Project 52 #41: The Journey

Well, they just sent you around the world, didn’t they?” the airport employee commented as she scanned my travel itinerary. Ketchikan, Seattle, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Houston, Seattle, Ketchikan. I didn’t tell her that there would also be a 3 hour ferry ride to an island before I was actually on home ground again. One big giant coast-to-coast oblong sort of circle over the United States. It’s what you do when you’re trying to use your airline miles to a particular destination within a certain time frame, and it was a wonderful adventure.

I enjoyed experiencing new food. Shopping an ultra-gourmet convenience store at 1 AM in the morning and walking out with pot de creme and pita with tzaziki. A build-your-own doughnut shop. Visiting a patisserie for bites of the most wonderful mont blanc (see the first photo below if you, like me, had never heard of that before) with a real maple syrup and cinnamon latte. North Carolina roadside stand delicacies like apple cider slushies and apple pie ice cream sandwiched between slightly warm snickerdoodle cookies. A birthday dinner on a patio one lovely fall evening, featuring a Mediterranean quinoa bowl with grilled chicken, olive tapanede and crispy chickpeas, and a surprisingly good green smoothie. An almond croissant. An excellent bowl of seafood chowder, properly heavy on the seafood. Cute little bags of airplane pretzels on repeat (okay, so that was sarcastic).

I enjoyed experiencing new places. Spending a 7-hour overnight layover riding the airport metro the full length of the Houston airport and exploring every terminal thoroughly. Trying my hand at the Seattle bus system (stressful, to be honest, but certainly a cultural experience!). The fabulous views of so many beautiful things from the air, like autumn aspens carpeting the Colorado Rockies in gold, the moon rising in a pastel pink sky over Mount Rainier, or the glimmering turquoise of high glacial British Columbia mountain lakes surrounded in snow.

I enjoyed meeting new people. The young man exuberantly enthusiastic for his big plans to solo kayak the Inside Passage for a week. A woman who spoke Norwegian, on her way to Norway. A man who has a youth ministry in Belize and invited me to bring my husband there and “come see what God is doing”. The tiny red-headed girl who wanted to share her Cabbage Patch doll with me, and ended up half sprawled on me for a nap during a 4-hour flight. The lovely older lady who offered me strawberry starts when we both returned to our shared island home. The kind man God mercifully sent to help me carry my over-ambitious shopping tote from the bus to the airport. The lady buying honey bee souvenirs to cheer up a friend undergoing cancer treatments.

One cannot extol the virtues of travel while glossing over the reality of trying to sleep in an airport with loudspeakers going off every ten minutes, lugging the one-too-many bags you wish you hadn’t chosen to carry on, and desperately wishing for a shower after 20+ hours within the airline system. Yet these were minor trials, entirely worth surmounting, in my opinion, for the richness of experience. The world is fallen, cursed; yet the world is still full of beauty, echoes of what once was and what is to come, created things reflecting, unconsciously or consciously, their Creator. It is a gift to see, smell, taste, touch, and listen, catching glimpses of the glory that is to come.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:26)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)

“But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:15)

Project 52 #40: North Carolina

I now interrupt regular Alaska reporting to bring you this special news bulletin from the opposite side of the country…North Carolina!

This month, I had the privilege of taking a rare solo trip cross-country to meet my first little niece and visit my sister Havala and her husband Andrew for the first time since they got married and she moved out east. I am so grateful that my husband who was willing to hold down the fort with four kids, taking over my responsibilities while also keeping up with his own job for a week and a half, so I could go. I’m also thankful for our church family here who pitched in to help him with babysitting and meals in my absence—what a blessing they are to us!

The time that it worked out for me to go also happened to be peak color time where they live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What a happy coincidence! It was a riot of glorious autumn color, and I shamelessly joined all the other “peepers” (yep, the locals have a specific nickname for the fall leaf tourists) to gawk at the beauty.

We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic and a hike, where I took the majority of these photos. Honestly, though, I spent more time taking pictures of the cutest little niece you ever did see, and making a fool of myself talking baby talk because it would make her smile and coo. I’ll leave most of those pictures for her mama and papa to share as they wish, but I’ll just drop this one here. You get the idea.

