Trip to Kodiak beach reveals new shades of white

December 6, 2008 

KODIAK -- It is hard to stay inside on a sunny day in Kodiak. Everyone knows how quickly our island weather changes and that the next blue sky might be a long time coming. We may wake to fluffy new snow, but it is often a bruising snowball consistency by lunch and then melts into a citywide puddle over the ice.

November in Kodiak was clear and cold, but my husband and I have had to enjoy the sunshine and fresh snow mainly through our windows. That's because we recently bought our first house and have been busy moving boxes, building furniture, painting, stripping wallpaper and taking power tools away from our toddler.

After building our cabin in Uyak Bay, we expected this move to be easy. This was a finished house that needed just a little renovation. We should have known better.

You know the strained exchange between two people maneuvering a large piece of furniture up narrow stairs? Lately it feels like my husband and I have had quite a few of those. I have spent far too much time trying to choose between shades of white paint -- petticoat white, swan white, wedding white, journal white. We finally settled on Swiss Coffee, a name that implies that in Switzerland people don't take coffee in their milk.

Meanwhile, the local Christmas bazaars and the growing piles of catalogs remind me that the holiday season lurks beyond these chaotic moving days and things are only going to get busier.

So on a recent Saturday morning we decided to leave our boxes behind. We loaded the dogs, the boy and a thermos of coffee into the truck and headed to Narrow Cape. On our way, we dropped off my parents at the airport for their morning flight and watched the deer and bear hunters streaming off the jet, a river of camouflage.

On these winter days of afternoon sunsets, when the light always seems to slip away too early, it felt good to be out and waiting for the sun to rise. It was just getting light when we stopped to see the eagles crouched around the last silvers in the creek. At Narrow Cape, we stopped again for the ranch buffalo that had formed an indifferent roadblock.

Years ago, I often made this drive with my family. We sometimes fished or picked berries or looked for fossils at Fossil Beach, but Boat Bay was our favorite picnic spot. I rode in the back seat with my brother and sister and a wild fox terrier that turned collie at the sight of a buffalo herd.

That was before they paved the road and put in the rocket launch site, before the houses went up all over Pasagshak. Boat Bay felt much farther away when I was a kid.

That's the thing about moving back to the town you grew up in. We are layering new memories onto a whole collection of old ones. When we were trying to decide where to settle for the winter, I worried that the familiarity might be confining. It made me envy the friends who have come here from other places, who fell in love with Kodiak and decided to stay. But on days like this one, it's hard to imagine a more satisfying place to live.

We parked by a frozen creek and watched as three surfers rode waves that shifted from green to white. Then the beach was empty, and the dogs looped across the sand.

Boat Bay is almost at the end of the road system, and it's different from the rocky beaches around town. Instead of a dark-green wall of spruce trees framing the view, there are grassy bluffs that roll toward the mountains. At low tide the long, wide-open stretch of beach is good for walks or cartwheels or messages scratched into the smooth sand.

This beach makes the best sounds. On stormy days, the waves thunder and fling driftwood the size of sea lions up into the creek beds between the bluffs. Today the curl and trip of water is steady and soothing. As we walk down the beach, I listen to the waves and the sand squeaking under my son's boots, and I stop worrying about the house projects.

On the drive home I collect a new list of colors -- white snow on alder branches, sunshine white behind winter clouds, the pearl white peaks of Kodiak Island.


Kodiak-based Sara Loewen, formerly a teacher and now a student in the Master of Fine Arts program at UAA, fishes in Uyak Bay with her husband, Peter, and year-old son.

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