We were way past due for a storm. This summer Kodiak Island sailed south toward Hawaii. We broke heat records (17 days over 70 degrees! Last summer, one day over 70.) We’ve had very little wind. We woke up every morning sure we were still dragging anchor toward Hawaii. But such dreams always end, as they did this week. Colder, heavy-clouded weather moved back. Rain returned. Wind revived. And most of us are relieved.
I woke at 4:45 this morning to hear the wind clawing the house, to hear the ocean beating the shore. The forecast was NE 40, and it was clearly doing all of that. It’s a fishing day, as are most days of the summer here, and everyone would soon be up and out into that torn-up winded world. So long Hawaii. Welcome back, Kodiak.
I would like to say I was fearful and nervous as I got ready to go out, along with all my strong, above-average fishermen children and husband. But I wasn’t. I’ve been out in much higher waves, harder winds. I've come in beaten, shaking. I’m not brave enough now to go out when I’m scared. And I knew I did not even have to go out. No one was making me. But I needed to go out.
How do I say this? Do you know, too, about needing a storm? There’s something in all of us that needs a storm. We need the howl of the wind and the rip of the sea to remember the biggest truth about us---how small and fragile we really are . .. And to remember, too, how strong we are . .. When you fight the ocean just to stand in your boat, and you brace and rock and still you lean and launch your arms into the sea to grab the net, and though you can’t quite stand still you hold the corkline, and still you pick the fish.
And you take spray on your face and jellyfish in your eyes and you keep going . .. And you feel stalwart in your little boat on the big, big sea. You are glad to be there wrestling the sea and harvesting all she brings to your nets. You are glad to be working with your courageous daughter and your dauntless crewman Nate. (And you are glad you took your camera out, though every wave threatens.)
What is it we crave and need in the storm? Knowing our true size—that we are tiny and fragile, and yet we are able? That we cannot go out alone, but in pairs and groups we are strong?
Yes, and more. We know that we can find a home in this storm. In the shudder and crush, all the rest falls away, our worries and sadness and longings, our fears for the future, our regrets for the past----and we are fully at home in this moment. We are fully occupied in this “now.”
And we are at home in our body as well, calling on every muscle to keep us upright on a heaving skiff floor slick with jellyfish and kelp, marshaling all our strength to haul lead lines, lift taut corklines, pull tangled fish from a maze of net, using every sense to stay alive . .. . Oh! The glory of this alive! The glory of this strength! And can it be that I have been out here 36 summers and still I can do this? Three cheers for me!
These are good enough homes in the storm, but there is a better one. We can find a home in the dark and the wind because there we find God. There we find a truer God than the one I have kept in the wading pool and the garden. I want Him to be a god of roses and butterflies and string beans and bird baths, who showers goodness and light and love on all, as indeed He does, as indeed He is. But this is God as well: the God of the storm and the wind, of the black clouds and the spume, who blasts us from our self-reliance in a breath, who reminds us all, “ I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”
I remember this in a storm. I remember that God spoke to Job and his friends out of a storm chiding them for all their bluster and made-up words about God, trying to prettify and explain away Job’s suffering.
I know what Job would tell us: He is a God who brings calamity, sometimes inexplicable calamity, and He is a God who delivers from calamity. A God who abounds in compassion and love even in the midst of the storm.
I felt that compassion and love today. I thought it was me, at first. I thought it was my own courage. I thought it was my muscles, my strength, my joy, my ability. I even thought it was my storm for a little while. But it was His. It was all His.
I needed the storm.
I thank Him for it.
And I return it to Him now.