking at me saying oh, is that a professor walking? A deer was having a snack and looked up at me, and just looked me over but went back looking for salt, I believe, to lick. That’s one thing I’ve learned as Professor Atwood, is that deer don’t like human-made salt licks.
Or, at least we never see deer using them. So, I don’t know if that’s because…if they…they do use them, though; I’ve seen them, but maybe they just don’t want us…they appreciate the effort. Deer feel…they…that’s their natural…this is their natural habitat, looking for salt. It’s not a big deal. They have to get ready for winter, and other forest friends, but this was my favorite part of the hiking. The forest got quiet but not silent; just turned down. I could sense I was alone in a way that let my chest open up. It let my muscles go loose. I was on the path less-traveled. Now, I never really told you where in the forest I was headed but here’s the thing; I may have hinted at the destination, but we’re gonna have a little surprisey-poo. You’ll know when I get there, I assure you. But for now, let’s keep peering into the present.
I crossed many streams filled with salmon and began to climb a steep mountain. I found the path I was looking for and soon was at the top, and the view was incredible. I was almost two hundred feet above sea level and the air was the crisp and cleanest I’ve ever breathed, and I breathe a lot of air. My whole life I breathed, but at various elevations. I mean, you also have the obvious reasons why the air was so good; I was miles from anything human-made, from factories and those things. Many people forget that the air we breathe all over the world, most of it comes from forests like these. Plants relief…release oxygen into the atmosphere and absorb carbon dioxide. Now, this process is called photosynthesis and I’m sure you’re aware of that because maybe you learned it in school. Maybe not, though.
Plants, algae, and other friends use the sun’s energy to create organic matter. Photosynthesis…photosynthetic life forms use light energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. This is why plants and algae are crucial to earth’s biosphere because…I feel like I’m on a ride at Epcot Center right now. I’m loving this, the Songass attraction, because they regulate the atmosphere’s…earth, ocean…oxygen content. Agatha’s having trouble talking. Now, thankfully the plants and trees don’t seem to mind doing this, so think of a forest as a oxygen air factory. The closer you are to the source, the better it smells, kind of like a Maine lobster in Maine. But at the end of the day, [00:50:00] it’s still a friend swimming around. You’re going to enjoy it to some degree either way.
So, I’m standing on top of the mountain in the middle of this natural air factory and I let my lungs slowly fill with something special. The pure air, the pure breeze, and now the beautiful view all give me a deep sense of comfort and serenity, and the beautiful view gave me a deep sense of comfort. I sat there for hours taking it all in. I even watched the sunset. The colors of the sunset over the forest are different than watching it over the ocean but they’re both something to behold. As you can imagine, the forest sunset has a bit more earth tones but both are warm and soothing. Now, after sunset it was time to make camp. Normally you’d have your camp set up before the sun went down but since me, Professor Atwood, scientist and explorer, I’m not always the best at roughing it.
I mean, sometimes it’s necessary but when it isn’t necessary, it’s when you choose to do it but sometimes I choose not to do it…was what I normally do. So, I had had my campsite air-lifted in about two hours ago while I was enjoying the sunset with my drone friends and GPS and air traffic control at Ketchikan. You know, Steve and Bill, they know the drill. Anything I need; when I’m gonna spelunk or even the team…but tonight it was an inflatable climate-controlled tent, biodegradable fire pit, and a chef-prepared meal of fresh salmon cakes which I asked the chef was appropriate because the term baked Alaska was once upon a time. They had offered it as a dessert when I ordered it, with extra meringue. It was coined at Antoines, a restaurant first…it was first coined at a restaurant called Antoines in New Orleans, Louisiana by Chef Antoine in 1867 to honor the acquisition of Alaska.
But he said it was just a dessert. I shouldn’t off…read too much in it. He also offered crème brûlée as a substitute but I went with the baked Alaska. After dinner I sat up and read for a bit in the light of my custom fire pit, adjusted the flame, and played my portable mandolin freestyle. There’s something about playing a mandolin in the middle of a forest that really makes you feel like you’re back in time. I felt like I was camping out in a enchanted forest full of mystery. But I knew I wasn’t, but I still felt like it. It felt good and I felt the music and maybe even the forest felt it, too. Like, some connected memory from an earlier time and place; the trees, maybe a jester traveling through this area and the rest of his…the parties [inaudible] take it out and play the mandolin here.
I also set up a salt lick for the deer because I like an audience and I was hoping the deer would come for the salt lick out of courtesy even though I know, like I said, that they’re ambivalent to salt…human salt licks and string instruments. It also helped me…gave a chance to view the wildlife without getting out of my hydraulic camping chair. But only a few deer came which was disappointing. Probably the rest had made up an excuse not to come by for my salt lick or my performance, so I closed my performance with a song I was working on about a castle floating in the sky over a rainbow, but I always get stuck trying to justify the blue…the light being refracted by the water droplets to form the rainbow and how that would hold up the castle.
After I finished, the few deer that were there gave me a nod in a satisfied way and trotted into the woods. I was getting pretty tired and knew it was time to turn off the fire pit and get some rest. Now, the tent itself was going to keep me warm. I did not need a sleeping bag or a blanket because it was climate controlled and came with an inflatable bed right in the floor. Now, I know this might sound like Professor Atwood does not like communing with nature but I use the technology as a part of it. I love being outside and I love nature but I also like to sleep well. Now, the next morning I set out to do what I had traveled to do, visit a glacier up close, or more specifically, a special glacier that was different from all the others. Now, continental ice sheets shaped the landscape of southeastern Alaska over millions of years.
