The Earth Quakes, a Shark Dies: Sharing "Our Common Home"

Last month in Kodiak I was sitting in bed, making a list of all I had to do before I flew out to fish camp when it happened. The washing machine was spinning, wiggling the bed. No, wiggling the bed way too much and then a grinding sound, louder and louder and by the time I realized what it was, and had jumped up to flee my house on a cliff over the ocean, it stopped.  It was a 7.4 quake.

This week, out on Harvester Island, standing in the kitchen talking with Suzannah and that washing machine again, spinning too hard, then a jolt and I knew sooner this time. It was only a 4.7 but the epicenter was just 16 miles from us.

We're in a major earthquake zone here on Kodiak Island. Out at our fish camp island, volcanoes tooth our horizon, spewing their ash at will. The earth rumbles and rolls beneath us. For many of you, the earth has rumbled and rolled in another way----the Supreme Court rulings this week have shaken history and not a few foundations. But there is no need for worry or panic or fear. God is still and always on the throne. And when the earth shakes we remember that all the earth is alive and it is alive because it is HIS, and nothing is beyond his reach or His concern. May I bring you with me on my morning beach walk? I want you to see for yourself.

It started here:

the Sitka black-tailed deer down on the beach, who love the water as much as I do, 

Who do not run away from me or any of us, but who come closer, to see who we might be,

Perhaps they are struck by our beauty, as we are theirs . .. . 

And the gaze goes down, then, to my feet, to the creatures there,  

who, even while living their one short life toward dying, blaze and flame with such colors

 Even under water, 

bloodstars and vacant crabs,

And on the rocks, splayed in brilliant orange and purple, because the world is not ever bright enough . . . 

And every millionth rock on a black beach must be


in case we forget . . ..

And surely there is no death in this place? 

But surely there is, for we all know what it costs to keep us alive and to keep others breathing and fed . . . 

Death always finds us here. Our beaches are always open for the dead to wash ashore . . . 

We cannot help but stare back  . . . 

                               (A salmon shark)

Even when we feel so alone on the beach, on the 

mountain, in this world, 

Even then, we imagine

that all this,

All this

is Ours.

Our very own. 

Given to us by



To use as WE want.

But it has never been so. The First Man and Woman were placed into a world  already full and bright and teeming with creatures winged, creeping, galloping and swimming.

And they were all already blessed:
"You are Very Good! Be fruitful and multiply!" their Creator spoke,
before we even showed up. 

Yes, we alone of all the creation are made in the image of God, the Imago Dei, and are given rule over creation, but what is this rule to be? 
We must honor God's blessing of those before us. We must use and cultivate the earth in such a way that the birds of the air, the fish and all creeping things, whom God delights in and pronounces “very good”—the same words used for humans---can also feed, multiply and flourish,
as we do.

That all creatures may feed, multiply and flourish. 

 We are here for this: to bless. To bless one another, and to bless the creatures who share the earth and sea and sky with us.

The Pope in his recent encyclical is right. This IS
Our Common Home. 

And we must share this world with our fellow creatures
as I share this beach and island with all who live here, 
just as you do with all the creatures who share your woods, fields, islands and hillsides, backyards and lakes.

Lay down your worry and fear over court decisions. God is not shaken, nor are we. 
Walk in the piece of Creation God has brought you.
Be who we are created to be: a blessing
to your neighbors,  and to all
the magnificent beings around us. 

Let us walk in our "common home" in such a way that our presence
 blesses creation and all of these creatures, human and not, 
as much as they
bless us.
And be at peace.


A Letter to the Pope, from the Supreme Council of Publicans and Muskrats

Friends, my weekly blog has been taken over by this letter of protest. I'm referencing the Pope's recently released encyclical on Climate Change, which has been both wildly applauded---and roundly condemned. He presents a compelling theological basis for our need to take care of "our common home." (Synopsis of 5 major points here.)

Yes, this is satire. I'm satirizing some politicians' response to this important and much-needed document. Hold on!

Dear Pope,

I read your cycle thing. (Well, at least the Sparknotes.) Would you, for gosh darn sake, stop making pronouncements about the world and things you know nothing about? Being a Pope, what could you  know about the real world----politics and government and energy and elections and such. And, being a Pope, what could you know about that other world, the one I go to visit with my kids and grandkids on Sunday after church---grass, lakes, nature, science, all that? I know all about both worlds. I’m a Politician, and I grew up in the suburbs with a park just a 10 minute drive from my house. I used to climb trees, for Pete’s sake! And my grandkids still do, and I think it’s great. (And just to let you know, I visited that park last year and do you know there are more trees there than when I was a kid? Global warming, phooey!) 

