Yesterday, there was a fight. No fists, just words. But plenty of them. And eye rolls and sudden plunges into dark tunnels, then the perfect arrowed words returned. Then you see blood. Is it yours or the other one’s? Both. But in that family moment, you don't care.
You walk away, alive, proud, with a few knives sticking through. You know how to walk with such wounds and you know you gave them back. Then you go outside and you see it.
Summer is leaving. Every single day this northern light gives up five minutes of its shining. Everything flares with regret. Did you waste this summer? (Did I waste this summer?)
Just a few months ago, in May, I knelt on the floor, arms out, hands open. How could I do it? Summer and fish camp loomed before me like the mountains I see from our bay: peaks so high and thick-snowed, so frigid and distant, they were unachievable for any ordinary set of legs and lungs. How could I climb them? How could I possibly do all that was needed?
And now it’s over.
Did I fail? (Did you fail?) I know the work I did: mending net, filleting and smoking fish, running a skiff, writing a book, making jam, campaigning for my husband’s political race, picking fish, hosting a retreat. I have written about some of this here. But these are not the glaciered peaks that laid me low before it all began.
It was love. Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed, my morning reading, reminded me of the true work ahead: What does the Lord require of us? What is the beating heart of that thousand page book we haul into church on Sunday? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s it. That’s all I had to do. The mountain range rises higher yet, beyond the clouds of heaven.
It didn’t matter that 37 seasons at fish camp were behind me. Could I really do this again? Gather these strangers, family and friends on this wilderness island for three and a half months, people I am with every day from breakfast until banya, from 7 am until midnight, sharing one house, one enormous table, one gravel path, two outhouses, one beach, one island, one life. And all of us every day walking about hungry, thirsty, mourning, healing, silent, glad, sick, singing, exhausted, supping, storying, praying, laughing, weeping . . .
Again? Could we do it again? After 38 years, so much and so many, again?
No. I could not.
But now it’s nearly over. Who shall I listen to now? The tracker and rule-keeper in my heart bursts first in line. She loves her woe, and gleeful, tells tales of leaks, cheats, loss, impatience, self and guilt. Look! She says with triumph, holding up the ever-growing Never-Enough list. The page is covered, and a ghostly hand even now is scrawling yet another line I did not fulfill.
But I have 2000 photos that help me see another story.
The summer wasn’t fancy or perfect, it wasn’t easy or lazy, and I failed again and again, but it was, it really was
So full of love.
Mine was just a smidgeon of it. So much of it was theirs, and so much more was His. That's what I forget. The hardest work of love is already done: God on the cross. The crosses we die on every day are tiny and close. We never go alone, we always rise again, and joy goes before us---and after.
That fight yesterday just before I left the island? Because of Him, I stopped measuring who was right and who was wrong. I turned off the words I heard and saw the other’s hurt and need, not just mine. I died, and said the hardest life-giving words any of us can say: “I’m sorry. I love you.” And joy comes again.
Maybe this is how we count our summer success. Not by how many times we fought, but by how many times we said,
"I'm sorry. I love you."
For last week’s giveaway, Congratulations to Denise V. and Gary M. who were amazing “sharers” of this site. One Wild Harvest box has already been consumed---and the other is on its way!