Anna Wintour + Alaska Fishcamp Fashion: It's What's in Vogue!

      I can hardly bear to hear the news these days. We must pray for the afflicted and persecuted---and there are many. And we carry on by loving those around us. And still finding ways to smile. This is one of the main purposes of fashion, I believe, especially certain magazines----absurdity, irrelevance and distraction. May I distract you for a few minutes (and maybe make you smile?)

      If you didn't get your copy of Vogue or GQ this month, no worries. I've got it covered. Here are a few images you might have missed:  

   Shortly after this shoot, realizing something was missing, they finally did it-----Vogue and GQ came to their senses and journeyed out to fish camp to discover real fashion. 

The shoot began under their direction. We started off as they directed us. You know: bored, miserable, no-reason-to-live-except-to-glower-at-the-camera . . .

      But, we couldn't sustain this for long. We're models with a difference. For one thing, we wear clothes. Quite a lot of them. In the Alaskan bush, we believe fashion is defined more by what you're wearing than what you're not wearing. 

Because our clothes are more than ornamental. We actually do stuff. Like-------mend fishing net.

And we do this because this is not a set---we're actually working! 

         And, shoot us (with just a camera please), but occasionally we're happy, even when we're working!

Even sometimes in a storm.

                                    (Take that, GQ!)

And even when wearing dirty, strange, worn-out clothes

                                  (25 year old jeans)

and odd, useful hats.

And don't  forget the (reptilian) hip boots or knee boots. Always the boots!


       Of course, there are some things more important than style, though I know Anna Wintour wouldn't believe this---unless she came to our fish camp.


I think she'd fit right in---as soon as we got over an issue or two: Yes, Anna, you MUST wear a lifejacket!

 It will indeed make you look fat, but fat, floating and alive is so much more fashionable than, well, you know . .. 

          And we may not boast a vast, varied or individualized palette, but we find this hue particularly lovely, and visible on the water in storms:


      Of course, beauty is in the eye of the wearer and beholder. When I asked my two youngest sons and their two buddies from a nearby fish camp to dress like GQ, this is what we got:

Well, who doesn't need a makeover now and then?


          The fashion on your island, fish camp or neighborhood may look a little different than  mine, and I'm glad. As Quentin Crisp said, 

"Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are."

     Here is my final fashion advice, stolen from Iris Apfel:

 "I would advise you to be happy rather than well-dressed. It’s better to be happy.”

Yes, when we wear "happy," we're always in Vogue. 

Thanks for walking the fishcamp runway with me! What is your philosophy of fashion?

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

May I introduce you to someone you should know? She is a sister in Christ, a fellow writer, a mother of two---nearly three as she awaits the birth of her third daughter even now.

This is already a lot, but she is more. She is a witness to a life most would name disastrous.  Marlena can accurately name her growing-up years in a family with mental illness, adultery,  poverty and multiple other dysfunctions "disaster." But her life and the new book she has written from it is not rightly told with that one word. Another word is needed, a word that we too can claim for the messes in our own lives: "A Beautiful Disaster."

Yes, Beautiful. Would you listen while Marlena prepares us to play as children in the once-disastrous fields of our lives.  Here, her words from her lovely book-of-hope, (with photos from my corner of the world.) 

Adapted from A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves, Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2014. Used by permission.

“For we have sinned and grown old and our Father is younger than we.”           ------G.K. Chesterton

A gift: each with-God wilderness experience makes us younger and more childlike. I am growing younger every day, my life less complex. I am like a young child who springs up at the crack of dawn, long before anyone else is awake, and eagerly snatches open the curtains to behold a world teeming with life. 

I am being trained to turn my gaze on life, on the good, and so I am becoming like that which I behold. Oh, I do not deny there is death, only now I understand what my Father has been saying all along: that death holds no power over me. I do not need to be scared.

         Not only do we leave the wilderness with a greater ability to rest like a sleeping baby who is cradled in the arms of God, but we become more playful. I am growing younger because the fear and anxieties that were weighing me down, those elements that were wrinkling and withering my soul, are dissipating. Every wilderness experience strips me of layers of these soul-withering elements. 

