When we left on vacation, the fireweed in Kodiak was not yet out. On our return, it is out, which is good and bad. Good, because it is a beautiful plant. Bad, because it blooms from the bottom up, and when it “blooms out,” fall is here.

In honor of the fireweed, I hereby republish my fiction story “Fireweed” from March, 2011. Blessings!


A Kanuk, Alaska Story

By Voni Harris



The very tip-top of Kanuk’s Pyramid Mountain was Keisha’s favorite spot in the world. She soaked in the view, letting God’s presence wash over her, something she’d not been doing very much lately.

Her eyes were drawn to the meadow full of blooming fireweed. She had been taught about fireweed as a child. It began to bloom at the bottom of the plant, and the delicate purple blooms worked their way to the top over the summer as the plant matured. When the fireweed had bloomed out to the very top of the plant, you knew one thing: It was fall.

She’d always identified with fireweed. Sunflowers shoot up suddenly with a burst of brilliant gold like liquid sunshine. But there was something inside her that was like the fireweed, taking her time to bloom.

At 27, she still felt almost bloomed-out, nearly adult.

Her real blooming as a person started three years ago, when she gave her heart to Christ, but she was feeling kind of stalled of late. She had thought God called her to work in the nursing home while she got a nursing degree at Kanuk College, but in the absolute tedium of feeding the patients, wheeling them around, combing their hair, changing their sheets…

The thought stopped her whirling thoughts cold.

It was Mr. Peterson. His meds had been causing him some, well, problems. He’d had to be taken to the toilet three or four times yesterday morning. The fifth time he rang the nurse’s station, she’d just rolled her eyes and finished marking up the patient file she’d been working on. It was just a few minutes, but by the time she’d gotten to his room, she’d had to change his sheets.

He’d apologized over and over as she huffed around cleaning him up and changing the sheets, as though he’d ruined her day.

She would never forget the humiliation in his eyes, humiliation that wouldn’t have been there if she’d responded when he called. Or even spoken to him while she cleaned up.

And she’d told Mrs. Sherman she didn’t have time to get her a popsicle for an afternoon snack last week.

And she’d forgotten to wheel Mrs. Jensen to the common room a church visit on Sunday.

Truth be told, she resented the tedious nature of her job. When did my calling on your life become a job? The still, small voice seemed to whisper from the fireweed.

Oh, God, forgive me, she whispered.

If you love me, feed my sheep,” Jesus had told Peter.

She had treated her patients like they were nuisances, not like they were people beloved by God.

If you love me, feed my sheep.

She’d treated her job as a nurse’s aide as an inconvenience, a detour from her own plans from her life, not like a calling from God.

If you love me, feed my sheep.

This time, she heard the words as though they were meant for her, and they propelled her back down the mountain. She knew what she had to do.


“Mr. Peterson?” Keisha said quietly, in case he was sleeping.

He turned over and smiled at her. “Hey, girl. I’m sorry again about…”

She quieted him. “No, I’m sorry, Mr. Peterson.”

His face softened. “I hate being a problem for you.” It hurt her that she didn’t have to explain why she was apologizing

“You’re not.”

“My problems are your job, right?” He grinned at his attempt at humor.

“Mr. Peterson, you are more than just my job. I’m blessed to be able to serve you, and I promise to do better.”

He nodded.

“Starting right now. What’s your favorite book?”

“It’s over on the shelf,” he said, surprised at the question.

She walked over to pick it up and burst into laughter. “A western? Really? Well, all right. A western it is, then. I’m going to read a chapter to you today, then we’ll keep going until .”

“But it’s your day off.”

“That’s okay, Mr. Peterson. My education is sincerely lacking in western literature anyway,” she grinned.

Then she read two chapters to him.

And wheeled him outside to see the fireweed blooming along the bike path in front of the home.