Valdez avalanche

If the Superbowl Had Been Played in Kodiak

this weekend, there would have been riots. It would have been an even worse shut-out.  Angry people would have demanded their money back. We have a sparkling new football field, yes, astro-turf on this island in the Gulf of Alaska, because this town loves football, but alas, we’re missing something crucial to the game. (Besides a stadium.)

Tonight, for example. My husband and youngest son excitedly ran out of the house , skipping dinner, to go the high school basketball games. Home game! We don’t get too many of those. A team had flown in from Anchorage that afternoon.  (Kodiak has to fly in all their competition---or fly out themselves).  Duncan and son got to the parking lot----empty. They walked into the gym-----the Kodiak boys were playing against themselves to an empty gym. Of course. The plane didn’t make it in.

Of course. Fog. Fog rolled back into town like a bandit this afternoon, stealing the little light we had, wisping and smothering the mountains, the ocean, the hands in front of our faces. The same fog that anchored us to Anchorage when we tried to fly home last Sunday. The same fog that kept us from landing after circling Kodiak for thirty minutes, looking for a hole in the clouds---that then sent us looping all the way back to Anchorage for 2 more days. The same fog plaguing all of southeast Alaska, stranding us and hundreds others for days. After the fog left, then we were stranded because of high winds.

No plane. No team. No game. And to add to the list: No mail in. No mail out. No moving. No leaving.     

We’re          just             here.

The Superbowl in Kodiak? Maybe not.

You know, of course, about Valdez, that road-spoiled city once linked to Anchorage by a five hour drive.  A series of avalanches have dumped 5o feet of snow on the tarmac, leaving them like us---dependent on the skies and water alone for all their earthly goods and food.

A few years ago, while traveling home to Kodiak from somewhere far away, I limped up to the airline counter at the Anchorage airport. Almost home. One leg remaining. I was tired. I handed my commuter coupon to the woman behind the counter. There was a problem. She studied my coupon, read my itinerary aloud to herself, “Okay, let’s see, Anchorage to Yuck, Yuck to Anchorage”.

I looked at her through night-flight eyes, blinked slowly, incredulously, then asked. “What did you say? Did you just call Kodiak, Yuck??”

She laughed unselfconsciously. “Oh yeah. We all call it that. It’s the worse place we fly. That and Dutch Harbor. It’s always causing problems—wind, rain, fog, so hard to get in and out of. What a pain.”

She did not consider the fact that I might live there.

I have five trips to make Outside these next few months. I try to show up on stage at conferences, colleges and radio stations as though whisked in by my own Lear jet. As though I did not miss my other connections because I couldn’t get out of Kodiak, as though I had not flown all night and the next day to get there. I try to forget that some people call this gorgeous, though trying place, “Yuck.”

I’m not always successful. I don’t want to play the martyr---or the fool. Kodiak Island is not a stage, but I’m acting out what is most of all, true in this world--- we only imagine that we direct our lives.

No matter where we live, our comings and goings, our entrances and exits are fragile, our intentions and desires controlled by winds and clouds and waters whose own travels are measured and announced, but largely unknown, except to the God who wields them. I yield to this, in my own stubborn way, relieved to know the out-there world and the Out-there God is so beyond my one self. I am glad to be here at all, to have any part to play in this stunning, wind-and fog wrought theatre.

I say that in my best moments. In my deepest heart, I want my planes to take off and land by my own perfect script. I want to return home quickly and safely. I want“Yuck” to be renamed “Yum.”  I want our weather to be so good the Superbowl could play here. I want the Valdez road cleared and opened. I want all of you to come out of your cold snow-bound houses to come and go from home with perfect safety and freedom.

But this doesn’t always happen. When we’re  stuck---house-bound, winter-bound, snow-bound---we are still not helpless.
We can trust. We can believe. We can rehearse these lines:

 “O Lord, You have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit down and when I rise,
You are familiar with all my ways.
You hem me in behind and before,
Sometimes with fog, sometimes with snow and wind.
You lay your hand upon me.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your Presence?
If I board a plane go up to the heavens,
You are there.
If I am stuck below in the depth of fog and snow,
You are there.

If I settle on the far north sea,
or the southern coast, 
or the middle Mid-West,
Even there, your hand will guide me.

Search me, God, and know my heart.
Test me, and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,

And whether I make it home today or not,

whether I love the place I live or not,

whether I hate the winter season or not, 

lead me in the way everlasting.

Always, lead me in the way everlasting.