First Salmon, the Season Starts

The saws were louder today, cutting through the white noise in the back bedroom where Z sleeps on her king size bed. Luke and I have removed ourselves to the double bed in the other room. Queen Z. Whatever it takes to get that child to sleep. While the buzzing down below woke her this morning, I think she’s also getting wise to my system. When I went in the bedroom, she had snuck across the bed silently and was gnawing on my phone (the white noise device). Who knows how long she had been up, happily gumming the phone case.  

In the other bedroom, where I placed her after much protest and shoulder chewing, the industrial sounds are slightly more muffled. Behind the maroon curtains, the fifth day of sun threatens to spoil me. This has been the longest stretch of blue skies I can remember here. When it’s this nice here, I’m not sure what to do with myself. Although I probably feel that way when it’s rainy, too. Long stretches of similar weather give me amnesia. I can't quite remember what it feels like to wake up to rain. Or, my mind stops me before it remembers. Recently, on days like this when the air in the house feels bright even before I even pull back the shades, we hurry (sort of) through our post-nap morning routines, and take long walks with our friend Jake, 2, and his mom, Jenn, also a fisherman’s wife.

 

The other night, over crab cakes and martinis garnished with a speared local spot prawn, (while Spike and Luke were watching the kids) Jenn and I talked about this fine balance of spending all your time with your kids because you know it’s the most important thing, but still having that pang, that distracting call for a deeper, more individually productive life. I think of my complaints last summer, and now I think how stupid that I ever would have lamented all that free time I had to read and to write. Jenn fills herself up by constantly reaching into new pools of in-person knowledge, finding companionship in people who do things well, whether that’s a bartender or a public speaker or an old man she walks with every Monday morning.

 

Jenn hasn’t seen her husband for a month. She lives in a trailer (which is classier than you’re picturing--leather couches, fireplace, granite countertops) with one of the most beautiful views on this continent. Fishing boats and float planes cut through the two avenues of blue, while Mount Edgecumbe, the dormant volcano, overlooks with its severe-ish flattop in the distance. Her ocean-side yard is overgrown with Fisher Price toys and dandelions. She planted lettuce and mint and parsley in terracotta pots and cleaned their entire truck inside and out before her husband came home today.

 

Jenn is a woman who is always trying to be better. I remember last summer seeing a Post-It in her bathroom that said, “Who are you serving today?” I think of that line often; how even though it's a call to action, there's something about it that's alleviating. I also remember thinking, this is a woman like me, who needs Post-It notes in her bathroom to remind herself how to be here. Maybe we all do.

 

I am learning from my time with Jenn how to find comfort in abundance: of podcasts, of arm-toning exercises, of ways to love and entertain small children even when you feel like you might enjoy running through Crate and Barrel with an aluminum bat and destroying everything in sight.

 

Today was Luke’s first full day of work, meaning he got up at 4:30 and will be fishing till around 5 tonight. In some ways, it’s almost easier when he’s gone, when I am not trying to balance portraying that I’m happy here; with letting him off the hook to get done what he needs to get done; with my selfish inclination I always have during any of our free time to pin him down and make him spend it with me. Last night, we ate the king salmon we caught our first time out on the boat this season. I got seasick, and had to ask Luke to start pounding shore-wards before I blew it. Zaley didn’t made a single unhappy peep. She must have her dad’s seafaring genes. I know I'm biased, but that pink-cheeked little thing is a marvel.

 

This morning, I scrubbed fish scales off the cookie sheet and realized we have no baking supplies here. Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do in Sitka. Whole wheat bread, banana chocolate chip bread, focaccia, sea salt white sandwich bread. When you’re making bread, you can’t help but feel like you’re home. This summer, I am missing coffee (a breastfeeding child who doesn’t sleep isn’t worth the risk of caffeine) and the humble sound of the morning birds in Colorado. Here, the ravens sound like someone knocking the wind out of a jack-in-the-box. Of course, at home, if I heard a raven, I’d long for these mountains, black and painted with swaths of rabbit-white snow, and all this space to walk and breathe in the wet dirt and the spruce trees and the sea.