The slow-moving ice carved deep fjords and created mountain summits and transported sediment and debris onto the landscape, so the glaciers really did shape Alaska. Many of the Songass glaciers empty into glacial lakes or rivers, flowing from under the ice until it eventually reaches the sea. Ice breaking off from the glaciers and crashing into the sea is called calving…calving. Glaciers that calve directly into the sea are known as tidewater glaciers. There’s a lot of glaciers in Songass National Forest but I was looking for one in particular. First, you could get it to it by land. Some were only accessible by boat. The glacier I wanted was South Sawyer glacier, but it’s further east. There’s mountain goats that make a lot of noise on South Sawyer glacier, so they sound like they’re irritated with the glacier.
I made it to the glacier I was looking for. It was a smaller glacier that no one else seemed to bother with. I got up on the face of it and I felt like I was looking in a giant, icy mirror reflecting my image back at me. At the same time, I felt like the world was also being reflected in that ice; where we’ve been, where we’re going. Time slowed down. Even the reflection seemed to shimmer with a slower passage of time. I had found what I was looking for. I had found the Soul glacier of Songass National Forest, steeped in history and mysticism. No one’s quite sure how it worked. I mean, some have theories.
Glacier ice appears blue when it has become free of bubbles and years of compression make the ice denser over time, forcing out tiny air pockets between crystals, and when the glacier ice becomes dense, the ice absorbs an amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in the reflected light which is what we see. When the glacier appears white, that usually means there are tiny air bubbles still in the ice. My theory is every air bubble may contain a soulful memory or insight. Anyone who’s been here, from the First Nations people to tourists, I can’t seem to quite get enough of it. Maybe this glacier stores these and mixes them together over thousands of years and millions of bubbles. The Soul glacier is like a spiritual supercomputer, for lack of a better term.
Maybe it peers into you and finds a memory and makes a copy to store in its ice air bubble matrix. Hopefully it gives you an insight in return, or maybe not. It’s murky; it’s possible it’s just reflecting its enchanting icing…icy facade for you to pick your own insight. But as I stared into that icy wall, I saw many shimmering colors and many reflections; some of me, and some of another place. It was a small glacier but when you’re staring deep into it, it looks like it could go on forever and inside, it really seems to do just that. As I stared into the glacier and my reflection at the same time, a sense of peace washed over me, saying…the glacier saying I see you but in a kind way, like a parent to a child. I mean, maybe I felt a little bit condescended but the glacier has been around a lot longer than I have.
I saw myself and like most people, I saw that I wasn’t perfect. I had made mistakes, things I would have done differently. Like, maybe I should have worked at NASA after I got that PhD instead of exploring. Maybe I could have had my rocket propulsion system ready to go faster, but water under the science bridge, I suppose. [01:00:00] But when you look at yourself, you have to see the whole package and the Soul glacier is pretty insistent about that. I saw the good and the bad, the achievements and the setbacks, and the successful experiments and the not-so successful ones. The glacier wanted me to see it all and I did, and I got my insight which was this; when you look in the mirror, there’s always room for improvement, so respect that and take it to heart.
But at the same time, be generous and know that knowledge and improvement are lifelong pursuits. No one is ever done early. We’re seeking knowledge and improvement. I have to say I was tired after that and to make things more interesting, it had just started to snow which was unusual for this time of year. I have a feeling my moment with the glacier had something to do with it. But it was always a good time to be prepared, so Bradley had my exit team planned right by to pick me up. I was surprised but glad I did not have to work to get back. I took a sled back to Ketchikan and I have to say it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Not everyone got along and we saw a rabbit and then some of our friends chased the rabbits.
But soon I was back in Ketchikan and I made the ferry back to the airport and it was time to go home. When I got home there was a CD, a compact disc waiting in the mail for me from Benny. He had sent me his washboard solo CD. It sounded pretty good. I can see why he’s in demand. I sat down in my recliner, thinking about where I had just been. I mostly thought about the glacier and what I had seen, not just what was inside but what it had reflected back at me, giving me a gentle reminder, like here you are right here and now and this is who you are at this very moment. I think that stuck with me the most. The trip home gave me more time to think and to get some clarity on what the Soul glacier was trying to show me.
Mirrors reflect us in a more manufactured way, so when nature makes a mirror, it reflects something deeper, and it’s something to pay attention to. It tells us to look deeper at our reflection, that it’s in our nature to be curious, to explore, and to learn, and then with that knowledge, to be a better person. I got it and I was grateful for the journey and grateful for the insight. Thanks everyone, and keep exploring. Goodnight from Agatha and from Professor Atwood, and of course Bradley, for…Bradley, oh, and Paul Rudd, too. Goodnight.
[END OF RECORDING]
- Coastal Temperate Rainforest
- Many Mix-In Options
- “Oh boy, these dogs are barking”
- “The Quiet Journeys of Professor Atwood” Podcast
- “Benny and the Jets”
- The Dancer in Disguise
Notable Talking Points:
- The lessons of blind allegiance taught by hokey pokey
- Benny and their Washboard
- The Crispest Air Ever Breathed