Here’s what really burns me, Pope, Sir, and I say this with all due respect: you’re not a scientist. For heaven’s sake, would you leave science to the scientists? Now we know the separation of Church and State is ridiculous and dangerous----I’ve been fighting that secularism my whole political life. Removing the 10 Commandments from public buildings and prayer from our schools will destroy the country faster than anything else. But religion and science? Different planets. Yes, God made the world, I’ll grant you that, but it's Science that keeps it going. Science is important. That’s why I have my own scientists, and they tell me whatever I need to know. (Heck, those guys don’t even believe in God! So I know I can trust their Science.) 

I’ve heard about this global warming thing, of course. I got a letter from a woman in Alaska whose family fishes for salmon. She said their waters are the warmest they’ve ever been and it’s affecting the whole ecosystem. I wrote back, “Good for you! A warmer Alaska will melt those freezing igloos and heat up your economy! Is that good news, or what?” And if you think I don’t care about the earth, did you know about the millions I poured into an anti-littering campaign last election?

You keep talking about the planet as a “gift” from God and “our common home,” but may I remind you that a gift belongs not to the giver but to the receiver? God gave it to us, (and He’s the one who put coal and oil in the ground in the first place) and we’re free to live in it and use it just as we choose. God believes in liberty and free choice! That’s what our country was founded on!

 Let’s keep to our proper realms, Pope. You just take care of people’s souls and we’ll take care of their bodies. You give your people spiritual food, and we’ll give them jobs. You give them holy water, we’ll give them cheap energy. You fill their soul, we’ll fill their bank account. THAT’S how you keep people happy, eliminate poverty, and run a free country. (The other countries can figure out their own problems.) 

Sincerely, Prayerfully,

The Council of Publicans and Muskrats

P.S.  If global warming should actually begin to happen sometime in the next century, my scientists and economists tell me it could fuel an unprecedented economic boom for America! Which could be good for the Church, too, if you know what I mean . . .? 


Will you tell me to stay out of politics like the Pope should stay out of science? I can't. (Nor should any of us . ..)  But most of us, if we go far enough back, believed this, that the world was this divided. I did. Let me cast a stone at myself first. And Thursday, I'll share some gorgeous new photos of this corner of God's earth and sea----and the reason we all must care for the Creation at our feet. Peace and Grace to you!!

Death, Birth, The Biggest Sea Lion, the Wildest Heart

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind."    Job 12

This June at fishcamp is a month of life and birth and blood.

In my house, my dog Sophie brings forth young, birthing each into my hand.

The spider in the corner window lures the fly,  wraps a wicked cocoon around the buzzing struggle, and soon he moves no more.

Fish are caught and gutted and walked up the hill to my kitchen, where my knives and hands parse its red flesh into lunch.  

I leave the house to sit for hours, watching the eagles, young and old,

who spin the sky blue, and watch for fish to feed their brood. 

Below me, I hear a whale spouting, a sei whale this time, not the usual fin whales. He rises and falls, feeding.

Sea lions skirt the nets, shopping for fish, blasting sea from their nostrils so loud I can hear it on top of the hill,

then haul out on rocks and reefs, argue and fight over king of the rock, rule by force and heft and roar.

(And isn't he the ugliest, most massive sea lion you have every seen?)

Everything on the hunt. Everything looking to kill.  

Which means, everything looking to feed and live.

And I am the wildest thing out here, I know.  

Me with my camera, stalking and shooting their beauty and 

blood, me with my untamed heart

that wants not to yield to another. (Not even

sometimes to You, O Lord.) 

And can't I kill with a single word? 

Can't I maim without talons or teeth?

Just to speak or withhold speech alone

can do someone in. How powerful 

the tongue, how wild and dark this wandering heart!

But these creatures live as they must and as they should, as they were made. 

They set out each day to do all that God has put

in their thumping animal heart to do.

And they do it well, 

so boldly and so thoroughly, 

they are never not praising You, O Lord.

 Simply by living, flying, breathing, roaring, swimming and


they speak the language you have given them.

They delight you,

they love you

and you love them back. Entirely.

(Even that king-of-the-rock sea lion!)

They are all you created them to be.

Would you grant us this, too, Lord?

Would you so inhabit our wild hearts that we only want

to do what You have created us to do,

So that we please you, 

we delight you, 

And in all we do we love you back?

Would you do this in us?

Even now? 


"In his hand is the life of every creature

    and the breath of all mankind."