It all started with a small sign. I suppose that is how many adventures begin...just a small sign and you see something, it catches you and off you go! Mine was a small sign post in the middle of the souvenir shops in Seward Harbor. I am sure it has gone unnoticed by thousands of tourists and fishermen but for some reason it caught my eye. It was a reproduction of an illustration by an artist named Rockwell Kent accompanied by a quote from St. Augustine. Maybe it was the great Saint's name that attracted me and the fact that hundreds of years later his words were still being publically posted....at any rate I was intrigued.
"And the people went there and admired the high mountains, the wide wastes of sea and the mighty downward rushing streams and the ocean and the course of the stars and they forgot themselves"
I liked the quote, snapped a picture, and walked away, and just happened to wander into Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center. Scanning the bookshelves I came across the book Wilderness by the artist Rockwell Kent, the one containing the illustration I had just photographed. A journal of the time he spent on Fox Island in the winter of 1918-1919; the book was one I remembered thumbing through the previous year but for whatever reason had decided not to buy. Now, here I was again scanning its pages, wondering what a man's journal about his time in the wilderness could possibly have to say to a woman like me. Nothing I assumed, so I decided to purchase it for my son and off I went. But that night a funny thing happened. Skimming the book I was going to give away, I discovered that I bought it on August 24th and it was on August 24th 1918 that Rockwell Kent arrived in Seward Alaska. Coincidence? Sure...but I love things like this....let's call it serendipity...and Rockwell Kent not only came to Seward on the 24th, he made his first visit to Fox Island on August 25th. Guess where I wanted to go the next day?
I woke up on the 25th of August to an absolutely gorgeous day, one of the kind of days the locals will tell you are few and far between. The sun was shining (a small miracle) and there was no wind (another miracle) and I decided it was the perfect day to explore to Fox Island. There was just one minor problem....there was absolutely no way of getting there. Since the weather was so beautiful all the tour boats that have Fox Island on their itinerary were already completely booked.
Now you may be wondering about all of this...like...What is so great about Fox Island? (I had no idea). Why did you want to go there? ( I have no idea). Was it the date? (Maybe). How silly! ( Yes).
All I can tell you is at that moment I really wanted to go to Fox Island. No, it was more, I felt compelled to go, so I told my friend Ann, "let's go down to the harbor and maybe somebody will cancel and we can get on a boat to Fox Island" And so we did...and so we did!
I spent one of the most wonderful days of my life going to and sea kayaking around Fox Island. This small island at the entrance to Resurrection Bay from the Gulf of Alaska is still very pristine and only has one small (and expensive) wilderness lodge. Few people actually spend the night there but the tour boats do take the passengers to the island for buffet lunches and some of the adventurous stay for the afternoon and go sea kayaking. I could go on and on about the beauty of the day, the majesty of the place and just the presence of God I felt as I sat on the shore of Fox Island, but these would be just descriptive words...nothing more. I think Augustine said it so well; they went and were so in awe they forgot themselves.
Which brings me back to Rockwell Kent. He was struggling with his art and his life when he made his journey to Fox Island. Taking his nine year old son Rockwell with him he spent from September 1918 until March 1919 in a very primitive cabin loaned to him by the only other person on the island an old Swedish goat herder. He spent the winter in a very harsh isolated place doing the mundane tasks of chopping wood and cooking food and yet it was in this place he came fully alive and reignited his passion for art. I like to think that in the wilderness he was able to forget himself and find Life.
The creation is given to us as a sign post leading us to its Creator. Just as I was given a small black and white illustration on a sign post that eventually led me to an island of staggering beauty; we are all given this creation of staggering beauty to lead us to the One who created it. I am more than certain when we actually see Him in all His Glory this small garden we call Earth will seem as "black and white" as the illustration I found in Seward Harbor on the 24th day of August in the Year of Our Lord 2012.
The question that begs to be answered is what do you do with the sign? Do you walk past it and never see it? Do you stop for a minute and say "oh interesting" and go on? Or do you follow it to where it is pointing.....no matter how foolish your pursuit may seem to others?