Welcome to a new design and spiffy new furnishings for this space! It will be cleaner and easier to navigate with some fun extras (like audio below.) And the comments will be easier to post. I'd love to hear what you think! I'm celebrating with Giveaways and more at the end of the post!
It could not have been a more perfect Sunday. We went to church, sat and drank coffee in a circle talking about death and dying, listening to a doctor and a hospice nurse. Good deaths, bad deaths. We sang, we prayed, we ate a lovely communal meal, then we took a little trip to see death up close.
Before we even got out of the car, we smelled them: the stink of whatever was left from forty million pink salmon thronging the rivers of Kodiak. Forty million pinks nosing their way, insistent on dying.
But they were not the first to go. The rivers went first this summer. How can this be? Not here, in this northernmost edge of the rainforest, where the trees sprout moss thick as clouds, each one its own weather system! Not here, where we all start our cars with the windshield wipers on. Here, in the land of mist and fog and always-rain, no rain? All summer, the rivers sighed and dried up. We walked on the gravel river beds. Where we've never walked before.
And now what of all these salmon, one of Kodiak's largest pink salmon runs ever, dying to swim up the no-river to lay their eggs and die? How many deaths are possible here?
More than you think.
On their way to the river of their birth, there is death-by-fisherman, which is a good death surely because that lovely pink flesh will make its way to the table to fill the mouth of children and grandmothers and hungry people everywhere.
There is death-by-bear, which is also a good death surely, because that bountiful meat will fatten the beast to carry him dozing through a long fishless winter.
There is death-by-living, by which I mean, death-by-dying. When the salmon sails that new hump of a back, that ridge that grows high once it hits fresh water just for this---to aim it straight up the roaring river against all current and tide, to the place, to the one right place to lay those pearly eggs, or to milt those pearls into life . . . then die . . .
This is also a good death surely, because they are giving life to more salmon, hundreds more. And even their dying bodies will feed them, will feed the shores of the river. Will feed the gulls and eagles, the very soil that grows the grasses for all of life.
All good deaths.
But if there is no river, and the trees do not rain, and the salmon cannot sail upon the gravel to lay their eggs, what then? They all die in a few places, wherever the lonely water pools. Many don't even make it that far. This is not a good death. More salmon than even the bears care to eat, or the eagles and gulls. Dead salmon on the trails, in dried up beds . .. thousands. Carnage. Where eggs will not survive.
And we are helpless. There is nothing to do about any of it, except pray for rain. Watch. Take photos. Listen.
Because this is about us, too. Our river never need run dry. We DO have a choice in how we die. And whether people cry or sigh with relief or blithely go shopping once we're gone. We DO have a choice in whether we are the kind of people other people want to gather to remember---or not. Our new pastor, from New England, says most of his congregants, when near death, refuse a funeral or service of any kind. Nothing.
Surely this is not a good death. Or life. To deny those who love you the chance to love you still, through death and after.
There was one more death this day. I knew it. I felt it. The demise of the clock and the hurts between a busy husband and a frantic wife who died to their schedules and themselves, and took this day to sail in the river of one another.
We did. We sailed in the river of one another.
And it was good. Maybe the best death of all:
If we can do it, you can too.
Don't waste your precious life.
Lay it down, whatever is keeping you from the ones you love:
time, sadness, pride, hurt, work.
Let the river flow again.
Swim in it.
All the way.
Die like this----
Thank you for spending these few moments here! It's also the start of a new season for me:
My Wild Harvest salmon and jams and jellies have finally arrived from fishcamp, and they are gift wrapped, packaged, labeled and ready to send out! More here:
Two gift boxes will go out as gifts to the first two names that I draw. How to get in the drawing?
If my efforts in this space speak to you---and you believe they'll speak to others, would you share this post on social media? Let me know if you've done this and your name goes in the hat. I hope you win!
Grace and Peace and buckets of river-water to you all!