We have been transported into new territory unlike anything we have ever seen. Wild and raw, vast and vulnerable, Alaska is a magnificent wonder. Celebrating twenty years of married life that has taken us on a journey of faith through similar wild and raw, vast and vulnerable, Todd and I have experienced much in a relatively short period of time, all time considered.
Last week, Todd and I cruised through fjords and viewed blue-ice glaciers, watching them calve and fall into the ocean with thunderous clap. We watched puffins flying and roosting in the rocky clefts, sea lions barking, basking in the sun upon their island rookery, sea otters floating on their backs with flipper hands behind their heads, Dall porpoises joining our boat, darting back and forth by the bow, and a humpback whale blowing and diving, waving elegant fluke.
Camp at Miller’s Landing was what the desk clerk called, “a true Alaskan experience.” She suggested we might want to peruse the sight before paying. We declined, game for a true Alaskan experience. All sights at Miller’s Landing are named, engraved roughly on a sign. Ours was “Junkyard” and, true to its name, we found ourselves parked next to a graveyard of retired fishing boats, a potpourri of junk, and a tarp covered camper, home of our charter fishing captain Bill who helped us catch Alaskan silver salmon while dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller blaring through the boat’s speaker system. He and his first mate, Christopher, laughed hard when I lowered my line into the depths of the bay and yelled “BITE ME!” to the fish. There was a pregnant pause, not quite knowing how to respond with words to this female guest of theirs who would yell such a thing. And yet, my words worked. Todd and I came away with the biggest catch of the day—six huge silver salmon yielding 27 pounds of fillets we shipped home to Wisconsin. Yes, our Miller’s Landing camping/cruising/fishing experience was a THRILLER in every way!
Fresh fish in our RV fridge, we rolled north to Denali on the most perfect, late summer day imaginable. Temperatures in the mid-70s, periwinkle blue skies with not a cloud, and sun blazing on Mt. McKinley’s south peak, we learned that only thirty percent of visitors see North America’s highest peak, as she is commonly covered in clouds.
A fourteen hour bus tour to Kantishna in the wilderness region proved fruitful. A half dozen grizzly bears presented themselves, including two within fifty yards of our bus—one a sow with two playful cubs. We spotted several caribou, moose, and Dall sheep along the way as well.
I wondered why so many come to a place like Alaska and, specifically, to a place like Denali? Is it because we humans seek something to help us transcend our ordinary, our mundane, our frenzied daily existence with all things requiring plugs and outlets and towers?
We need something beyond our everything.
We need wild and raw, vast and vulnerable. Why? Is it because these words describe who we are at our core, like the core of Denali—vast and vulnerable, raw and wild? We are complex beings, vast in our depth and breadth of soul, majestic as God’s crown jewel of creation, raw and wild and vulnerable. We all enter the world the same and we venture through our allotted days seeking connection with that which is like us but beyond us. Do we come here because somehow, we see God in these places, whether we know Him by name or not?
God knows us. He knows us as intimately as he knows the pika and the ptarmigan who roam the quiet wilds here. And He reveals His majesty to us through His creation. Here, I see His creative hand in the azure sky, the moving clouds, the mountain peaks, the variety of animals, the vast terrain. And all I learned about the animals here—how some like to say evolution just happened to make all suitable for their existence in this place—I believe intelligent design makes more sense, given the mind-boggling intricacies of each.
So tomorrow ends our stay in Denali. Back to Anchorage—to civilization—we go. And I realize that though we are leaving the wild and raw, the vast and vulnerable, our journey will continue. We have have been on a wild and raw, vast and vulnerable journey for the entire duration of our married life and we wouldn’t have it any other way, considering the rewards.
Sometimes you find yourself in unexpected terrain, where the unknowns—the wild and raw—leave you feeling raw emotionally but wild with joy spiritually. That’s where we are today, twenty years into the terrain of our marriage. The wild and raw of our journey these last two decades together has weathered us, for sure, but it has strengthened us more. We know and love each other more and we know and love God more. We have the wrinkles to prove the weathering and one of us has the gray hairs. But we also have a deep down joy that no money can buy, no achievement can produce, no experience can maintain. Our joy is in the Lord who leads us through the wild and raw, the vast and vulnerable. And God has called us to journey together, not alone. We are thankful.
We’re all on this life journey together, no matter how we travel or who we travel with. And we all start out with a wild and raw birth entry. Should we expect the journey through to be any different? Would we want it any different? I suppose the answers depend on the person. Some dislike adventure intensely, preferring to control as many variables as possible. Some seek adventure, like it’s knit into their soul, and they must pursue, even if it means fear and pain at times, because somehow they know there is glory beyond.
My husband and I? We’re the second sort. Life is an adventure and we choose to thrust ourselves into the unknown—into the wild and raw, the vast and vulnerable—to live fully and learn truly from whatever God’s hand delivers. Our chosen adventure through our married life has not been without risk and our journey has not been without pain, but the rewards of coming to know God and His faithfulness and coming to experience true human intimacy is worth all we have risked—all we have endured—because we’ve come through it all together—Todd and I and God—a cord of three unbroken, on a continuing journey together, forever, through wild and raw, vast and vulnerable.
What a wondrous reward awaits those who risk the journey!
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20
Next stop for me? Kodiak Island and a sea plane to Harvester Island. My first ever writer’s workshop with Leslie Leyland Fields, author of numerous books, including her heart-thumper, Surviving the Island of Grace. Read it and come to know the amazing woman writer, mother, pioneer, commercial fisherwoman, God-lover.
I may not be able to blog while I’m in such a remote spot but I will return with stories to tell the week of September 9th.