“Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.” (Jeremiah 5:22)
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)
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.
Kasaan means “pretty town”. That seems fitting, since the trail there is certainly one of the most lovely and peaceful trails on the island—and fascinating, too, with the historic Whale House and collection of totems as its’ destination. The silent forest feels old and grand, rich with memories of the past. It’s easy to imagine what life might have been like here a few hundred years ago when all you can hear is the sound of muffled footsteps on pine duff and the gentle lull of the sea.
This is the oldest standing longhouse in North America, circa 1880, former home of Haida Chief Son-I-Hat. I have found it fascinating to learn about native cultures in the region, which are very different from those I grew up around in Minnesota. I didn’t realize until I moved here that totems are for commemoration and for telling stories, much like the petroglyphs of Egypt! They are not necessarily religious, though religion (and traditions and legends), as deeply entwined as they are in a culture, certainly play a part in the stories being told.
Last time we came here, we saw our first humpback whale and petted a raven; this time we found foxgloves.
In the movie “Free Willy”, the Haida caretaker Randolph muses, “300 years ago, my people only had to spend one day a week gathering food, and everybody ate like kings.”
“So what’d they do the rest of the time?” his young friend Jesse asks.
He smiles. “Told stories, made music, made carvings. Made babies.”
That’s the world I like to imagine when I come here.
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28)
P.S. Lest you think that I only ever take pictures of my youngest child, well, the explanation is simple: he’s the slowpoke, so I’m always lagging behind with him, and the others are always running ahead!
About the pictures: My family was here visiting from Minnesota, and we took them tide pooling in the rain! This little boy gets over-the-top excited when he finds a starfish or crab and doesn’t want to leave them behind. I hope he never loses that senses of wonder for God’s amazing creatures!
What I’ve been reading this week: I finished the book of Luke—and I love this story at the end: “And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) If you want to read the full story, it’s verses 13-32!
P.S. I’ve fallen a bit behind in posting for this project, which you were likely (hopefully) too busy enjoying summer to notice! That’s mostly because I lost the cord I use to download pictures from my camera to the computer. This week, I finally found it in a very unlikely spot…so there will be a bit of a photo dump coming your way while I try to catch up!
Those of you who live here know: we may live 40 miles from Ketchikan as the raven flies, but unless you own a boat equipped to handle the bigger waters of Clarence Strait and the weather happens to be fair, or want to pay the higher price to take a float plane over, it takes a good deal longer than 40 minutes to get there. The most economical and sure (voyage cancellations are rare compared air travel) mode of travel is by the daily ferry. A day trip to Ketchikan via ferry involves over an hour drive to the ferry terminal, a three hour voyage, about four hours to do what you need to do in the city, then another three hour voyage back, and another hour plus drive home.
I find the ferry ride to be very enjoyable. Unless the water is particularly rough, it’s a relaxing, slow-paced ride. The boat is roomy, and the seats are comfortable. The galley food is good, and there’s almost always someone you know on the ferry, or at least someone who knows someone you know. Conversations are easy, and they all start with either: “Where are you from?” or “Where are you going to?” From there, our unique mutual connection to a remote island in southeast Alaska is all the common ground necessary for a full-fledged conversation.
And if there’s no one to talk to, or you don’t want to talk, it’s beautiful to just stand out on the deck, staring over the edge at the foamy waves rhythmically peeling away from the hull of the vessel, or watching the misty island mountains alternately appear and then fade into the fog, or the sunlight play chase with the clouds across the vast and wild panorama of the Inside Passage. Maybe you’ll see a whale or two; certainly you’ll feel the ocean wind in your face.
Once you’re chilled by that, there’s the $3 bottomless cup of coffee waiting to warm you in the galley inside, or more if you missed breakfast in the rush of a 5:30 AM departure or didn’t have time to grab some lunch in the Ketchikan while you were trying to get as much shopping done as possible in your limited 4-hour window of time (that was me this week).
There’s a gift in the slowness of the journey, more the feeling of being a part of the land and the sea instead of speeding through it, of having time to breathe, finally start the stitching project you bought the pattern for five years ago, have a long conversation with someone about homeschooling, buy a banana split and take an hour to eat it, play a game with a friend who brought cards, maybe even be lulled to sleep by the steady drone of the ship’s motors and the rhythmic shifting of the waves.
On this particular voyage, I was out on the deck taking pictures. A man who had also been quietly gazing out at the landscape nearby noted me using my camera and commented enthusiastically, “”It sure is beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is!” I agreed heartily.
