It was gusting N.E. well over 50 mph today, my house on the cliff a direct hit. The windows bowed enough under the blasts to rattle the fancy glasses sitting on the sill. The water in the toilet surged all day. My 2 down-south guests are loving it for its relief from the Louisiana heat, and its drama. For me, it's not quite as exciting. It's been blowing most of September, and it will blow even harder this winter. The wind does stop, eventually, and the seas do calm, eventually, and we even have days when the sun appears---momentarily.
This did not happen for Homecoming last week, which was a dual celebration. We were inaugerating a new artificial turf field which would enable the playing of football on a green carpet rather than in a vale of mud. The whole town was excited. But it rained and blew up another gale that day, which made the Homecoming games and celebrations more of a test of endurance.
Kodiakans pretty much carry on no matter the weather, and we try to be happy, but it can be a Herculean task to muster a smile after days and weeks of rain and wind.
This last Sunday, as the branches of a mountain ash the windows in the wind, the sun suddenly broke through. We tried not to stare. The sermon was from the book of James, "What is Your Life?" from the question James asks in an existential moment. The answer is not terribly comforting: "for you are a mist that appears for a short while and then vanishes." The text could just as easily have said, "For you are like the sun in Kodiak, that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
Who wants to hear how fleeting our lives are? Who does not know this? How does this help us cope with a northern geography and a lousy climate?
Strangely, it does. When winter settles in for 8 - 9 months, when the most we can hope for is one or two pleasant days a week, we dig in deep. We try to figure out what life is really about. We conclude it's more than wearing cute strappy sandals on the way to the beach, sipping cosmopolitans poolside, having tailgate parties at Homecoming games, going to concerts-on-the-grass, playing golf and worrying about sunburn. We can't do any of these things. Instead we gather in coffee shops and each other's houses. We cook for one another.
We run together in gale force winds. We go to church and hang around for hours. We shovel each others' driveways. We stand at track meets wrapped in sleeping bags and talk with one another, whether we know each other or not. It doesn't matter. The weather clots us together like clouds under the winds. We're all neighbors, all 14,000 of us.
The long long winters make our lives feel long as well, longer than a mist in the sun. We're not frittering away our days. We're working hard. To keep company with one another. To love the place we've landed. To find as much good as can be found. To do the good we should.
That's why we'll live longer here. Maybe not in length of days, but in fullness of days. In fullness of intent and purpose.
"What is your life?"
I think I know.