I’ve been back in Juneau for a week after a jam-packed, all-around wonderful two weeks down South. Indiana welcomed me with open arms, low humidity, and all the familiar faces I love to see. I spent several happy mornings peering over garden beds in the backyard of my home with Mom, eagerly monitoring the progress of cherry tomatoes, tiny kale starts, and baby green beans (which later became my plane snack on my flight home).
It was immensely beneficial to be back in Indiana and revisit so many people, places, and memories. I’ve returned to Juneau with a renewed sense of where I come from and who I am; I am so grateful to carry that with me into my last month here. For those of you who are surprised to hear that I’m leaving, don’t worry – it was a bit of a surprise for me, too! In May I was invited to enter into a year of service and formation with a Catholic religious order called the Community of the Beatitudes (learn more about them here) with whom I spent two and half months in Europe and have connected over the past two years. It was a nearly impossible decision – Juneau has such a big part of my heart, and I was gearing up to be in town for at least another couple of years. But this opportunity to set aside intentional time with the Lord, to live in a way that fosters simplicity, prayer, and an open heart – this is not something I want to pass up. More than anything, I have a sense that this year is going to make me more of the person I want to be.
So here we go, another adventure about to begin! But as for now, I find myself in Juneau, suddenly in the last few weeks of what has been an unbelievable year. Luckily, the whirlwind busyness of the summer has softened into a calm (though rainy) August. Fall is setting in, and with it a more quiet schedule; perfect for reflecting. Reflection is so when we transition – we have to make a few moments to find some stillness, take stock, sort through everything that we’ve lived in the chapter of life which is wrapping up.
When I returned from Indiana, I had the pleasure of meeting my Aunt’s sister and her family while they were in town for a visit, and actually spent quite a bit of time with them during their stay. Sometimes you meet people and it is just comfortable, fun, and easy-as-pie, which is exactly what I experienced with this family.
One morning during their stay, a few of us woke with the sun to catch an unusually low-tide out on Shaman Island beach. The air was gorgeously calm and crisp, full of a golden, slanting morning light. It smelled like sea and salt and mountain air. It was quiet, save for the sound of water lapping on rocks, and the occasional squirt of a clam mischievously spitting water from its burrow in the sand. We spent a good hour picking our way over the rocky beach which, for a window of time, was uncovered by its usual blanket of ocean, allowing us to be explorers of marine life, turning over stones and scouring tide pools for hidden creatures. Rocks and sand became a world of texture and life; tiny swirls of snail shells, starfish nestled together, forests of prickly sea urchins sprawled out over the beach. In this world, simply stopping to notice what lies at your feet will reveal some new wonder – a baby eel swimming in a secret pool or a tangle of tiny, baby starfish.
We rise at the crack of dawn for this. We go, we make the sacrifice because these glimpses are fleeting. And we linger there for the same reason, soaking up with our senses the taste and smell and sound of the experience, valuing it because we know the tide turns eventually. Nature is full of cycles that yield certain treasures at certain times. Tide pools are uncovered every so often, cherry tomatoes grow like candy from the vine once a year, lupine bloom for a few weeks every summer. We could lament the fact that these joys are fleeting, but I find that the taste is sweeter when I rejoice in their coming and accept when their time is done.
This is what I learned on our early morning beach walk. It is a timely lesson to hold close as I prepare myself to wrap up this year in Alaska. It’s so bittersweet, and at times I’m so tempted to cling to it. Just a few weeks more! I’m not ready yet! But the season is ending, and it would be a shame to hold onto it so tightly that I crush the gratitude I have for all that I’ve lived this year.
So, I look forward to soaking in Juneau, my little mountain town. I’m confident I’ll return, even if it’s just for visits (long visits) because my feet always seem to wander back here. Back to family, the mountains, the air that smells like spruce, to the ocean, the wild beauty, the space, the community. And in the mean time, I’m ready to follow my God into the next season, into whatever it holds.
Know that I take you with me 🙂