Since I’ve known Aaron he has talked about Chisik Island, a small island in Cook Inlet, Alaska. He spent the summers of his childhood on Chisik and most of his memories are from those summers. Finally I had the opportunity to spend a week there. I would fly to Anchorage and then, with his mom and aunt drive 3 hours south to Soldotna where we would catch a small plane for a 30 min flight to Chisik. I was excited to see this beautiful place that almost seemed like a fairytale.
When we landed on the beach we were greeted by Aaron’s family, 2 dogs, Raven and Duke and the Kulhanek family who have been fishing on the island for 30 years.
The weather was overcast but that didn’t matter, it was beautiful beyond words. Snow capped mountains, the blue water of Tuxedni Bay and fields of tall purple fireweed that would take your breath away. I had seen all of this in pictures but it didn’t come close to seeing it in person.
Chisik Island is a fishing island in south east Alaska. It’s a 7 mile by 3 mile stretch of land and 3 families fish there every summer including Aaron’s family. I was nervous, 6 days with no internet service, outhouse bathrooms, no running water, lots of flys and lots of fishing, none of these things was I very comfortable with. So I decided I was going to need to be uncomfortable in order to get comfortable. So that’s what I did.
Everyone was so welcoming and they all knew that this was something I had not experienced before and they had so much grace for me. By day 2 I felt right at home, outhouse and all.
Aaron always had dreams of bringing Eliza to Chisik so she could experience what he did as a child; but sadly that never happened. So after much thought I brought a very special box of Eliza’s ashes to bury in the Haynes family graveyard. Aaron’s grandmother and grandfather, his Aunt Machelle and his Aunt Marina’s daughter Natasha who passed away at 22 days old are all there on this little plot of land.
But before we had our small ceremony I needed to see the place and choose a perfect resting spot for Eliza. So I walked through fireweed and devils club; rose bushes and elderberry bushes until I was greeted by a wooden sign that was carved with Elizabeth May Haynes, 1935-1978.
After a few minutes I found the place. Under a canopy of spruce trees where the ground was covered with tiny pinecones and surrounded by wild blueberries just few steps from sweet Natasha.
The time came for us all to head to the site. My heart was beating fast and I was holding the box that was beautifully wrapped in one of her baby blankets close to me. Everyone was holding little bouquets of wild flowers. As Aaron dug the hole each person said a few words and kissed the box. And then, when everyone had spoken I gently placed the box into the earth and we covered it with the wildflowers. To make sure it would stay safe we rolled the most perfect pale pink rock on top.
I always think about Eliza; but on Chisik it almost seemed as if she was here. I imagined we were all playing cards at the Kulhanek’s with the wood stove warming the cabin. Eliza would walk over to me, climb into my lap and fall asleep. I could almost feel her in my arms. Eliza would have loved Chisik, picking up rocks and shells. She would have loved going on a boat ride and chasing birds down the rocky beach.
She just seemed so much closer on the island, so much easier to remember. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t any noise or distractions or maybe it’s because the clouds are a little bigger and a little lower and heaven seemed just a little closer.
During my 6 days on Chisik I got to experience warm sunny days, cloudy overcast days and chilly rainy days and they were all beautiful. Everywhere you turn there is so much to see, so much to feel.
There everything is in its basic form, you use everything, their aren’t any extras only what you need. Being there was special, it reminded me how big this world is. It reminds me of the many that came before me and the many will come after me. It reminded me how big God is and how safe Eliza is with him. Maybe that’s what’s so special about this little island. Or maybe it’s the stillness of the sea or the silence in the air, or the special people that have spent decades there.
Or maybe it’s as simple as falling asleep to the magical sound of the rain falling on a tin roof.