Fishcamp: Closer to the Wilder World and the Economy of Cannabalism

My first week at fishcamp. Three glorious sunny days, now cloudy, cold and rainy again. But these days deliver all the happy firsts of the season: first hike up the mountain. First banya. First walk on the beach. First feeding of the crew. But all of these reminded me of  the horrific headlines just as I was leaving for fishcamp.  

The two cannabalism stories haunted me---and all of us. The events were thousands of miles away, but even here, on this island, immersed in the natural world, I see its reality. I am struck by the consuming nature of the wild and of the world.  I walk the beach and find the delicate vertebrae of deer and the 
thatch of hide and fur---winterkill. 

 On the tideline, a common murre's broken wings and feathers left behind from an eagle's meal. Cattle skulls litter and ornament the island, all that's left of our once strong herd---all eventually consumed by Kodiak bears.

 The 100 year old headstone of an unknown man or woman that lies beside the banya---buried here.   

And are we exempt? Here is our consuming nature on display in just two days. We haul our bags of burnable garbage down to the beach--all our packages, our detritus, what's left from our own needs and usage---food packaging, old magazines, worn out shoes.   

I feed a gang of 18 men barbequed beans, caribou and cornbread, who eat until every crumb is gone.  

I build a banya for all of us (Russian steambath), so we can bathe, feeding the fire with driftwood gathered from our beach.  

The generator, that keeps us lit and powered, sucks up fuel from 55 gallon drums that we hauled from the cannery eight water miles away in a boat. 

Living closer to the wilder world reminds us how much it costs to live. How much it costs us in time, energy and resources: everything is harder and takes longer out here. And how much other resources it costs: animals, wood, fuel.  

Most of all, though, I am reminded that winter kills, that flesh eats flesh, that there is little mercy for the small and weak, and even the large and horned. There is an extravagance to nature--and a chilling economy. Who will we be in response? Are we animal, divine or both? The gruesome internet photos of the man's half-gone face remind us what we could be---and remind us what we are not. Whatever mix of human, animal and divine we are, I know this: that we are here to do much more than nature can. We are here to live out another economy, an economy of mercy. The Hebrew Scriptures say it this way. "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God."  

Join me in loving mercy this week. In extending grace to any who need it. We have been given more than we need---for exactly this.