FISHCAMP VIDEOS: Where the Rocks Cry Out+The Seals Jump In

Would you come with me to an incredible place? Let me take you down into my summer neighborhood on the west side of Kodiak Island.

You won't need boots or a lifejacket today. I'm wearing them for you. I want you to see this, to see who lives here in this bay, who shares these salt waters with us. 

Here, maybe just as in your neighborhood, the rocks DO cry out already, stacked with ledges and condos of chicks and mamas, all cooing and singing their gull-y songs of flying and happy being . .. .

And of course, not them alone, but fox and deer, otters and puffins, and always the eagles.

I have been here a very long time, but still, I wonder, and maybe you do as well:

Are they here for us? Are they here to enliven and ornament and animate our quiet black rocks and silent grey beaches?

Or, is this their given task---to entertain us, so we can ogle and photo and show them off, to our own glory?

Or, are they here as signposts to our great and glorious God, their own maker, to point us beyond ourselves?

 Yes on this one, but more even than this. They live beyond us, in their own salty gardens and rich noisy families and rocky condos and ocean cities. They live their full lives without us, not needing us or wanting us.

We, however, need them.  Desperately.  We often can't remember who we are, or whose we are, or where our food and our very breath come from. 

But they do not forget. They don't need us to glory in their Maker. They already know in their little gull heart, in their seal spirit, their eaglet mind that God is their creator, the one who loves them and feeds them.

                                                         ( fish for dinner)

But we forget. Until we look around. Then, if we are truly seeing, we can say with the Psalmist, 

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations!
Oh look! The deep, wide sea, brimming with fish
past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. 
All the creatures look expectantly to you
  to give them their meals on time.
You come and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back, they'd die in a minute---
Take back your Spirit and they die, revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life--
    the whole countryside in bloom and blossom!

Let God enjoy His creation!

O, Let me sing to God all my life long!     

                                                  ----Ps. 104 (The Message)

Do you see, they are here, all of them, for God first?
He made them first, the creatures of sea and land, before any of us. He named them all "very good," before any of us. He delighted in them and blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply" before any of us came to be. 

They are His. Not ours. Because He delights in them---and He invites us to the same. 

Let God enjoy His creation!

Let us delight in God and His creation! 

Let us sing to God all our lives long!


What Are Fathers For? (And 5 Giveaway Books)

Father's Day is almost here. Some of you will take your father to dinner or a baseball game. Some will panic. Some will feel guilty. Some will go to the cemetery with flowers. Some will send a sentimental card with sincerity. Some will turn away from thirty minutes at the card rack empty-handed and sad.

I know. Don't we all know? I am here at fish camp, in Alaska, a place my father never came to visit. He never visited me at all, not once. There are so many things I would have shown him, had he come, had he eyes to see and a mind to care . . .  Look, Dad, I would have said: 

It's the first week of fishing. It's been nasty all week.

Here are the eaglets I get to watch:

Look, their father is bringing them more fish for dinner!

A fin whale washed up on the beach last spring. Here is all that is left:

See the love in my house, Dad? 

I cannot say any of these things to him---my father is gone now. But I have learned from him some things I'd like to pass on to you, if I may . . . Perhaps your father is here?

Some fathers cannot converse.  

 They have not yet asked questions about you or your children. They don't know what you think, and it is not important to them. They are old. They are busy. They are sick. Speak gently to them anyway. Maybe yet they will learn. 

Some fathers cannot wonder

They are so full of certainty and their own solved life they have no strength to break free into another's life, or to see the riot of stars and whitewater rivers, the eaglets on the cliff, the spider web outside their office window. Allow yourself to still speak your questions and your wonder around him. 

Some fathers cannot praise.

They are too angry at themselves and all the ways their life has gone wrong, they cannot find words to speak the good they see in you. But you know many words of praise. On Father's Day, speak one of these to them.

Some fathers cannot laugh.

They have seen war, or too much bourbon or boredom, or too many highway miles, or too many headlines, or too much medication. Tell them about your promotion and the funny mixup at the swimming pool today. When you laugh, you help them remember. 

Some fathers cannot believe. 

They lost their faith along the stony, narrow way. The Church was petty, the boss was vindictive, the divorce was bitter, the son's loss inexplicable, the Christian friends silent and absent. Visit and call as often as you can. Let them see faith wearing flesh and presence. 

Some fathers cannot hope. 

