Friday, August 26, 2011

in the belly

8.23.11 I crawled into my sleeping bag here on the rooftop of the ferry at 4:30am this morning after loading all our gear together one last time. Kate left by plane last night. We all took her together, “family style.” Odin was supposed to leave two days ago, but the fast ferry is in for repair. Paul and I got delayed too. I have been aching, aching, aching, to get to Juneau, to stop tackling checklists and logistics and be with community and friends again. Time is too short. I have to leave Alaska all together in just two days. I just want to pause and be here with people I miss.

The broken ferry was ironic to say the least. I was thinking we made it through summer by foot, kayak, float plane and boat in the big swells all clear. Then there we were stranded again by the most reliable form of local transportation – the monster ship. In Sitka we cruised around town in Charlie’s rig these last few days. In the spirit of small town Alaska, he tossed me the keys to his ancient truck after we hit the docks at Ceiling Cove on our last trip out. Said he’d be going out of town and we could probably put that thing to use. Unreliable breaks and a gas guzzling rusted beauty of a ride. Loved that beast. Kind of the perfect end to our summer.

I slept hard on the ferry, woke up to the cold air on my face and the grey light glowing, that thing that happens only here in Southeast, and I still don’t know how to describe. One kind of just has to experience it. I miss it already. Layers of cloud blanket the forested islands as we move through the passage. I realize that I’m looking at a the same route I’ve traveled before differently now. I know what it feels like to be deep in those forests. I can imagine what life they hold. As I peeled back the cocoon of my sleeping bag to unveil the solarium view through sleepy eyes, I remembered a story that a dear friend and mentor sent me when she saw some photographs from our summer. Years back, she was working on a book in the American West and venturing into open landscapes there, and she spent an day visiting with a Zuni. After sharing stories of place, he put his hand upon her stomach and told her “You are in the belly of the earth. ” She told said the same for our summer.

I’ve been in the belly, and I’m watching in fade into the distance before me now through sleep eyes.

The grey shifts to white then it all disappears at the horizon. I’m afraid of what I might forget.

The boat’s engine is purring. My body is still warm in depths of my bag. There’s a slow vibration around me and the gentle feeling of moving forward bit by bit. Raindrops are falling on the deck, splattering. The American flag is flapping in the wind on the stern. Its stripes provide the only color breaking the blue and grey in 360 degrees. I can almost make out the sound of it snapping back and forth above the ferry’s hum. I’m thinking about the belly. I suppose it’s what this is all about – being in the belly of wilderness, figuring out how it’s changing, and what that can teach us. I have a lot to sort out, but this has been a start.

The compass points north, but I'm headed home now. -Lauren


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