We were almost out of wood. Which means we cannot bathe out here at fishcamp, and I cannot smoke salmon. So yesterday we hunted trees. Not the usual way. Not the way we did it in New Hampshire, my family and I, when we trudged into the woods to cut down our own trees. Here, in coastal Alaska, tree-hunting means putting on our boots, vaulting into the skiff, and motoring off along the beaches, eyes awake.
We went in two skiffs. This was a serious expedition. Our goal---to fill both skiffs, and to haul a hillside of timber behind us.
Just leaving Harvester Island brought relief. How can I complain, living on a gorgeous island of wild iris, oystercatchers and birches, where eagles clean our beaches and deer greet us every morning on the trail to the outhouse? But island fever can strike anywhere.
Five miles down the shoreline, we saw our first creosote log. A prize! (This is how we built the foundation of our house---from scavenged creosote pilings from the beaches around us.)
After this, it was not long before whole forests of logs appeared, trees felled and floated some from thousands of miles away.
Most we cannot budge, and indeed, we do not even try (except when they're stuck in the sand.)
We are muscled people, used to working our bodies, but if we have a machine, we'll use it. Our outboard engine, then, is the horse whose power fells the trees once more----drags them from beach back to shore and into the ocean again.
The line is tied securely around the log and hitched to the rail of the skiff, and then blast-off! The 60 horses under the engine strain and lean, the skiff gees and haws, but the log trembles, shudders and once more is on the move. Like a leviathan heading home, it slides through the sand then hits the water with a plunge and a wave.
One tree after another yanked from its resting place---how many years there above the tideline?---now a flotilla behind our boats. Each log tied to the others until each of our skiffs pulled a raft of 6 massive logs.
This took a good two hours. But we weren't done yet. The skiffs, too, could haul more wood.
It was a low, slow procession that left the beach yesterday. It took more than an hour to plow home, each skiff laden with pieces of forests from all around the world, now home to our island to heat our water, to smoke our fish.
(And always, we are not alone. Others are watching us, astonished at our haul . . ..)
We are as well.
The trees that God grew, that man felled, that the ocean stole, that the currents guided, that the storms washed ashore again------now they come to us. We’ll be clean because this wood will heat the water we bathe in. We’ll be full because we’ll eat racks of salmon smoked from the chips I hatchet from the logs.
Aren’t we all scavengers, on the prowl for fuel, for food, for love? For some sign that maybe God above, and God below on earth, may care for us still? Is there enough on the table of this world to feed us? There is! There is! So much excess is poured into the warp of this world.
So much has been given to us, ready to be pulled from the beaches of God’s grace with the tether of need and love.
Our need, His love.
Throw out your line, friends. What can you haul home?
A friend, maybe. A meal. A bucket of berries.
A hug. An awakening of wonder.
(Look who has caught my line and pulled me home----
And look how much we can carry!!
Can I send you some of my Wild Harvest smoked and jerkied salmon and fresh island jam? Next post, I’ll ask you all to throw out a line to a friend or two or three to join us on this Alaska island. I’ll do a drawing from all those who sign up some happy, willing friends---and I’ll send out two beautiful Wild Harvest boxes to two names drawn from a hat (or, in this case, a boot!)