We went on our second end-of-October “cabining” trip to Twelve Mile Arm this year, this time for two nights. Does that make it an annual tradition? That remains to be seen, but the fact that a pair of kayaks now come with the cabin is a pretty big draw. We enjoyed taking turns paddling around the estuary, followed by curious seals, and the two little girls were pretty excited when we let them paddle out to the nearby island (so shallow and close you can walk to it at low tide) by themselves.
There was snow on the mountains across the bay when we woke up one morning, but we did not get cold like we did the last time we came here. I guess that means we’ve learned a thing or two about 1) clothing and bedding choices, and 2) running a woodstove.
I read the cabin journal, in which guests talked about hearing wolves and being skunked at deer hunting (I think there’s a connection there), and feasting on crab. One guest left behind a game of Uno Flip on purpose, hoping others would enjoy it, too. (We did.) Another guest left a can opener, which I had forgotten. (I used it, gratefully.)
The utter stillness was achingly beautiful. Not even our phones could ding to spoil it.
“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)
About the photos: Some weeks I don’t take many pictures, and our explorations don’t take us much further than the edge of town to this little trail. I think my favorite part of it might be this gentle, if somewhat deceiving, start through the alders, before it quickly switches to the steep ascent more worthy of it’s local nickname “Heart Attack Trail”.
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?)
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)
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)
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)
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!)
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)
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)
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.
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.