Camp Island, Karluk Lake

Karluk Lake is bay-sized, so big you find yourself looking for whales and expecting changing tides. Big enough that you can stay here, on an island on an island. It’s quiet and still enough that you hear the splashing of bears fishing for salmon miles away before you spot them through binoculars. You find yourself constantly, enthusiastically, reaching for binoculars here, which is funny because you wouldn’t say that bears are your favorite charismatic megafauna, more like elephants and orangutans. A close Kodiak bear encounter has never been on your bucket list. Still, you’re elated the evening you watch a mama bear meandering along the shoreline with cubs following behind like funny brown prepositions—over boulders, under branches, between blooming pushki they follow her, the center of everything. Because you too are a mother who will never be free from worry again, her steady graceful certainty that the three cubs will keep up and stay close makes you think of how you’ll carry your kids with you always, even when they’re cities or continents away. And your babies are getting older, the first one towers over you now, the middle one picks you up when he hugs, but the youngest still wanders into your bed at night, so that daily you swing between longing for just a little space and peace, while already mourning the days when you won’t be the center of all this wild chaos. Some mornings you sit down to write through two cups of coffee before they wake up, hungry, rosy cheeked and bed headed, with dreams to retell, wrenching you back from that brief reunion with the creative you once defined yourself by. You launch yourself into the current of tending and soothing and scolding and feeding because you aren’t an island at all, you’re the water around it, pouring yourself into the world, with all the women you love around you, holding both the calm and never stillness, the darkness and the bright reflections of this bewildering beautiful life, trying to hold everything.

many thanks to the wonderful Kodiak Brown Bear Center and Lodge