The Day of a Million Eyes+ New Wilderness Workshop!

This was a day of a thousand ears and a million eyes---the most I have ever seen out in the water. I thought we were alone.

Do you know about being alone? Aloneness is everywhere
 (O unhappy paradox!) The island I live and fish on each summer has been a place of great community---and aloneness. Alone in a house of boys and men. Or alone with small children at our feet, spilled oatmeal on the floor, a baby who won't be comforted, a meal to fix and there is no end of everyone's needs, and no end of our own. (Remember this?) Alone because our mother has died, our husband is gone, our children are grown, the house is empty.


And I know some of you are in retirement centers and care facilities . .. . Do you feel alone?

But may I tell you about this day on my island, this day of a thousand ears and a million eyes? I smile just to remember it. There were fourteen of us this day---fourteen! A veritable mob out on one of the remote beaches past our island. Fourteen on an empty beach patroled by deer, bear, fox, eagles, gulls and shags, but few people. 

We were all strangers who had become friends now at our first Wilderness Workshop last fall. Strangers who came from all corners of the country to share a week of writing in the Alaskan wilderness together. This day we were hiking down a long beach. We were more than halfway when we glanced out into the water and someone called, "Look there!"  It was a seal. We all stopped and turned, and saw a few dark specks in the water, some distance off. Before anyone could lift their camera, there were two, no, five, 

no, ten .... and then we couldn't count. So many gathering, popping up and down out of the water and all turned toward us. And coming closer.

I was astonished. I am accustomed to seeing sea lions, seals, sea otters in our daily waters, but this was the biggest pod I had seen for many years.  All fourteen of us began to cluster together, drifting toward one another, camera to our faces. We watched the seals, now thirty or forty of them and still more coming. Spellbound.They gathered to watch us, smooth heads and wide eyes popping from the water, spellbound. We moved closer, edging to the lip of the water. They moved closer to the shore. We whispered to one another, "Look how many! Do you think they're all a family?"  We could hear them too, gurgling wetly to one another, "Look at how many there are? Do you think they're all a family?"

We began baby-stepping down the beach, wondering if they would follow. They swam baby-steps after us. Like this, we watched each other for many minutes, first with our cameras, and then our cameras down, face to face, eyes to eyes.


We think we're alone in the wilderness, and a million eyes are watching us.

Were these our “clouds of witnesses” that week?  Yes, they were. And we were each others.

This island, in its isolation, has sometimes been a place of great loneliness over the last 36 seasons. But for this week, I can fling the door open, shatter aloneness, gather strangers who become friends as we write together, eat, laugh, wash dishes, hike in the rain, pray, feed each other communion, listen to one another’s deepest words. As we gather to truly hear and see each other.

We’re doing it again this September, another Harvester Island Wilderness Writing Workshop. Can you come? (More Here.)

But even if you can’t---listen. 

You’re not alone. Even if your bed is empty beside you and there no children in your rooms—or there are too many children in your rooms-----You are known and watched with the great tender eyes of our Father, more than a million kind eyes.  He thinks you’re wondrous. He’s spellbound. He follows your every step. 

And are you watching Him? You can do that alone, and it will be more than enough to watch God alone. But better---Fling your own doors open, call your sister, ask a friend over. sip coffee and spill stories. Be together. Shatter loneliness. Make this the year of a thousand eyes, watching each other, watching God. Together.

We are not alone. God is with us.