fish camp

Finally Fish Camp! & The Elephant Who Became a Mermaid (video)

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I’m riding in the skiff, head down, burying my neck in the three coats I layered so carefully. The wind is frigid. I forgot gloves. My hands shrink and fist in the long sleeves of my rain coat. The mountains hover over the water, still wearing their white winter coats. This is May. It’s a cold wintery May. And I’m on my way to fish camp.


How did 8 months of travel pass so fast? How am I here again, riding over steel waters, approaching my 40th season at fish camp?  

And was this homecoming beautiful? After planes and trains and subways and jeeps over tens of thousands of miles, didn’t I throw myself over my doorstep, step out of my ruby slippers, slough off my backpack exhaling, “There’s no place like home”?    


I didn’t. People would ask me as we traveled, “Don’t you miss Alaska? Don’t you miss home?” I didn’t want to disappoint them. I said I did.

But I lied. The truth is, I felt at home everywhere. Everywhere.


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I set off in October with my two youngest sons and my husband, looking around for God in this world. (I am always chasing after Him, though more than half my days I am surely running the other way. He does not hide; it is I who hide from Him. He is not silent, it is I who cannot stop boasting long enough to hear him. )

But there he was In the African bush, the karoo, the French Alps, the island of Patmos, the ruins of Corinth, the townships, a Paris café. In the mountains of Greece. In Pollsmoor prison.

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 I saw God’s spirit move in mighty ways. But the months passed too fast. I wasn’t ready to leave any of those places. There are people there now whom I love. People I miss. There are churches and publishers and cities and villages I want to see again. Not even mentioning the elephants. Have I told you about the elephants?



We spent a week in Kruger National Park in South Africa, sweltering in 90+ degrees and safari-ing from south to north in our rented car. If love is measured by length of gaze, I surely then love elephants. And this elephant in particular.

There were three at first in this watering hole. Galumphing, cavorting like gazelles in the only element that renders them floatable and suddenly graceful.

After thirty minutes, two of the water beauties tired of hosing one another and solemnly emerged, dripping, plodding off into the trees, with just a single glance behind, “Flora, dear, aren’t you coming?”

But Flora was not coming. Because she knew who she was. She was not an elephant; she was a mermaid. And here in this water all her dreams come true. She longs to be small and lithe, she longs to dance rather than plod, she longs to lunge and sink, to hide, to float, to twirl. And all of this she does and is. And when she’s done, she swishes her shimmering tail and climbs ashore, lumbering off to her daily elephant chores, lighter. Here is 42 seconds of Flora:

Watching that video again now on my Alaskan island,  gazing at snowed mountains, hailing rain and a stormy sea, thinking of all that is ahead of us in this salmon season, I remember---

These waters---how sweet and deep they are! This clumsy child of God who limps and trips, she falls into them each summer and remember? She does not drown. She swims. She floats. She spins. Sometimes she even breathes underwater. (And is that a bit of mermaid scale on her legs after 40 seasons?)


I know. The world beckons and shines brighter than our own tiny dim islands. But here. HERE. Is where God has now planted you and me. And it will be sweet, these months, years, however long we must stay. No matter how hard. If God cares about Flora's joy, he cares about yours. Every island, every field, every city, every street has a watering hole as deep and as wide as heaven. It does. Go ahead----Jump in!


And at the end of this season, we shall all say, dripping, with a flick of our (mermaid) tails:


Our mouths were filled with laughter, 

our tongues with songs of joy!

Then it was said among the nations,

 “The Lord has done great things for them!” 

The Lord has done great things for us, 

and we are filled with joy!

                                       (Psalm 126:2-3



Are you ready to plunge? 


Anna Wintour + Alaska Fishcamp Fashion: It's What's in Vogue!

      I can hardly bear to hear the news these days. We must pray for the afflicted and persecuted---and there are many. And we carry on by loving those around us. And still finding ways to smile. This is one of the main purposes of fashion, I believe, especially certain magazines----absurdity, irrelevance and distraction. May I distract you for a few minutes (and maybe make you smile?)

      If you didn't get your copy of Vogue or GQ this month, no worries. I've got it covered. Here are a few images you might have missed:  

   Shortly after this shoot, realizing something was missing, they finally did it-----Vogue and GQ came to their senses and journeyed out to fish camp to discover real fashion. 

The shoot began under their direction. We started off as they directed us. You know: bored, miserable, no-reason-to-live-except-to-glower-at-the-camera . . .

      But, we couldn't sustain this for long. We're models with a difference. For one thing, we wear clothes. Quite a lot of them. In the Alaskan bush, we believe fashion is defined more by what you're wearing than what you're not wearing. 

Because our clothes are more than ornamental. We actually do stuff. Like-------mend fishing net.

And we do this because this is not a set---we're actually working! 

         And, shoot us (with just a camera please), but occasionally we're happy, even when we're working!

Even sometimes in a storm.

                                    (Take that, GQ!)

And even when wearing dirty, strange, worn-out clothes

                                  (25 year old jeans)

and odd, useful hats.

And don't  forget the (reptilian) hip boots or knee boots. Always the boots!


       Of course, there are some things more important than style, though I know Anna Wintour wouldn't believe this---unless she came to our fish camp.


I think she'd fit right in---as soon as we got over an issue or two: Yes, Anna, you MUST wear a lifejacket!

 It will indeed make you look fat, but fat, floating and alive is so much more fashionable than, well, you know . .. 

          And we may not boast a vast, varied or individualized palette, but we find this hue particularly lovely, and visible on the water in storms:


      Of course, beauty is in the eye of the wearer and beholder. When I asked my two youngest sons and their two buddies from a nearby fish camp to dress like GQ, this is what we got:

Well, who doesn't need a makeover now and then?


          The fashion on your island, fish camp or neighborhood may look a little different than  mine, and I'm glad. As Quentin Crisp said, 

"Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are."

     Here is my final fashion advice, stolen from Iris Apfel:

 "I would advise you to be happy rather than well-dressed. It’s better to be happy.”

Yes, when we wear "happy," we're always in Vogue. 

Thanks for walking the fishcamp runway with me! What is your philosophy of fashion?