Heavy Ash Falls on Kodiak: How Do We Survive The (Family) Eruption Again?


On Sunday, in the middle of a blue-sky day in Kodiak the mountains almost disappeared.  

It was Ash. Volcanic ash.
The sun still worked to light the sky, but it was weary in all that ash.

Planes could not fly for fear of damaging the engines. No one in Alaska can forget the Alaska jet in 1989 that plunged 10,000 feet after sucking up particulates. By God's grace alone, the engines were restarted just  before All was Lost, and all survived. The plane sustained 80 million in damage.

And here is why this is about marriage. And other family eruptions that fill our own skies with ash---This ash is not fresh. This ash is 100 years old.

There are more than 130 volcanoes in Alaska, but less than 20 are active. (Which is plenty. They cause more-than-enough havoc!)  This ash came from Novarupta, a volcano that erupted in 1912. It was a massive eruption, the largest by volume in the 20th century, 10 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens, spewing ash 100,000 feet into the air, drifting as far away as North Africa. The ash swallowed Kodiak Island, burying it in deep drifts, snuffing out the sun for three entire days. And afterwards . . . 

The ash covered the floor of Katmai Valley to a record depth of 700 feet. Much of it is still there.

(Rivers through canyons of pure ash.)

Whenever it blows hard NW, as it was still doing the next day  (gusting to 50 mph out there), we are breathing tiny shards of silica, tiny pieces of glass. And the beauty around us is swallowed up.

This feels personal to me. The volcano is in our neighborhood, just 60 miles from our fish camp island. And I cannot help but think of marriage, of our children, of our parents. We've all survived "eruptions" of volcanic proportions. We've seen the lava burning a path to our feet. We've seen the ash fall bury our house, the neighborhood. . .  Then time passes, and we think we're okay. The burns are healed, the glass in our lungs dissolves. We think we've swept the rest away, all that ash around our feet . .. buried it in the garden, in our journal, in the attic with our outdated coats. 
Then a sharp wind from just the right direction rises, and the ash we thought gone whips into the air, and we're choking again. . .  We look for the volcano, but it's not there. Nothing has happened but a little wind. Then we remember---oh yes, that ash. Again? 
How do we stop this? How do we end the bitter choking on distant memories? We feel SO powerless against these forces: earthquake, volcano, whirling winds.

But we're not. We're really not. Listen to what's been given to you. 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened 
so you may know the hope to which he has called you, 
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 

and his incomparably great power for us who believe." 

What IS this incomparably great POWER for us who believe?

"That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead  . . . "

In a few weeks, my husband and I will celebrate 37 years together. One thing I know: the power God used to raise Christ from the dead---is given to us. Now.  And it's real. I know how weak we feel. I know how powerless I have felt so many times in my life. But I am not. You are not. 
The power we're given is mightier than any volcano. It can blow the ash away for good. It can tamp the acid dust with the rain of  compassion and forgiveness. It's the kind of power that births a baby, that keeps living "I do" even when you feel like "you don't," that keeps giving when others keep taking, that stays "until death do you part" . . .  I mean the kind of power that reaches a hand across a table, across the bed, across a burnt-up field to say, "I love you, still. And always" 

 We are not always good at this, but we cannot forget what God has spent for us so that we can. 

Today the wind died.  I went down to the harbor again. 

The mountains were back. The colors bright. The air clean.
This is the power we've been given, all of us:
"I love you still. And always."

I pray you KNOW the power of God in your life this week, in all the hard ashy places!! 

Undoing Volcanoes+Cosmic Chaos:The Spring Mating of the Socks

I am packing to leave for fishcamp this week. Getting from here to there, from one house to another, from one island to another is something of a feat, beginning with this: Gathering, collecting boxing, cataloging, taping, labeling, carrying and carrying again, some seven times before all my stuff—essential to the last book and kitchen gadget---finally lands on Harvester Island, some 100 miles away.

In the midst of this comes the annual rite most of you practice as well----spring cleaning. And it IS spring here, finally! The snow on the mountains is melting. The flakes and flurries of this last week did not stick or stay. The ground is still dead and brown mostly, but the light has returned---it is light until almost 11 pm now. I look upward with fresh anticipation.

But when that spring resurrection and light floods through my living room windows---I see something else. Dirt. Decay. Humus, the dust we're made of and the dust we leave in our wake every stroll through the rooms of our houses.

Where does it come from? The dust comes from our own dust, from the 50,400,000 skin cells we leak every day. And that dust comes from star dust. The famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains in a video gone viral that we are made from the stars.
The atoms that make up our bodies---the carbon, iron and oxygen---came literally from the stars themselves, who exploded their "enriched guts" into the universe, creating our world and providing the elements that compose our bodies. The most astounding fact of the universe is this, says Tyson: "We are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but more importantly, the universe is in us …. We are made of star-stuff."

(Tyson, a self-described agnostic, ridicules the notion of a Creator God who used these processes to create All That Is, including women and men made in His image.) This star-dust also comes blasting out of the earth---as we were reminded again this week with the eruption of Pavlov Volcano out on the Aleutian Chain, just south west of Kodiak Island. An inferno of ash, steam and smoke blew more than 20,000 feet into the atmosphere over the weekend, cancelling some local flights.
(Both photos courtesy of USGS) Closer to home, all this ash, detritus, this dust tumbleweeding across my wood floors . . . Don’t we who are spring cleaning know the world is unraveling, falling apart, crumbling into entropy? 
 Even beyond the dust creatures under my dressers, and the ash and pumice that washes up on our beaches, I have overwhelming evidence of it in my own sphere, this house I inhabit with my family, this little cosmos with its own gravity and orbit. I can make my case for the world unmaking in a hundred ways, but for today, I mention only one more: 
I know you are nodding your head right now. You know what I’m talking about. Perhaps nothing else better illustrates the entropy we all fear, the encroaching randomness of the universe than the universal disappearance of socks. No, the disappearance of A sock. Because they never disappear in pairs. If they did, who would care? But this is just the point----that these items, created in pairs, packaged in pairs, sold in pairs, worn in pairs, and put into the washer in pairs---somehow fall prey to some subversive anti- gravitational system. Or perhaps there is Velcro suctioned somewhere where we least suspect it. Or----it may be something as simple as Sock Lust that lures them away. Adultery is ugly in any form. (I never am sure if the one sock I find is the one who has strayed faithlessly from the match, or if it is indeed the stalwart One who has stayed True all the way out of the dryer. ) I have three full laundry baskets of such strays/stalwarts. 
I cannot leave my house for the entire summer in such a state. So—yesterday I began: The Spring Mating of the Socks. It went like this:
The Spring Mating of the Socks

When all halves are wholed

and row on row still quilt my couch:

the striped, dotted, floral, knit,

the stipppled, nubby, the polyproped---

In hope I trust that word 

and pair them skewed:

an anklet with a knee high,

a swiss dotted with a crew,

an argyle with a slouch,

a silk stocking with a tube.

I knot them urging "mate!"

then wait to wake to booties, 

socklettes, stocking bambinis;

precious little twins,

(identical, of course.

If fraternal, then divorce!)

And so, like this, in my own humble way, I resist the chaos that undoes the world, at least my house. I hope you will try it too. As spring’s longer light reminds us, there is always hope. New life will come. Love and a creative eye and heart can Re-Pair every undone pair, both socks and people.
And remember, none of this redemptive work is wasted, for “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Ahhhh, some will be barefoot on those streets of gold,  and some will have socks. And some will even have socks that match---Glory! (Which will you be?)