Saturday, July 05, 2008

I shall be released . . .

Dan, our faithful pilot, was supposed to pick us up at the village"airport" at 9:00 a.m. today. At least that's what Lyn, his secretary, told us earlier in the week. We even called her at 7:00 a.m. to confirm. She couldn't reach him on his cell phone, but was sure he remembered. So we were packed up and ready to go by 8:45 when our missionary friend stopped by to give us a ride up the hill. We wisely decided to hang out at the rec hall until we heard his plane fly over the village.

Since it was another gorgeous day, CJ and I decided to start walking the 4 miles to the airstrip. The team could pick us up when the plane arrived. When we reached the first house on the right past the Community Hall, I remembered that Paula was temporarily living there. She's one of my favorite people in the village, so we decided to stop for a little visit.

Paula lives uptown with her daughter, Ruby, but was staying at their old place down by the river to process all the salmon her family netted each day. She was flipping a pancake in a cast iron skillet when we walked in. Although she wasn't expecting visitors this morning, she greeted us with a beautiful smile.

Laughing, she complained that her kids were "killing her" with all the fish they kept bringing her to can. She showed us the slippers she beaded in-between batches of fish. Since her daughter, Carla, died this past winter, Paula and her family will be making beautiful beaded slippers and other lovely presents for those who helped their family through this difficult loss. It's part of their tradition.

Paula taught us how to say, "God bless you" in Athabaskan. As we were leaving, I asked her how to say "goodbye."

"We don't say goodbye in our language," she told me. "We say, 'see you after a while.'" She taught us the phrase in her native tongue (it sounded like kaat daa' ) and CJ and I repeated it clumsily back to her before we headed toward the airport once again.

Pickup trucks sped past us, on their way to meet the 10:45 Frontier flight. We saw the commercial plane circle and land, but still no sign of our wayward pilot. I wondered if the gang back at the teen rec had heard from Dan.

CJ and I huffed and puffed the top, then stopped a minute to catch our breath. Randy, the guy who'd given us a lift to the rec hall when we first arrived, pulled up next to us. He seemed friendly enough, so we explained our situation and asked for a ride back to town. Randy was glad to oblige.

The back of his truck was filled with mail and other merchandise, so CJ and I hopped into the front seat. Randy had to make a few deliveries on his way back to town, so he turned on some music for us while we waited.

The Bob Dylan song, "I shall be released" came on as we drove back to town.

"I love this song," I told Randy and CJ. "Listen to the words . . ."

The three of us sat in silence as Dylan's voice filled the cab.

"Any day now, any day now, I will be released . . ."

Randy pulled up to the rec and we thanked him for the ride. The rest of our team was still sitting where we'd left them--assembled around the picnic table, enjoying the sunshine.

My good husband then informed me that he'd finally reached Dan and discovered he'd totally forgotten about coming to get us! But he promised to be in the village by noon (and he made it!).

To be honest, I didn't mind the delay at all. I got one last hike around my favorite place on the planet and learned how not to say goodbye in Athabaskan. But most of all, I was reminded of how to pray for all who struggle in their brokeness and bondage:

Any day now, any day now, we shall be released . . .