I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize…” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, and if my math is correct, the 38th Sunday of Zoom Morning Prayer since the pandemic began. It has been a challenge, but here we are.

The message of Advent, Jan our priest said “Is to be awake”– and not so we don’t miss Zoom church or in order to judge the tardy ones, but so we don’t miss God among us. Well, I was late for church, again, this time because I had been sorting through the top shelves of the pantry, suddenly concerned that there were a half-dozen weird old liquor bottles up there. “Tequila?” I said to Chip. (He was washing dishes.) “When have  we ever had tequila outside of Mexico.Where did this come from?” As I turned another bottle to read the label, reaching on my tiptoes, something fell and exploded and glass shattered across the kitchen and out into the hall.

“Good thing it wasn’t the tequila” my husband said, and then blocked the dogs from entering the crash site.  I guessed from the metal handle, tinted glass, and candle fragments it must have been a lantern from one of the weddings we hosted for our daughters. I saved it to remember a very happy day. All those hugs and kisses and unsanitized hands reaching across the potluck tables. Dancing to a swing band. Another life, it seems.

In the afternoon I walked the dogs as the sun set and tried not to think about what I’m missing this holiday season. This is my favorite time of day. I like to see the Christmas lights in our windows when I return home. One neighbor was out there in the rain, and she asked to join me “of course!” I shouted over the waves and wind. It seemed so normal, walking and talking. And just then, I felt so lucky for this much. She had spent the day baking cookies for advent calendars. She loves the old German tradition, she said of special daily treats. We talked about how cozy these dark days are, and how safe we feel in Haines, hunkered down the way we always are this time of year. She said we Alaskans know how to cope with cabin fever. Candles, cookies, projects, playing outside in the dark. Cleaning. Her baking jag began after organizing her holiday wrapping and box supply closet. One thing leads to another. The wind picked up, and cold rain pelted the snow, sand and our faces and soaked our legs. I laughed and told her about my pantry escapade.  She told me I’d have good fortune for a year. Breaking a glass and stepping in dog poop both bring luck in German folklore. “Go figure,” she said and laughed again. I said it’s just like rain at a wedding. What else can you say but it is a blessing?

And why not?

Some people would even think this was bad weather, but what do they know?

Now, I’m not saying that I saw God on that walk, especially not the way I hoped to– like I wished I’d see and talk to the ghosts of the people I loved– but I did feel so light and so lucky as I stepped carefully up the dark, icy and holy path to our bright house.