They cannot imagine a life beyond the room and house and job they are living.  They cannot see anything but decay and loss ahead. They cannot imagine heaven or a God who could love them. Make them their favorite cake and sit and watch a movie with them. 

Some fathers cannot love

They cannot for more reasons than you will know. But, wondrously, you have found so much love in your life, you give it away for free and it does not run out. Let him see this in you.

But these are not all fathers. Some have taught their sons and daughters all these things: conversation, wonder, laughter, faith, hope, love, and praise. Joy to you all! 

 For the rest of us, and we are many, we have learned no less from ours---we have simply learned from another Father, the one we will see face to glorious face when we are done. Now, we're given the chance to pour out all our Father has given us upon these fathers, who are yet as needy and starved as we once were. If we have yet to do this, Father's Day is a good day to begin even one of these. 

Do this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,

all of whom name you, already,

with one voice, 

My precious son,

My righteous, beautiful daughter,

My Beloved Child.


**I pray you find a word of hope and help here. If these words are meaningful to you, would you consider sharing them with friends? I am ready to send out 5 books 
(Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers http://amzn.to/1newi30) just in time for Father's Day.  If you share this, please let me know, and (let me know your email address at the same time) and hopefully you'll win one! 

May God enlarge every heart this Father's Day! 

So thankfully,

Stormy Crossing, The Last Place We Look for Beauty

                                 (Photo by Wallace Fields)

Two summers ago, I was scared before the skiff even launched. The NE wind had come down. It had been blowing 40 mph, ripping the ocean to white, but now it was probably down to 30 mph. I hadn’t run a skiff yet that season. So this was my first run, in these shuddering seas? 

I was fully dressed, as we always are when we step into a skiff: I was wearing full commercial grade raingear, a life jacket, a hat, my fishing boots, but I forgot my gloves. My hands were already so cold it wouldn’t matter when they got wet.

And they did get wet. As did the rest of me, even through the small opening at my neck. We all stand in our open skiffs when we travel to see over the bow. Like lightening rods, the water finds us first. Whole sheets of water pelted me as I rose and fell in the swells, my knees braced against the seat in front of me to stay upright, my arm on the tiller. Gasping for air between waves, I quartered my way from one island to another.

I have made this crossing many times and been out in storms far worse. I was not terribly afraid once I left shore---I was mostly awake, all of me. What I saw! The deep blue heaves and lifts me like breath; the whitecaps under the wind are my gasps. The grey clouds that sweep the mountains and troughs, spilling their water, and the sun that breaks between them, lighting the fires . . . All this exploding in water and howl of wind and motor, eyes blinded by the force of so much being and existence. . .


And more astonishing, even this on the island I just left. That island is a working island where everyone is head-down on task, where there is no shelter from the wind, where the nets are splayed across the grass, and the island is covered in tractor-roads. 

Our island too is a working island, where nets and tractors, skiffs and machines cover grass and beach.

This day of mending net in the wind, it was hard to speak to anyone and I was cold and wet ---but what I saw! Let me tell you about the colors of this work! The colors of all this gear on land before it is dropped into the sea to catch fish.

Let me tell you about the blue-green nets and the yellow corks and the pink buoys and the endless coils of line ready to do their work for us.

 Let me tell you about yellow and orange raingear hanging in the gear shed waiting for the bodies to give them life and the rusty anchors sunk in sand to hold our boats. 

Courage lives here, and endurance, and a brotherhood of fishermen. But can you believe that beauty lives here as well, even when it is not intended or sought?

“We walk by faith, not by sight,” we often quote, but just as often, it is our sight that awakens our faith. Even when we do not intend it, in our busiest hardest labor, beauty and order and color emerges from our hand and pours forth speech that brings praise out of silence---for those who see it. 

I see it. I hear it. I am sure you do as well. Even here: 

                                  (Photo by Tamie Harkins)

Where do you see strange beauty in your world?

Praise Him, the Father of All Beauty and Good,

Who can be found in storm and sea,

Who can be seen in the work of ordinary, tired hands,

Who yet will be praised

By babes and fishermen and women late

at the sink or deep in the soil:

Praise Him for bringing Loveliness out of our 

commonest Labors.


And, I do not forget the eaglets, Calvin and Maddie (as named by my youngest sons), who have doubled in size. Here, too, is strange beauty forged from odd feathers and dinosaur faces. Here, too, we watch and praise . … 

Look! I can almost fly!

Praise Him.

Just Hatched Eaglets at Fishcamp + Shall I Kill this Sparrow? (video)

"What have you surmised of life thus far, brother?"

