I am still Outside as I write and send this off. Still a refugee from the unrelenting storms and hurling winds that seem to go on for weeks and months in the winter. Our poor house on the cliff has lost her grand posture. She slumps and huddles and even occasionally sniffles like a martyr against the onslaught.
This week, when I occasionally felt survivor's guilt for running around in the California sun with my husband and sons when friends back home were battling storm, rain and snow (though not much snow this year), I remembered Mike Doogan's words, "In winter, Real Alaskans do not go outdoors. Real Alaskans go to Hawaii."
While traveling Outside, I had many moments of oppositional emotions: envy and love for parts of your lives, dear readers, most of whom live Outside----and not a few moments of recoil, suddenly recalling why I left it all for Kodiak Island 37 years ago. Here, an honest partial accounting, starting maybe
**Real Alaskans try to be upbeat and cheerful when people pump us for information about visiting Alaska, (even when we know they're trying to finagle a weeklong invitation to our fish camp, now that they've sat beside us for two hours on a plane). But Real Alaskans believe in their state and answer questions politely, even enthusiastically at times.
**This Alaskan loves the smooth highways, when you're not even sure you're making contact with the earth. Some of these ribbons are not real highways---they are Kodiak roads dreaming . . . .
Versus-------Actual potholes of a busy Kodiak street. Caution: holes deeper than they appear. Drunk drivers are easy to spot---they are the only ones NOT veering dangerously all over the road.
**I love knowing I'll see the sun often, but every day I'm here I'm still shocked---yet ANOTHER day of sun?? How do I deserve this??
But I Hate that I feel so guilty when I "waste" this precious resource by not being out in it EVERY minute!
**I love the possibility of driving ANYWHERE since there are roads nearly anywhere you want to go!
(Here is Kodiak Island, roughly 100 miles by 150, with just over 100 miles of road mostly around town. That's it.)
But I hate that we end up spending so many hours each day in the car! (Your everyday reality!! My sympathies to all you Road Warriors!)
**I LOVE exploring new country and new places, since on Kodiak we are island-bound,
But sometimes I hate what I see:
(Confined animal feeding operation in California)
**I love meeting new people and doing exciting things (my co-producer friends Guy and Amber. The three of us had a fantastic meeting with a Hollywood production company yesterday.)
But I hate that visits are always short and the clock refuses to slow or stop and I always have to leave . . .
**I love driving fast on the highways (highways!!!) ,
But I hate that everyone else is driving fast as well:
**I love it that I can dash through the grocery store without stopping to talk to all my friends and neighbors for an hour.
But I hate it hate it that everyone is a stranger . ...
I love . . . I hate . . .. I could go on . ... and I will another time.
But it is still the New Year. I am still fresh with anticipation. Still reading through the NT each day, still trying to correct my terrible posture, still reveling in newness and possibility.
But my morning reading takes me down another road. Already, in January, reading one chapter a day, beginning in Matthew, the cross comes close far too soon.
"Take up your cross and follow me," Jesus spoke to would-be followers. I think of all the ways we do this--and all the ways we don't. And where we live is part of this. No matter our address and geography, we all bear seasons of darkness and light, of immobility and unwanted speed; of danger and play. We lament April snows and summer drought. We are stuck on our islands or stuck in speeding cars on freeways. We don't have enough time or joy, and everywhere else seems better, brighter, happier.
And the New Year comes and we're still here, in the same place, doing the same thing. I tell you, it is hard to leave the sun behind. Silly wimp that I am, it is hard to return to storm and dark. But part of the work of the Cross is the work of reconciliation. That we are reconciled one to another. That we are reconciled to God--that most of all. But also that we are reconciled to the state and the places we live, to the people who live with us and around us, to the incompleteness of our lives and the sure presence of paradox---of loves and hates and disappointments who all take up residency within us. Even here, especially here, there is goodness to be found.
I have quoted this before but I love it so well I say it again:
And I add to these words, Every place that you live, every bed that you lay your head upon, every cloud and slice of sun that is given or withheld to you, this too is a gift of God.
I don't always know how or why, but I believe it.
When I return to Kodiak next week, I'll probably slam into another pothole and get another flat tire. I may get another despairing email from a friend whose mother is dying. It'll probably storm and blast this week---in your state too. We may all fight fatigue and depression . . .
Even so, This January 2015, I hope we will recognize all that comes to us this year, bitter or sweet, is holy and chosen for us---and because of that---it WILL be good. And when it doesn't look or feel good now----believe it will become good.