It’s one of those days when you don’t know if you will leave or stay. When the clouds hover and the fog wreaths the base of the mountains. Are the bush planes flying? Maybe. Duncan and I run to the store one last time, this time for lettuce and milk, the perishables, we pack and tape and carry and hoist, watching the clock, watching the clouds and fog. We suspend our disbelief. We practice faith. We drive to the airport.
The tiny terminal, one small room, becomes our waiting room. The pilot comes out, hems and haws. We look at the ceiling again. “It’s a bit iffy. You want to go?” I always want to go. Duncan too. We say yes. He leaves, comes back again. “We’ll have to go on the outside, can’t make it through the usual passes. You want to wait for another day?” This means it will be nearly an hour flight instead of 30 minutes, that we’ll follow the cliff and shoreline rather than cut straight across the mountains of the interior of Kodiak Island. I cannot wait another day. My children have been there without me for days already.
“If you’re comfortable, we’d like to go.” Duncan says. I shake my head in agreement.
“Okay, then, Let’s go!”
We take off. I am not nervous or anxious as the earth sinks beneath us and our floor is now the grey slate ocean, As we rise into the sky and fog, which now become the curtains out our tiny windows. The weather is ambivalent this day, undecided, but it lets us pass through its shrouds and cloaks of clouds and its steamy broth of fog. Twenty minutes in, we come to a bay and a soupy mountain pass we cannot cross. The pilot banks hard right, we rise and choose another path. I trust the pilot. I trust the God who guides the pilot. I trust I will not die today. We climb another way and pass through snowy slopes now, dipping between close white shoulders. We break suddenly into green and rock, there on cliffs the mountain goats, We fly for nearly an hour before landing on a gravel strip, twisting in a sudden wind.
I am leaving one island to fly to another. It’s not far away, just a few hours. Just a ride in the clouds away, then just a plow through the sea away. But our island is another universe, another planet. No matter how many years I have come (this is my 39th season) I feel every mile. The distance is real. The air breathes, the plane bumps, the sea stews, the skiff bounces, we get wet, This trip requires our attention. I do not sleep, ever, in a 5 person plane. I do not sleep in the boat, ever. I watch. I listen. I take photos. I do not speak. If I sleep, I think the plane might crash. If I close my eyes, surely the boat will sink. This water, sky and mountain must be seen and attended to. If we do not see this beauty and power around us, surely we will die. Surely we are already dead . . .
Our mosquito plane lands on the gravel strip with a rumble. We ride a cannery van from the airstrip to the cannery. We pack our boxes to the beach. We climb into the skiff and start the 7 mile run home. It takes 25 minutes. Our skiff finally turns the final corner and there it is. My island. My home.
As I face this new season,I wonder, What kind of life will we live in this place this summer? How many fish? Will we finally get a decent price? How many storms? How many days mending net? How much sleep lost? How much loneliness? How near to God? How overworked? How unseeing and bored? How many tears? How much joy? How much fear?How much love?
I have already heard that two bears have swum over. The generator broke down. The oil stove isn't working so we don't have hot water. And we are a gang this year. There will be 12 of us most of the time. Sometimes 16. For a couple of these weeks, there will be 25. Can I do this? Just thinking about all of this overwhelms me. But then I remember. Duncan and I stumbled upon the shore of this island 30 years ago when there was nothing here but two shacks. We had no children. We had no profession other than fishing. Our hands were small., our backs narrow. And slowly year by year children came from our bodies, buildings rose from our hands, friends arrived, crew came, the table grew and grew. And we grew too. Our hands enlarged, got stronger. Our backs grew broader. Our hearts grew larger. How did this happen?
Yes, we are weak, we are always weak, and He is always strong, but how can I forget that He makes us strong too?! (Click to Tweet)
Strong enough to believe that every breaking morning will deliver what is needed. Strong enough to remember how He’s done that my whole life. I look around at my island again, at all He has done here already. There WILL be enough food, enough strength, enough love, enough fish, enough sleep, enough joy. Hasn't it always been so, even in the hardest times?
The fog is gone here on this side of the island. I know what to do. The skiff lands on the beach. All I have to do now is step out of the boat, out of my doubt.
All I have to do is carry these boxes to the house,
Look now at these happy arms that greet me.