Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Images as comfort
The images of blue ice, waterfalls, black mountainsides, bear chasing bear, whale flukes, faraway peaks covered in snow, friendly people, tall green trees, a pack of wolves lounging beside the fjord – they all run together, and I no longer remember where each scene was placed in that distant land of Alaska. Twelve wonderful days of sights unlike any except my few glimpses of the Rockies have made me blurringly tired.
The Episcopal Church is still sparring within itself and with others in the Anglican Communion. The war in Iraq seems no nearer resolution than before. Disasters are happening all over the globe. Individuals are still dying from diseases that may one day have cures.
But, for twelve days, I was blissfully unaware of any of this. I found moments of solitude in the midst of awesome beauty and gave thanks for the respite. For twelve days I focused on the good, the beauty, the wonder of a different world than the Southern USA. I ignored the racism and elitism and – what’s the word for economic bias?- and other such human heresies.
The sense of renewal is great. Once I recover from the exhaustion of so much greatness in such few days, I know that I will feel energized and ready to step forth into the world. For now, I am letting the images, the feelings and the hopes swirl inside me mixing into a giant cup of cocoa that will help me to bring warmth and love and hope to a hurting world.
One day in a bead shop in Fairbanks, I met Ann, a Native Alaskan woman, as well as her sister, her mother and her grandmother. We chatted about porcupine needles and how to use them in beading; I helped pick beads up from the floor where they spilled, we compared different stringing materials. Then Ann looked at the clock and said she had to go pick someone up. Before she left, she came to me and hugged me. Suddenly, I felt as if I had been anointed with precious oil and been blessed by God. For a few silent seconds, we were one. Then she was gone and I was paying for my quills and beads. Later that day at the gift shop near the pipeline, I told this story to the woman working there without mentioning a name. She said, “Oh yes, Ann is our “official” unofficial social service. She helps everyone; she is a healer.” I still get chills and warmth when I think of that hug and blessing.
Some days later in Skagway, I met a man who had been reared on a farm in Ketchikan and had raised his family in the Yukon. That day, he had brought his entire family, including grown grandchildren, to Skagway to shop and enjoy the sunshine. He was trying to get the Yukon old timers to write down or record their memories of what it was like. He said, “The world is changing, and they need to put down what they know.” He was building a website to highlight that history of the Yukon. I petted his Shitzu and we hugged on that street corner.
Meeting God in nature and in people is important in our lives. Making memories to carry us through the hard times is important. At night when my legs hurt, I replay the bead store story and the Yukon story – forgetting the pain for a few minutes and letting the connection with two people so far away help me make it through the night.