I learned how to grade eggs for their egg business while I was there, and enjoyed experiencing a bit of Southern culture, like sweet tea, chicken and biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches and being called “honey darlin'” by perfect strangers. I even got to sit in a brick church with a 200-year history and listen to an entire sermon preached in Southern drawl. Our long conversations, often late into the night, about God and babies and marriage and the state of the world and life in general, were my favorite, though. These times with family are all the sweeter now that they are so rare, and all the richer for our common bond in Christ. The whole visit was a gift of true rest and refreshment for me—and I’m so grateful!

“We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Psalm 55:14)

Project 52 #39: Forest Paths

John 13-17 contains the most detailed and beautiful account of Jesus’ last supper before His death. Best of all, it includes His last charge to His disciples and by extension, us. I treasured those words as I read them this week, each one perfectly expressed, sheer gold—not one word wasted.

“Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you. 

Truly, truly, I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (13:12-17)

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.” (14:1-3)

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (14:15-17)

“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.

I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 

This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.” (15:4-8)

“You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 

This is My command to you: Love one another.” (15:14-17)

“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (15:18-19)

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (16:33)

“I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one…

I am not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, so that they too may be sanctified by the truth.” (17:11, 15-19)

“I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (17:20-21)

“Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, that they may see the glory You gave Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (17:24)

What a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord!

(And didn’t He make the autumn forest a place of true beauty and delight?)

Project 52 #38: The Road to Luck Lake

This week we took a little school field trip up to Luck Lake where we did some hiking and had a picnic. It was a lovely fall day for some nature study out in the wild. I found and identified highbush cranberries, the leaves were fluttering down from the alders, and the pushki (cow parsnip) were making stunning dried floral arrangements wherever we looked.

The winding road between there and Thorne Bay is nothing but wilderness, and crosses multiple salmon streams. We paused on each bridge to observe the water below us teeming with fish intent on spawning, marveling at the spectacle. The life cycle of the salmon has fascinated me since I watched “The Wonders of God’s Creation” as a child, but what a gift it is to be able to observe part of that cycle in person.

Did you know salmon are anadromous? That means they hatch in freshwater, migrate to salt water, then return to the same fresh water they hatched from to spawn. It was a cool big word to teach my students this week.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

Project 52 #37: Looking for Fall

This week, even as we’ve enjoyed sunshine and a summer season that is lingering, I felt the chill in the mornings, and noted the shortening of the days. I found myself looking for fall.

Unlike the yard full of maple trees I grew up in, though, our island forest is not a showy place in the fall at first glance. This is mostly for sheer lack of deciduous trees. We do have alders sprinkled throughout the conifers, but when their leaves fall, they are green and brown, and only a little yellow.

Yet, there are lovely changes and autumnal colors to find; one has only to pay a little closer attention.

I found these little yellow leaves dotting the boulders of a beach this last week, falling like confetti from shrubs along the shore.

I also found these bales of seaweed washed up that were lovely shades of rust and mahogany. I think these are actually their color regardless of the season, but since I found them in September, I’m claiming them as fall colors.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.

He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes them.

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.

He reveals the deep and hidden things;

He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Daniel 2:20-22)

Project 52 #35: Sunset Over the Marina

As you can see, we enjoyed some epic sunsets out in front of our house this week!

One of my daughters adopted three(!) fuzzy caterpillars, named them, and faithfully fed them fresh leaves for several days before they escaped one too many times in the house and it was decided to return them to the wild. Pictured above is Fuzzy, living his dream life eating thimbleberry salad for lunch.

“From the rising of the sun to its going down The LORD’s name is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3)

Project 52 #33: Singing in the Night

We set up the tent in the dark by flashlight, because that’s how you should always set up a brand new tent you’ve never set up before.

We swam in the salt water. We got woodsmoke in our hair and eyes. We savored sludgy campfire coffee with fresh hot doughnuts. Someone’s drying shirt caught a spark and burnt to a crisp. We got sun burnt, ate s’mores and told our best childhood fishing stories to the kids before bed. Beneath the shining arch of the Milky Way, we walked the beach in the dark and spotted shooting stars. Somewhere, out in the dark on the water, whales were blowing. Something snarled and splashed—perhaps a seal catching a fish?

Finally, on this clear night in August, we crawled into our tent. Other campfires along the beach burned low, and slowly the distant voices of late night conversation faded off. One by one, wiggling, giggling children suddenly went silent, breathing turning steady with rest. Relieved, their parents soon followed suit. For once, the new camp mats were living up to their good reviews on Amazon.

