Project 52 #17: On Salmonberries and Friendship

The forest here is really beginning to burst with color and life, and I am loving watching it all. With so many different and unfamiliar kinds of plants in this wet, coastal climate, it’s like getting to know a new friend.

Already a few favorites are developing, like the lovely and prolific salmonberry bushes. I’ll always remember when we met the salmonberries for the first time last July, on the evening of our arrival in Alaska. It was the girls’ first day to see our new home, and they were full of excitement and curiosity. Before we knew it they were picking salmonberries with the neighbors, giant sparkling jeweled berries that grew wild and free along the streets. We were instantly charmed. You could say we and the salmonberries hit it off right away. We picked more in the next few weeks while the berries were in season and made some treats with them. I might have told you then that I was now familiar with salmonberries.

But then, we watched the autumn frosts touch their leaves, that eventually fell to the ground. We watched the canes dripping bare with November rains, weighed down with December snows and January ice. We waited for spring to slowly, slowly wake them up. One day in March, I overheard one lady exclaim delightedly to another in the store: “I saw the first salmonberry blossom today!” I walked out of that store and promptly went looking until I found a bush along the waterfront, studded with twisted buds on the verge of bursting open. I was surprised and delighted to discover that they were a vivid shade of brilliant pink. Now they are open everywhere, as pictured above, studding the leafing branches with punches of color. It yet remains in the next couple months for us to watch the petals fall and the berries to develop before we come full circle. I realize now that it takes more than a great first impression and having a little fun together to build true familiarity.

Friendship is like that. Even if you hit it off right away, the development of a true, lasting friendship takes time, weathering all the seasons of life, the good and the bad, each shared experience another building block in the process of developing a relationship with anyone. Like the world of nature, friendship is organic. It can’t be forced or rushed, but it can be encouraged and nurtured. And sometimes, something truly beautiful comes of it, the kind of friendship that people write stories about.

The book of Ruth is one of those kind of stories. Ruth starts out the story as a foreign heathen Moabite woman, brought into relationship with Naomi by marriage to her son. The death of Mahlon, their mutual interest, could easily have separated them, but instead drew them closer. By the end of the story, Ruth has become better to Naomi “than seven sons”. These women grieved together, journeyed together, went through hardship together, solved problems together, rejoiced together, and, most importantly, grew in their understanding of and trust in God together—and the result may have been one of the loveliest mother-in-law/daughter-in/law relationships ever recorded.

“Boaz replied, “I have been made fully aware of all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you did not know before.  May the LORD repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a kinsman-redeemer. May his name become famous in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Autumn Hike at Balls Lake

On a gorgeous day in October, we took an autumn hike as a family around Balls Lake, which is about twenty miles west of us on the island.

“It’s only a mile or so around the lake,” someone had estimated to us.

Haha.

Lesson learned: don’t trust estimates. It was more like 2.5 miles, a slight discrepancy that didn’t bother the adults as much as the short-legged two-year-old in the family. He was a real trooper though, and walked a good two-thirds of the distance before he had to be carried!

We found lingonberries along the trail, spotted sockeye salmon in a creek, and played with the most beautiful echoes. The sun played hide and seek with us, so the jackets came on and off. We came out muddy and famished after our longer-than-expected hike, ready to inhale a very belated picnic lunch.

It’s interesting to observe the differences and similarities of the changing seasons here on Prince of Wales Island as compared to where we came from in northern Minnesota. Fall is more subtle here with most of the trees being conifers, yet the season is still distinctly evident in the frosty mornings, falling alder leaves, roadside and shoreline grasses turning from green to beautiful pale gold, and the turning of the leaves closer to the forest floor like the bunchberries, devil’s club and ferns you see pictured here. This hike finally gave us the opportunity to get up close and immerse ourselves in the autumnal forest, and I’m happy to report that it was beautiful.

“The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love…” (Psalm 119:64)