“Is this your first time here, too?” he queries.
I smile. “No,” and the words that come out my mouth next still feel both wonderful and foreign to me, “I live here.”
“And you’re still taking pictures!” he said, approvingly. “But if I lived here, I think I’d still be taking pictures, too.”
“Others went out to sea in ships, conducting trade on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)
Fun fact: Three pictures in this post were taken on our trip through Ketchikan in January, the rest were taken this last week in July. Can you guess which ones are which?
About the photos: It was a perfectly beautiful week, and we were able to go on multiple excursions to enjoy it! This included a fun and unexpected floatplane landing at the beach where we were swimming, and hike through the land of Giant Skunk Cabbage Leaves to scout out the Forest Service cabin on Control Lake for possible future use. We identified three new-to-me wildflower varieties: northern geranium and red burnet (paired in first picture), and bog candle or tall white bog orchid (picture #7).
“But I have trusted in Your loving devotion; my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)
There are some capsules of time that are just sheer beauty and wonder. They’re the kind you always remember, the kind where you don’t even have to close your eyes to remember…
the wonder and delight of tiptoeing along through the water with the jellyfish swirling magically around you and purple starfish at your feet…
the way the waves of a passing cruise ship wanted to lift your feet right off the sand…
that exhilarating moment of plunging all the way in and listening to your children laugh in delight and come piling in after you…
the way your body tingled when you came up out of the cold ocean into the hot sunshine of a rare southeast Alaskan heatwave, and the way that feeling lasted for hours afterwards…
or the way the beach peas were trailing wild over the bleached driftwood when the sun sank to the treetops and you clambered down the pebbly bank to go home.
I think that those of us who live in the places where summer is fleeting are less likely to take it for granted. In some ways, I am grateful that it’s fleeting, because the beauty of it isn’t lost on me and I am not afraid to stop and savor it before the days slip through my fingers like sand, give way to autumn and winter, and are gone forever.
P.S. Yep, we’re swimming in our clothes. When you feel like swimming, but didn’t think to bring your swimsuit, one of the great delights and freedoms of life is that you don’t have to let that stop you.
Also—the clear jellies pictured here are lovely and harmless, but don’t worry—we kept our eyes open for the stinging varieties!
“There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Psalm 4:6-7)
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath…
…keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart…
…But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You…
The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers.May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him…
…to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.” (excerpts from 1 Kings 8, Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple)
About the pictures: This is a Sitka blacktail doe with her tiny fawn, the first mama to kindly pose for me (after trying to get a shot of a pair all week to no avail). They are more diminutive than the whitetail deer I’ve been familiar with for most of my life, almost goat-like, and those babies are about the cutest thing you’ve ever stopped your car to take pictures of.
We celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday at the beach, and the waves were wild, big and wonderful!
The thimble berries have such showy flowers, they’re the equivalent to bushes of white wild roses around town! But this is not to say that the roses themselves haven’t been beautiful.
P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!
Memorial Beach is a remote beach at the very northern tip of the island, a good 4+ hour drive away from Thorne Bay. We’ve been wanting to go up there for a while, but we knew we wanted to spend the night and have some time to enjoy the place if we drove that kind of distance. The options of places to stay were 1) bring a tent, or 2) be lucky enough to be the first one to claim the one and only first-come, first-serve three-sided camping shelter. That’s it. In other words, it needed to be decent weather for tent camping, because there was no guarantee of securing the shelter.
When the forecast popped up with two days straight of sunshine with zero chance of rain (a bit of a rarity here in a rainforest!), we made some fast plans and went for it. I’m so glad we did. The weather was absolutely perfect, and we were fortunate enough to have the beach completely to ourselves for most of our stay—including the coveted camping shelter, complete with bunks and a tiny woodstove!
Prepare yourself to scroll through a lot of pictures!
It’s hard to accurately depict scale in photos sometimes, but the first shot below of Zach walking on the beach gives you some idea of the size of the old growth forest that surrounded us. These were BIG trees, and the forest floor beneath them was the loveliest place to walk.
There were some really beautiful and unique rocks at this beach, including marble. We also saw sea lions, sea otters and seals in the distance, and found the beautiful sea anemone pictured below. Our little camping shelter was situated perfectly to watch the sun set—what a treat to have nothing on our agenda but to sit there and watch it go down. We savored the beauty and silence of this place so much, and we only wished we had brought enough water and food to stay longer!
What I’ve been reading and thinking about this week:
“[The Lord] sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (2 Samuel 22:17-20)