Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When the sun comes out in Juneau

I have 25 minutes left to burn off before work, ticking away on an elliptical trainer display. Streams of sunlight seep in from a narrow windows of my gym. Strange new shadows on the floor tell their own story, not of frumpy people engaged in pointless frenzy, but of kinetic energy breaking through illuminated dust. The woman who shows up every day at noon sharp, who has lost 10 pounds and made a point to record it for the "Juneau's Biggest Loser" registry, sighs loudly from the machine next to mine. "Ever feel like you're wasting your time in here?" she asks, not taking her eyes off the three ceiling-level TVs that have blasted plane crash news nonstop for the past 30 minutes. "Every time," I say.

I leave the gym at the height of lunch period, with high schoolers packed in the parking lot like spawning salmon. They dart in and out of the street and throw unidentifiable objects toward the sky, enjoying rare freedom from their narrow awnings and dripping huddles. I notice for the first time in weeks I can see teenage faces sans hoodies.

I pass the hatchery where a little girl runs barefoot in the grass. A man, her father, puts his fishing pole down and chases her down the thin corridor. They kick up swirls of leaves that seem to vaporize midair. Their smiles are so contagious that I start laughing.

Across the wetlands, the sunlight burns streaks of orange in the tide. There are more people walking out on the mudflats, and I wonder how they got there and whether they'll sink. And I wonder if they're looking at those mountains, way, way out in the distance - mountains so buried by the distance that they're almost never there. But when they emerge from the clouds, they remind us that we don't live in boxes. We live in a world that stretches toward eternity, a world with contours built for a million lifetimes. And we want to strive to live them all.