killer whales

Of Killer Whales and Killers

The day of two shootings in our country was the day my kids were followed by killer whales. It was 10 pm, light as day, near the end of the day’s work on the fishing nets. A pod of 8 orcas appeared, a family, with two babies right beside their skiff. They watched their massive black and white bodies as they dipped and rose around their boat, enthralled. Then one of the orcas surfaced, spun and gulped down an unsuspecting sea otter in one crunch, right before them. A rainbow arched overhead. (No, there were no unicorns.)


I saw the rainbow. It chased me out of the house where I was unloading 25 boxes from the last shopping trip. Where I was listening to NPR news about the shooting at the baseball practice, when the announcer broke in with news of a new shooting in San Francisco.


That morning I watched a bald eagle snatch a salmon from the sea. Sometimes we see them scoop ducks from their innocent feeding, lifting them to their nests, plucking their feathers before they eat. I saw two orcas round the corner of our island below me, scanning for sea lions, otters, seals, any warm body to feed their own.

Two summers ago we boated past a sea lion rookery. One rock still flowed with blood, where an orca had nabbed a sea lion and sunk into the depths.


We are enmeshed in killing, all of us.


I don’t know what orcas or eagles think when they are killing.  Or eagles when they impale a warm squirming bird and feed it to their young.


I don’t know what a man thinks as he points a gun and squeezes the trigger to kill another human being. This is when we are most like animals: brute, unfeeling, predatory.



Is our country unraveling? Fellow Countrymen have become enemies.  Anger rules. Words are arrows, and when insults are not enough for rage, guns take their place. What kind of wisdom or solution can be spoken into this spiral? I have only cold comfort this morning, but comfort nonetheless.                  I am immersed in the Psalms these days, each day writing out a Psalm in my own best hand, word for word. Letting its phrases, poetry, complaints, longings, laments and praises run through my body, through my fingers to the page. Here is what I know so far.  The court and the nation of Israel three thousand years ago is little different than ours today. The King, the man on the throne was often under siege. Violence erupted constantly. His enemies lay in wait for him. The righteous were attacked and embattled.


So has it always been. 

It’s a story as old as humankind. (Yes, not much comfort---yet.) How can we not, then, run out of sorrow and righteous indignation? Sometimes I’m just fresh out. But somehow King David never seemed to run out. He did not deny the harsh realities around him. He did not shrug his shoulders in resignation. He did not grow numb and cloister himself in a sanctuary. Nor did he mount his horse to kill his enemies. Instead, He did the two most powerful things possible: He took up his pen and his harp. And he fell on his face before God. Again and again. 

He continued to long for righteousness. He prayed unceasingly against evil and beseeched toward good. He cried tears of frustration and despair. He kept calling upon God’s righteousness. He continually praised and mourned and sang to God in every moment of need. 

This is the narrow way. It’s the harder way. It’s easier to accommodate, to adjust, to adapt, to accept creeping incivilities and outright evil as normal. It’s easier to give up. To rely on ourselves. To fall silent.


This is all I'm saying: Don’t despair of despair. Don’t grow weary of longing. Don’t give up mourning evil. These are signs of life. If we did not know the light, we would not see the dark.

But we can’t carry this darkness or it will kill us. Carry it to our Lord, our King who alone can bear it.

And If you’re out of words, use the Psalmist's. God gave him those words, because he knew

we would need them too.

Like this, we will not give up on our country.

Like this, we will not forget all that is Good and Right and True.


When Killer Whales Come to Town

When the orcas come to town---things happen. The harbor gets noisy. Sea lions get nervous. They bellow and shout with fright. Listen to this guy . ...

They've seen the clips on Youtube of their relatives serving as snacks and aperitifs. They know the score.  

Here, maybe their third cousin out at our fish camp, bearing the wounds on his back from a tangle with a killer whale . ..

We watch sea lions every day out at our fish camp  They'll haul out together, living communally on a single rock, but in the water? They are almost always alone, on the perpetual hunt for food alone, lone wolf, lone lion on the smooth prowl. 

But here, now, in the harbor, something else is needed. It's a small pod of orcas. Just four by my count. And they're not large. These may be adolescents? Just small. But they have teeth. They swim fast. 

 Any orca is a hungry orca. So now under threat they are buddies, these lions, hardly stirring a liquid foot from the guy next to them. They're a pack a writhing worms now, moving in a single motion. 

Boats come and go, but nothing distracts them from the whale watch. (And you thought humans were the only ones who watch whales?) They rise from the water like gophers from their holes, scanning for the blast, the blow, the dorsal fin . . .  They watch frantically for hours . ..  now days. At least three days they've been panicked, flustered and clustered.

We watch the little whales----and watch the people watching . . . 

(see the sealions in the L. corner watching the orcas in the top R. corner)


       What do I have to say about all this? I observe, mostly wordless, camera to my face, seeing stories all around me.

     I have been watching for two days. And this is the story I see today. I am reading through the New Testament, and am in the book of Acts, where thousands came to know who Jesus truly was. 

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. . . . So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people."

It's a beautiful picture of unity. Imagine being "of one heart and soul"  "of one accord" with many men and women!!  I am thinking of this because I have just found out that a childhood friend, a pastor, has left the pulpit and his family for something else, for someone else . . . He leaves his children, his wife, his congregation, all of whom he once said he would have died for---he leaves them now to love another woman. He leaves them all.

These creatures teach my cracking heart again this truth: we need each other.  We need each other to stay alive. Something is always after us. Sometimes it's ideas. Sometimes people are in pursuit of us. Sometimes our worst selves lie in wait for our best. We wont' always see the dorsal fin, the intent to harm, but someone else may see it. It's dangerous to live alone, to listen to no one but yourself. Or that one dangerous other . . . 

I will not press these creatures for any further sermon---just this: we're all in a lifelong battle, with much against us. If you know God and the One he sent, Jesus, then you are not alone.  But if you have no church, no people who lift you in prayer, in love, who cluster around you when danger comes, you are more alone than Jesus wants. He came that "we may be one," as He and his father are one. He died that we may be "of one heart and soul." He rose to send us the Holy Spirit to make all this possible, true, and real. 

Even the sea lions know at least this: they need each other if they want to live another day. 

 And we do as well.