180 packs of Gum: Shopping the Warehouse of the World

It's almost time to leave for fish camp. We fly out Monday. School is over. My house is full of crewmen and women, my own kids coming home. (And did I mention my husband is running for state office? More on that later.) 

In the midst of the melee, what is this (very) seasoned resident of fish camp doing? She is shopping, of course. Hmmmmm, let's see: how much food will 12 people eat for 3 1/2 months? I must know this since I won't have access to a grocery store. So-----How much hot sauce? How many cans of olives? (3 cases. We like olives!) How much flour? (200 pounds: we bake all our own bread. Oops, 200 pounds is not enough.) How much molasses, cumin, black beans, tomato sauce, baking soda, sugar . . . ???  Who knows! Do I know?? NO! Every year appetites vary. The number of people at our camp fluctuates. Some skinny little guys eat like 3 people, and most hulking guys eat like 3 people too. Do I know before we all gather out there who eats what and how much and why??  NO!

So---this is the giant grocery crap shoot, where I buy and buy and hope and envision and imagine----that we will have enough. That our table will be full and no one will go away hungry. That all will be fed and fed for all the work that consumes us morning until midnight light. 


And did I mention the gum? We have the habit of snagging a piece of gum as we head down to the skiff and out to the water to the nets. Eight people chewing one or two pieces of gum three times a day=2 packs of gum a day=180 packs of gum for the summer. (Oops. I only bought 100.)

How does all this food get out there to our island, you may ask? My preferred method is Air Drop, when the plane just opens up its belly and drops the 3 tons of food with a massive parachute, landing gently on our island lawn. This hasn't happened yet.  Instead, this food endures a somewhat tortuous passage involving cranes, boats, skiffs, arms, legs, and tractors.  I'll show you at the other end, when the journey is complete. Let's just say after all that packing and sailing and carrying and tractor-ing and unpacking, we have earned the food we will finally eat!


None of this is easy for me. I'm not particularly fond of shopping. Especially in gargantuan amounts. I am a poet in heart and soul, a minimalist. I like half-empty fridges, I like scavenging, I like the edge of hunger, the need that reminds me how frail and weak and dependent of a creature I am. So filling five carts at Safeway to overflowing, ordering a literal ton of canned goods from Seattle, and two shopping carts at Walmart stresses me out (though I am putting a good face on for the camera!)


And pushing those carts down abundant aisles, where there are 15 choices for every kind of canned bean you want to buy, where there are 21 different kinds of chips, 52 kinds of salad dressings-----I'm overwhelmed. And, pushing my cart down the aisles, I'm a little bit sad.

Because nearly everything I have bought comes from the earth, comes from creation, but I can hardly recognize it in its commodified form. But more than this, Norman Wirzba is right. We have commodified the whole world. Our best word for this God-made world is to describe it in terms of its "resources." If we love Science and evolution we see all of it--forests, ocean, oil, minerals---as mostly random dumb luck and we describe the world in terms of its "natural resources."  If we believe this phantasmagorical world came about from the mind of a limitless loving God we can see the gifts of creation as given to US!  For us to use as we please.  Both camps can and often DO package the world into one massive shop-till-you-drop   Buy-Now-Pay-Later,  Super-Stuff-Me,  Pay-Less-and-Shop-For-More gigantic ground-to-sky warehouse of STUFF. And our main occupation through life is shopping, pushing our cart through our hours, our days, our lives, our primary concern---Did I get a deal? Did I get ENOUGH stuff? 



I am as guilty as anyone. 

But I am glad to leave stores behind for these next months. I am glad to be going where I am immersed in beaches, ocean and mountain, where deer bed down in our pasture, where sea gulls keen over their nests, where kelp  scribbles messages on the tide line, where halibut swim like a wave and falcons fall to their prey like shooting stars, where the midnight sun sets the clouds on fire and seals stare you down.

 I will shop there too, it is true,  but I will be looking for the mind and the love of God in all that surrounds me. I will not be in charge behind the handle of the cart. I will hold my hands open.  I will take whatever is given to me. I will look at it very carefully, lovingly. I will feed upon it. I will send it on to you. And we will be filled with the wonder and presence of God.  And we won't spend a dime. 

It will cost, though: our time, our eyes and our heart. Are you ready?


Are you coming with me? My door and my cupboards are open!

(If you bless me with a comment, check back 'cuz I'll write you back!!)