Consequently, I am becoming a tender shoot even as my years slowly ebb away. This is how eternal life affects us. Knowing God through Jesus Christ his son grows us younger. We become children in the kingdom. And if we know one thing about healthy children it’s this: they love to play.

After I emerged from that protracted wilderness experience, I sensed God not only giving me permission but also encouraging me to play—and to play often. Playing is an expression of joy. Everyday joy. 

Exiting the wilderness, we are overjoyed because we know what it is like to stare death (in its myriad forms) right in the face and yet we’ve survived. It’s not mere survival, a barely alive or barely getting by survival. It’s a thriving survival; it’s the life that God is known for producing in us. It may come slowly, but it comes. Just when we thought it was all over for us, when we thought we would certainly perish, God came. He came and rescued us, reminding us that he is as faithful as ever, which is always. 

It’s not that we forget or dismiss the pain and suffering that we or others have been through. We see and experience pain and suffering for what they are. It’s that we now know pain and suffering are not all there is to the world. Our wilderness experiences have opened up new channels within our souls so that we have a greater capacity for life. We’re able to see reality more clearly. After so much grief and pain and near hopelessness we are fresh with life—playful. Not overly sober. Play is an expression of our celebration. "

                                                           ---Marlena Graves, A Beautiful Disaster

I am hoping to find time to "play" this week, to be a child again----even in the midst of all the work. You too, I hope! 

And if you can, please support Marlena AND---find your way toward naming the disasters in your life, "Beautiful."

On Not Mourning Joan Rivers+ What Are Words For?

At the news of Joan Rivers' death Whoopi Goldberg tweeted, “There are no words.” How can there be no words for the platinum woman who spent nothing so recklessly and callously as her words? When news broke of the two women who had been abused and imprisoned for 10 years in the basement of a house, she implied their fate was better than hers--having to live with her daughter in a small apartment. "They got to live rent free for more than a decade," she quipped. This is the woman who said of German supermodel Heidi Klum, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” A thousand other such phrases illuminate her career. When confronted with her affronteries, she refused to apologize. Her defense, always, "I made a little joke. That's what I do. Calm down."  

I believe in grace and mercy, having received so much of it myself, but I also believe it's fair to weigh the words of a public figure who made her living by her words. Her jokes were chosen to offend, to assure headlines, to keep her career racing along. And they did, right to the last. Her legacy? Variety magazine writes, she “paved the way for raunchy female comics.” Isn’t the world a better place now that Rivers has helped close that gender gap, proving women can be just as raunchy as men? And her followers this week rise en masse to bless that rasping tongue, now silent. 

 In her honor, I propose not only a dimming of the lights on Broadway, which is symbolic of her influence in a way not intended. But more, I propose a week of silence.

A week of silence to heal and to reflect. 

I have just come from this. The day Rivers died, I was in the midst of a week given to silence---and carefully chosen words (at the Harvester Island WIlderness Workshop.) Both reminded me what words are rightly for.

Words first brought ocean, dragonfly, fireweed and mountain beauty out of nothing. 

Words placed and welcomed First Man and Woman into a garden, a home . . . 

        Our words can open locked doors and make a home, even on an island in Alaska.

Our words are to bring order and loveliness out of chaos and mess.

Our words can collect far-flung strangers . . . .

and weave them into friends, a fellowship of listening.

Our words can bind the world together, make of us a family, one huge body, a circle of praying arms and feet.

Our Words, written from our empty closet, bring others into our aloneness, and the One is now Two and Three and Seven. Your story is now mine and yours and ours. We share the weight and the closet is now lit.

Words from grateful lips make of every plate a feast, every glass of water, wine.

And Words withheld, silence summoned, allow the mountains to speak, the tides to whisper, the jellyfish to slurp, the rocks and seals to cry out their own names, which are themselves prayers and praises.

Frederick Buechner has written this caution for us:

“We must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously.”

In just the same way, if Buechner will permit me, we must likewise be careful with our words, for Christ's sake, because our lives are short; these are the only words we are going to speak in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious, and what we do with them matters enormously.

What we do with them matters enormously.

I do not wish to offend, but Rivers' death teaches me this: That we are not here in this life to insult one another for the sake of harm or amusement, but we are here to speak the kind of words that bind, that heal, that reveal, that blaze in truth and radiate with love. 

May we all spend our lives and our words well.