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.

“Love is the story and the prayer that matters most.”– Brian Doyle

This week, I was in Juneau with my daughter and son-in-law and baby Henry and toddling Emilia because Henry caught RSV and ended up in the ER and everyone was terrified and trying to be calm. (He’s 6 months old but very sturdy.) It’s just so scary when a baby’s breath is strained. I flew down to Juneau. In the plane I hummed “Breathe on me breath of God…” and said every prayer I knew. Our Father, Hail Mary. Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. The 23rd Psalm. This is what I do. It helps me, and I believe it helps the world. Also: it was very windy and cold and the little plane flew high above the northerly gales ( a tail wind, thank God. Again.) We were up about 6,000 feet. I worried about ice in the carburator. Except that there were baby twins strapped in front packs to their parents’ chests behind me, crying with strong healthy lungs, a good sign,so I knew we would be okay. Their parents had been hoping for a child for years and then got two! Those darling girls had to arrive safely in Juneau– safely to our journey’s end as that traveling prayer goes– with the pilot and passengers and the mail. I had no idea that God could be a young pilot eating a sandwich, but I have seen it. He banked down onto the runway and landed  with such confidence that I didn’t have time to close my eyes and pray some more.

In Juneau, I distracted Emilia while her mother coaxed Henry to drink a bottle in the quiet, dark, moist room with the vaporizer steaming. It was critical to keep him hydrated. I gave her anything she wanted to keep her happy. Fig bars, tea, “purple snacks,”  gum, toast. I even played a cartoon on my phone for her. I never do that. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring it out.

Later, I held Henry so he’d sleep in that same dark room and hummed the breath hymn. I prayed that God would hold him in the palm of his or her hand. That all of us would feel that faith.

I can’t say that God made Henry well, but I do know that he made me able to be wiser and calmer than I am because I trusted in that grace.

I don’t push my luck, or my faith, so I took a very crowded ferry home. It was full of kids, parents and coaches heading to the Jr. high basketball tournament and the DDF meet playing Monopoly, standing around talking. Napping. And the rest of us, just trying to get home.  It’s been  a few years since students have been able to travel and compete. Remember how we prayed these normal activities would return? Maybe that’s why nobody seemed too grumpy about the conditions.

My first morning home I went to the pool. As I swam, I watched my breath bubble out  and my body work as I reached and rolled and kicked. The tension left my shoulders, neck,  lower back. Heart.  I exhaled thank you thank you thank you. I just love baby Henry and am so grateful he’s on the mend. I dropped into it and trusted the water to hold me, and it did. Of course I know how to swim, so I am not afraid of floating. But when I let go, the water caught me. Is this faith?

“Love is the prayer that matters most.”

I miss Brian Doyle.

Not that we were pals, but I did meet him in Skagway at the writing conference there, and he told me I was a “story catcher.” I took that as kind of baptism in writing. I still do. I wish he hadn’t died too young, because I have some questions for him. Such as: can I write sermons if I am not a pastor or a priest? (He sort of did.) Is this even too preachy? Well. I’m an elder now. Apparently.  Did I tell you that my gray hair prompted a younger, not as fit man ( by the way–)  to offer me his seat on the subway when I was visiting New York? I was offended at first, but then I realized that  people really are mostly nice, everywhere. I still declined the seat. I’d rather stand.  But that’s another story.