September 6, 2016
Before coming to visit Simon in Ketchikan, I did some research to see what kinds of things there are to do here. After reading a few lists that were all the same, I realized that there are really only about three things to do in Ketchikan.
I managed to check these first two things off my Alaska Adventure list within a few days of being here, but up until today, I had only seen a couple totem poles around town. I had also seen a post card featuring an image of a Native American long house and totem poles. I wasn’t sure where the place was, but I had it in the back of my mind that it would be neat to find, even though I didn’t specifically plan to seek it out.
This morning when Simon and I began our day, we didn’t really have a plan. For Simon, this is easy. He is spontaneous and adventurous and always up for anything. For me, it isn’t always quite so easy to wander aimlessly and I usually always set an alarm every morning and plan an agenda even though I may have “nothing to do for the day.” This is one of the many ways that Simon and I balance each other out perfectly, as if we were made for one another. He helps me relax and go with the flow while I tell him where we need to go and why. But, today I didn’t mind not having much of a plan. Knowing that I was spending a day doing whatever the moment called for with the love of my life was more than enough.
After a lazy morning, we headed to town for lunch. While I was flying to Alaska, the Ohio couple on the plane sitting next to me told me about Annabelle’s, a restaurant that is a must visit while in Ketchikan. Annabelle’s ended up being our first stop today. Well, to be completely accurate, we wandered through two big tourist shops on the way and Simon bought three fishing jigs. Sure, these details may be unnecessary, but sometimes it’s the littlest details that make everything make sense and seem like it was all planned from the beginning.
Annabelle’s was established in 1972. Wait, it was 1927. I also got those numbers mixed up when I was telling my mom about it. Being 89 years old is much more impressive than being 44 years old. Anyway, Annabelle’s still has old light fixtures, big booth seats, and a menu styled to look like a newspaper from the 1920s. I ordered the sour dough bread bowl full of salmon chowder and Simon ordered the beer battered halibut. We were both feeling very happy and a bit chubby after our meal. So, next we decided to wander through town a bit more as we tried to dodge rain drops between the gaps of store awnings.
We wandered our way through fancy art galleries and local businesses that are open year around. We even found reindeer on sale and eventually ended up at Polar Treats for coffee and cocoa. While here, Simon texted a coworker who he was thinking of buying a new shotgun from. Simon had overheard him talking about it at the station a few days ago. Next, we were off to check out the gun and as soon as Simon saw the color, his favorite: camo, the check practically signed itself and we were back in his truck.
“There’s a park nearby,” Simon said. “It has a stream where fish always are.” As we looked off the edge of a bridge, kids ran by. We discussed whether they were running for gym class or if cross country is extremely popular in Ketchikan. We never made up our minds either way and I silently cheered them on as they ran by. The water passing below the bridge was full of more fish than I can accurately describe. Simon tried to explain what the sought after silver salmon looks like, but that is something that also can’t be described well enough to truly know until you see it for yourself. We then wandered the park and passed a fountain before rounding back to Betty, his black pickup truck.
This is when Simon asked me what I wanted to do. I thought, and remembered the list of three top things to do in Ketchikan. “Where are all the totem poles?” I asked. He said that there is a national park right near his house that has totem poles. He hadn’t seen them before, but he had driven through the parking lot previously for the Pokemon.
On the way, we detoured to Wal-Mart. I still had a few strongly encouraged suggestions of things Simon could buy for his apartment. We picked up more clothing hangers that may or may not be used once I leave, a big white acrylic cutting board for filleting fish and the occasional salad fixings, a drying wrack for clean dishes and more dish cloths, Tupper-Ware to store left overs, and a garlic press because Simon always uses it fresh.
While checking out, I got a text from another local friend, Brie. She was also at Wal-mart with her husband Noah. Coincidentally, or perhaps it was planned, they were parked right next to us in their brand-new-to-them truck. We peaked in the windows and admired the sototily awesome leather seats until they came out and joined us. They hadn’t really planned to buy a truck, but last week things changed and came together and here we all were standing in the rain in a Ketchikan Wal-mart parking lot looking at our reflections in the dark green paint. Just like us, they hadn’t planned to go see totem poles today, but they decided to come along anyway.
The park is called Totem Bight. And the reason while is because the shore line dips in just as if some sea monster had taken a big bite out of the side. There are 14 totem poles in total and a native American Long House. I guess we saw them all. But I didn’t exactly keep track because my plan for the day wasn’t to tally to number of totem poles I saw. It was to spend the day focused on making memories with my favorite person.
It turns out it was the same one as in the post card. We had found ourselves here without even planning to do so.
We did stop and read the description and significance of the first few poles, actually. But it didn’t take long for all four of us to willfully get lost along the path of memory lane: past, present, and future.
The trail reminded me of the trail to Saddle Mountain, which is the mountain that Simon and I both met one another at the very top of. I was also completely caught up in the present moment trying to hold on to Simon as I felt time both freeze and slip away. I imagined a day in our future when we will return to those totem poles and trees that we danced among during a gentle rain. I had never planned to come to Ketchikan, but here I was and it felt meant to be.
I held Simon’s arm tight as he held me up right walking along the rocky shore. Someone discovered small rock crabs in the tiny pools of water. Another began skipping rocks. A third found hermit crabs. And a fourth took panorama photos with a smart phone and many mental snaps shots to save for a rainy day when the power goes out and the phone is dead.
“Great place for a bonfire,” Noah said. “But you’d have to watch the tide,” Simon replied as I asked for a photo of my friend Brie and I.
With one pair walking hand in hand and the other walking piggy-back, we left the totem poles behind us and looked forward to whatever we fancied doing next. I asked Brie and Noah out to be our first double date buddies Friday night. They accepted and we said good night.
Unpacking the new housewares Simon had just purchased felt a bit like a birthday party to me. I was so excited over everything. I immediately washed the dishes to “test out” the new drying wrack even though I knew exactly what it was going to do and I put the hangers to use even though the clothes were already neatly folded and put away elsewhere. Maybe this is what being an adult feels like. Or perhaps it is merely finding joy in the little things in life. Or maybe it didn’t matter what I was doing today as long as I was doing it with Simon.
As soon as everything was tidied, we happily made a mess of it. We defrosted halibut we caught only days ago and pressed fresh garlic. We sliced a lemon and rinsed the veggies. We roasted potatoes and boiled corn. We seasoned the fish with rosemary and tossed the salad. We laughed until we cried. And then we cried more as we looked into each other’s eyes and gave thanks to He who planned all of this for us; He who gives us the ability to go a day without planning anything and discover more love for one another and for Him; He who has plans for us bigger than our wildest dreams.
Today without even planning to, I checked off the third thing on my Ketchikan to-do list just a short time before having to leave. And today I also checked off falling in love more than I have ever been in before and tomorrow I will do the same. The last year and a half I have grown to love another human being more than any other. I have grown to love myself more than ever before. And I have grown to love and know the Lord more tangibly through reflecting on the little details of the last year and a half. They can all be connected like dots, stringing together the events of a plan of great design that truly blows my mind.
The day Simon and I met, I had not planned to meet the person made for me. Nor today did I plan to see totem poles. But, He did plan these things. Although each of these things may not seem equally significant, they both worked out perfectly. They prove that every little detail of our lives is planned out specifically and specially by the one who has greater plans for us than our wildest dreams. And I take much comfort in that.