But in the middle of the night, the dogs at every campsite began to bark. The kids didn’t even stir, but I awoke, groggily half annoyed, half worried. Was a bear coming in to check out our food cooler?

I strained to listen, and then I heard the sound. It was not a large animal shuffling through the forest or rummaging through our camp, but something in the air, a high-pitched, lilting sound. It almost sounded liquid, almost sounded sonic. It was musical, but it was not a bird, and it did not seem human-made. Then suddenly, I realized what it was and I caught my breath in wonder.

The whales were singing.

“All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)

Sea creatures pictured: leather starfish, red sea urchin, still working on my crab identification (feel free to comment if you know what varieties these are!)

Project 52 #32: Salmon Moon

Here in southeast Alaska, I’m told the Haida call the full moon of August the “Salmon Moon”, and the Tlingit call it “Berries-Ripe-On-Mountain Moon” (Incidentally, the Haida July moon is “Ripe Berry Moon” and the Tlingit July moon is “Salmon Moon”!). Both names certainly make sense! This week, we were blessed with night after night of clear skies to watch the moon rise. The thimbleberries were at their peak of ripeness, and my fingers were bright red by the time I’d picked enough for a batch of jam.

The streams were full of spawning pinks, and with my Alaska fishing license hot off the press (yep, I was cheap and waited until I could pay $5 to fish in Alaska instead of $100!), I landed my very first one. It was a male humpy, past the stage of good eating, and we released him, but it was still a thrill to land my first salmon! Lord willing, it will be the first of many.

We drove down some new forest roads, and hiked down some new trails. Though many of the wilderness places pictured here are without official name, the very last picture is of Hatchery Falls, where we got to see salmon jumping up the falls. It was amazing to see their determination and strength!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

Project 52 #31: Sitka Black Tail

Meet the reason my raspberry bushes are heavily fenced!

It’s hunting season here, but these particular deer have been smart enough to take up residence in town where they are safe from hunters. They paid little attention to me when I was taking these pictures, and I could have touched them if I wanted to. Last winter, one slept under our front porch for a couple nights and would just stare at us when we came out to look at it, seemingly fearless! Not great if you’re trying to grow hostas or any other plant they happen to love, but they are still beautiful animals.

A few interesting facts:

—Sitka black tail are a subspecies of mule deer unique to the coastal rainforests of southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia.

—They are good swimmers, occasionally even known to swim deep channels between islands.

—They have four-chambered stomachs which allow them to “ruminate” (rechew) their food, and contains bacteria specialized in breaking down cellulose. Since these bacteria are so specialized, they have tremendous difficulty digesting strange material and can die of starvation with their bellies full of food.

—They are small deer (adult average of 106-198 lb). They honestly remind me more of goats than the whitetail deer I grew up around, especially when I see them leaping and running along the steep, rocky slopes of this mountainous place.

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”
(Psalm 18:31-33)

Project 52 #30: Life With a Flourish

On a beautiful day at the beach in which we had the rare privilege of the entire place to ourselves, I read a magazine with the theme of “Life with a Flourish”. It caught my attention, because while I have tended to think of the word “flourish” as a verb, as in the idea of thriving or doing well, the articles I read steered the reader more towards “flourish” as a noun.

Flourish (noun): enhancement, enrichment, improvement, adornment, embellishment, ornamentation

It’s those purposeful, sort of over the top actions in life, those highly enriching gestures in which we above and beyond the necessary simply because it will bring ourselves and those around us joy. It’s the confetti at the party, the wildflower bouquet on the table, the curl on the end of your signature. It’s taking the time to stop for ice cream and sit on the porch to eat it, and trying an Earl Gray infused apricot jam recipe instead of just plain. It’s the back door painted brilliant red.

This was a week that was delightfully full of Vacation Bible School, and sunny days at the beach with friends, and ice cream at Naani’s, and it was fairly easy to feel like we were living life with a flourish. I even had time to relax at the beach and read a whole magazine while my kids swam! But there are plenty of weeks when it doesn’t happen naturally, when I can get so busy checking off the boxes of duty—the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning—that I forget to take the time to celebrate life with creativity, beauty and wonder.

Here is my note to self to remember, and not to forget.

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure.

The lines of my boundary have fallen in pleasant places; surely my inheritance is delightful.

You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Psalm 16:5-6, 11)

*Thoughts inspired by the referenced Summer 2022 issue of Magnolia Journal.