Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Ancient Proverb
Summer has come and gone, but as I Iook back over the last four months of sunshine and rain, few Alaska memories are as prominent as the trip to Mary and Gene Cornell’s five-bedroom “cabin” in the heart of the wilderness and a block from the Kenai River in Southcentral Alaska.
I go there every year, but this year was special: four days with some of my finest friends, reds coming in by the hundred thousand after a particularly dry spell of closures for kings, and sitting by the campfire at Jayme and Cathy Lavender’s cabin, which rests right above the river. Gene’s son-in-law, Jayme, sang country-western songs as people sipped homemade beer, daylight turned to dusk, bats flew above, and embers sparkled and glowed.
None of us were going anywhere, and Jayme’s special songs—everything from love to loss, funny to sad, the deep throbs of country to borderline bluegrass, kept us mesmerized and warm, even as the rain fell upon us—first gently, then full force. Nobody wanted to go inside where the temperature was warm. We wanted the warmth that comes from within.
|Nikki Thompson’s infectious glee about catching a Kenai River red salmon was a big part of our weekend.|
We wanted the music, the fire, the Kenai River below us, the fresh smell of birch and spruce and the stories of the ones they caught, the ones that got away and the ones they would soon have for dinner. So we put on raincoats and sang into the dim of night, past 10, past 11, past 12, past the midnight sun and into complete darkness.
One particular bright spot was the glee of a young woman, Nikki Thompson, about catching a fish. She is developmentally disabled, but had so much joy, was so full of laughter and love. Her eyes sparkled as she told of the red salmon she caught. She showed us her cutting knife—won at bingo. She was contagiously happy.
We roasted marshmallows, but most of all, we listened. To the snapping embers, to the songs, to night’s call, to the roar of the fire glowing big in front of us. Magical moments like this come often in the Great Land, and are as special as this awesome place we call home. I’m lucky to have these wonderful friends. Lucky to live where I do. Lucky to have a job where I can share these experiences with others who live life as I do or dream of a great Alaska adventure.
Now I offer a toast to winter: cross-country skiing under blue skies, walks around my neighborhood, the mist of my cold breath as I see families in warm houses preparing for dinner, watching TV and doing housework. Soon I will hear the crunch of snow beneath my boots, feel heat in my face from a warming car and watch beautiful snowflakes falling soft like velvet.
To listen to Jayme sing, visit our website at www.alaskamagazine.com.