It’s been Bird Week this first week at fish camp. I found the eaglets first. 

We began the hike around the cliff of our island, hoping, hoping, staying as quiet as our dog and our anticipation allowed, our cameras around our necks. Could it be possible? Would this generous offering be given again this year?  And there it was--- the perfect-circle nest  on a bluff, just below and beside our island trail. 
The bluff, mostly safe from fox, weasel and us.

And within the circle, a lump of fluff, a puff of exhaustion, so limp I wondered if it lived. And after several minutes of patience and devouring eyes, we saw it. It lifted its head---no, it lifted two heads. There are two! And they are just-hatched, just days old, the youngest eaglets I have ever seen in my many years of eagle-watching.  Do I really get to watch this stunning transformation, from  weightless scrap to a ten pound hulk in less than ten weeks?  Mercy! I am excited---and glad to bring you along with me this summer.  (I have a very long lens to keep me safely distant, but to bring us close. )  

 "Someone get me wings----please!!"

Why is Mom always so stressed? She already brought us two salmon! See? We haven't even finished them! Take a break, Mom!

   "Haven't Mom and Dad fashioned the perfect nest?  It's a masterpiece of found art!"

   "Where do we think we rank, really, in the whole scheme of things?"

"There goes Mom again. We told her she forgot dessert."

   "Will we grow up to be an ostrich, maybe? A chicken? Oh please let me be one of those birds that fly!"

But there is more. This week Duncan brought out a birdfeeder to hang outside our window---our first ever. 

And I  watched again the oystercatchers who patrol our beach as regular as the tides.

And still more. This whole first week at fish camp, a  sparrow has begged to be let in. He has beat at the window, at every window in the house, for hours at a time, every day this week.  It is the same plump bird who flew at the window a month ago, my sons tell me, when they were out here earlier. They  named him “Tubby.”  Tubby  bats against the glass, still not seeing it is there. He cocks his head, peers at me wiping the table, sweeping the floor.  He taps the glass with his beak and feet again and again. 

Did he catch a few minutes of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and left inspired to wreak his own beaked malevolence on the world? Is he angry that we are happy and living in an inside nest and he is not? I am not unmoved by his urgency.  He wants in so badly, I am tempted to  just slide open my bedroom window and give him his own room.  Just another bird in my own nest.  But I have finally decided he is batty,  loony,  this  addle-pated sparrow  who is  mimicking the wrong flighted thing, and I don’t need to feather my own nest with an angry bird, or even a needy bird. 

And I will tell you  a darker truth. Eight days in now, with this bird beating his (questionable) brains against our windows at all hours of the day and night, we are tired.  I got up early to write this morning—my only chance today--- and spent the hours muzzling the dog instead.  The bird beats the dog awake who barks us awake, and as I rush to quell the dog I am scheming the worst---how can I kill this bird?   I have chased it with a broom. I have draped a sheet over the window---but it is not enough. My exhausted fishermen sons and husband, all of us who work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and later, need rid of this sparrow.

But then I consider. I have been just as eager and hungry and needy and persistent at  the nest of the eaglets. I am lured to their nest to watch, to peer.  My eye is pressed to glass as well, the camera lens and I do not want to leave. I am missing only wings and beak, but possessing all the rest: a desperate wanting to see into another life, another species, another nest, another family. I want in. Am I so different? 

As I write this, I have not yet decided the fate of this bird. But I do believe, with  theological certainty, that should I dispense with this troubled and troubling creature, that God will know it. That God will watch the fall of this sparrow by my hand, and what will He think, the Creator of every bluejay and eaglet and dog and man and woman and wren?  

It is a blood-spattered  world since the day the bitten fruit fell from Adam’s hand.  I know the first eaglet hatched will sometimes consume its sibling, with no  intervention from the parents.  I have seen the worm writhing in the beak of the robin, the gasping murre in the talons of the eagle. Shall I join them?  

 I already have, in so many ways.  I killed the goshawk eating our chickens with my own hands and a 2”x 4” one year. I skin the deer my sons shoot for the table. I help at the slaughterhouse when I can. I am as covered in blood as anyone, or more.

And this sparrow, the one who is waking us from sleep,  who is dying to be with us, shall he die too?  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by the same mercy that has given me a window to the eaglets . . .  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by my family’s desperate need for sleep . . . . 

What do you say, you who watch through this window as well? 

Which mercy shall I choose?