Monday, November 30, 2015

YEAH, I'm thankful

The last Thursday of November seems to be a bad time to have a family holiday because the weather is usually terrible.  In Seward this year we thought we would beat the fates and we planned a four day weekend of snow sports and winter campfires.   The previous weekend we had enough snow that we got in the first ski tour of the season and the temperature was hovering the the pleasant twenties.   Sure we had planned to be skiing on last week's delivery of snow; sure we had planned snowmen and maybe some sledding at mile twelve hill; but two days and nights of rain made all those idyllic holiday plans into pipe dreams and brought us the reality of coastal Alaska, never put away your raingear.By the first of the week, the weather had warmed and forecasts were not good.  In fact they were terrible.  By Wednesday evening, our son and his wife drove through a near hurricane to get our rain battered home on Bear Lake  By thanksgiving morning, most of the snow in Southcentral Alaska was washed away and we were scooting around the yard on ice cleats.  My plans for a play day in the snow were not to be, but Iwas bound and determined that the Walker tribe would venture into the storm.

After a hearty late breakfast of moose bacon and blueberry buckle, we donned out raingear and headed for the beaches of Resurrection Bay where I knew we could at least avoid the ice.   By the time we got to Fourth of July beach, we had two surprises.  Half a dozen cars were already there and the rain had stopped.  As soon as we stepped out on the gravel we saw the dramatic breakers roaring in from the southwest and crashing onto the gravel shingle.   The cars belonged to the intrepid Alaskan surfers chasing the waves this storm delivered.  The clouds and fogs were low on the water cloaking the soaring peaks along the shore and covering any evidence of town across the bay.  Looking south however, the view was more open and the rugged shore of Fox Island and Caines Head were silhouetted against the clouds.  The wind had dropped to nothing and we opened our jackets as we marveled at the force of the water working it's physics on the steep shoreline.   Six foot walls of water would rise fifty yards off shore and seem to accelerate toward the beach with their foam tops tangled and foaming until they collapsed against the beach and washing ever higher to foam around our feet then suck back down in to the sea dragging the beach gravel with it so that the stones rattled and hissed.

Our dogs found a friend and played chase along the shore, up through the beach grass into the alders and back again long enough for an ear scratch from one of us.  We scattered, alone and in pairs, along the shore, each caught in drama of rowdy breakers and rain-washed beach and the nearness of family.   As I looked back down beach at the my family, their bright raingear lit up the black and white photo of their surroundings and I savored how the people in those colors brighten my life.  A wife, two children, a daughter and son-in-law, two grand children, they all add flavor and strength to me.  I am not prone to "religious experience" but this Thanksgiving morning I achieved a powerful moment of contented peace on that beach, at once made small by the physics of the sea, and feeling the power of family, and accomplishment of fatherhood.

So simple sometimes are the rich moments in our lifes that can make is truly thankful.   It doesn't have to be perfect, perfect weather, perfect plan perfectly executed, perfect choices.  In fact, that would have been a different beach if were were under a blue sky by a placid sea.  We might not have been there in that moment with the surfers in their black body suits holding their boards and looking out over the water, waiting for the perfect wave.

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