Five years ago we embarked on the next step in our crazy couple of months and got married! We still feel like newly weds in many ways, especially in our excitement in being together, but it is also hard to remember or imagine times without Fred. We have grown and changed and hurt and healed and rejoice in this mysterious picture and gift that is marriage. Five years down, a lifetime to go!
One of the characteristics of Kodiak is that it is a transient community. Most people just don’t settle here for very long. We come for a year, two, maybe five, then move on, back to the lower 48 or mainland Alaska. To more real life. It makes it difficult to maintain friendships here, because good friends often move on.
We have said goodbye to several good friends over the last four years. We’ve made others, but haven’t had consistent, close fellowship. We have had trouble finding iron friends, who sharpen us in our faith. We’ve had trouble finding friends to do things with regularly. We’ve missed the close relationships that come through regular conversation, frequent games, shared meals, walks and movie nights and laughter and heartache. We’ve prayed and cried many times for such fellowship.
Over the last year, and especially over the last six months, God has been answering those prayers in a big way. In fullness of time, God suprised us with a sudden deepening of several friendships. It is almost like we just collectively reached a point of shared hunger and decided to dive together into a feast of fellowship, and it has been good. We’ve enjoyed games, murder mystery nights, potlucks, hikes, movie nights, centered around regular discussion and Bible study together. It has been good.
There is now a core group of people who are like family, who pray for each other and memorize Scripture together and encourage each other and watching this going on around me fills my heart with joy, which is even greater because I get to be a part of it!
“It is good for brothers to dwell in unity.” Indeed it is.
A couple of months ago, Fred was leaving for work. It was dark and the night had been particularly stormy, blowing roofing off our neighbor’s trailer, tearing limbs from the trees behind us, pouring buckets of rain. The storm hadn’t died down yet, but in the tumult Fred heard a kitten crying. He found it huddled against our neighbor’s trailer, a little black ball of pathetic, a miniature version of our Pepper. He took it to the shelter and we expected someone to claim her.
After a few days, we checked and no one had looked for her. So we asked for her. It took 4 weeks for us to bring her home, because she had to be spayed first, but now little Storm is ours and the cats are finally learning to get along!
It gives us a fun range of the cat lifespan, with a 7ish month kitten, a 4 year old cat (who now tries hard to act sophisticated whenever the kitten is around), and our increasingly senile and stiff Crystal (who can still purr like a motorboat and still loves to sleep with us).
What is Kodiak like? Like anywhere, you have to be here to understand, but here’s a brief picture. We have a diverse population. Lots of Coasties (Coast Guard) come and go, with some Navy folk. Those military folks come from all around the country and have an ever changing influence on our community. There are many fishermen, both locals and out of towners. Some are here longterm and some come for a season, or a few seasons. Fishing means canneries and Kodiak has several. They have increased our diversity, bringing in a large Filipino population. There are also El Salvadorans, Samoans, Mexicans, Japanese, and periodically small groups of Ethiopians or Somalis or other nationalities. Next there are the Alaska Natives, from several tribes. The rest of us trickle in for a variety of reasons.
So cultural diversity, which usually means religious diversity. And we have that. Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and a variety of Protestant churches. Many churches and church leaders actively cooperate with each other, and people from these diverse backgrounds work and play together. One of the most beautiful things about Kodiak is fellowship that is shared between groups in the community.
The town is small and the population is largely transient, so people form quick relationships and the community quickly welcomes and integrates newcomers. They are plugged into jobs, church groups, local organizations, and the friendships help compensate for being far away from family. It is a laid back place, where people commonly where Carharts, sweatshirts and Xtra-Tuff boots. Habits from the lower 48 disappear quickly. And since this is Alaska, people tend to be fairly independent, helpful, and outdoorsy. Very outdoorsy.
It’s hard not to be outdoorsy here, the island practically begs you to get out and explore. Small coastal mountains give way to larger mountains in the island’s interior. The mountains hug the coast and are surrounded by beautiful forests. There are birds and animals everywhere. On a given day, you might see sea otters, Kodiak brown bears, bald eagles, orcas, sea lions, grey whales, and much more. Our bears are large and scary, our deer are tiny and cute, our salmon run in every waterway, nature here is always awe inspiring.
People here may love hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, hocky (on a rink), but one way or another they are likely to be active. And to spend time in boats. We have a limited road system, most of the island can only be reached by boat or float plane, though one village is on the ferry route. People often fly to Anchorage for medical appointments or shopping, or ferry to Homer then drive. Both modes of travel are expensive, but at least you are off island for a bit. This matters more for some than others. Kodiak inspires love or hate, few people think it’s just “okay.” I certainly dont. Kodiak is our home now and I love it.
Those who know me well know that I am a reader. Possibly an addicted reader. There may be more type than cells in my blood. It’s not intentional, books have always filled my soul, since I was very little and learned to read on my own. The hunger for books has increased as I’ve grown older, with a brief slow down when I was in nursing school. But I’m back now and devouring all the books I can!
This past year my brother and I kept a list of all the books we read, and how many pages they were. Mom always encouraged me to keep track of the books I read, and I did sometimes, though now I wish I had been more conscientious about it. It is a simple exercise, but has been helpful for me. It made me more aware of what I was reading. It helped me to think more about my book diet and what kinds of books I wanted in it. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment, as I finished each book and watched my page counter grow. And it let me look back and see what I had read months ago, which also helped me to remember what those books had made me think about and learn.
Some books were new to me, some I hadn’t read since I was a child, and some were old friends that I visited for the umpteenth time. I learned something from each of them and was surprised again by how much I missed when I was a kid. My reading comprehension was pretty high then, but so much went over my head.
I notice it most in Dickens, who did not have nearly as much sense of humor 20 years ago and whose plots were infinitely more complicated. In fact, last year I wrote him an apology letter because in my childish ignorance, I slandered him. And his book Little Dorrit. Which I thought was terrible and it bored me to tears, but is now a wonderful piece of fiction. It’s funny how time changes some things, me especially.
But some things do not change. Book stores are still filled with adventure and delight, and I always find a treasure when I go book shopping. Favorite authors still calm my soul and bring joy to my spirit. Some books challenge my faith and drive me deeper, others bring frustration at injustice and evil.
Someday, Lord willing, I will share my favorites with my children and my nieces and nephews, and I will watch their eyes get wide at a plot twist, listen to their imaginations expand and develop with each new story. Someday maybe I will have read a fraction of what I hope to read, but probably not. There are probably not enough years in a life to read that fraction. Maybe God has a special library for people like me. For now, it’s time for a yummy cup of coffee and the start of a new book! Would you like to join me this year, recording what you read and building a habit of good literature into your life?