The temperature hit 80 degrees Friday under perfect blue skies. Today was hot again, but the clouds gathered, and as I write, rain is falling, settling all the dust a dry week has stirred.
I began Friday morning with more berry picking.Sandy and I hit the woods in the company of her sister’s honest to god hunting Chihuahua, a fearless little tawny thing named Missy, who leaps over holes and slinks through the grass like a lion. The former family dog was a toy poodle named Odie, who once fell off a boat into the Yukon while the family was out fishing, swam to shore, and made such a racket that they could hear him calling from miles away.
A squirrel is trying to make a winter nest in the insulation of Sandy’s roof. The northern squirrels are red, with white rings around their eyes. It’s said that long ago, when squirrel was very cold, another creature, parka squirrel, lent squirrel his parka. But when parka squirrel asked for it back, squirrel cried so uncontrollably that to this day his eyes are ringed with white. “Even the names of plants have a story,” Sandy said. “There’s a bush near Anchorage that turns bright red in fall. In our language we call it ‘Hawk’s’ because the hawks eat its berries.”
We talked about how living in a place where you know everybody is different from living in a place where you don’t. In big cities, it’s easy to forget people. In a village, you see the whole bunch of us every day. “I really like that storyteller, Joe Campbell. All the characters in his books are right here. The hero, the fool. Everyone has a part to play.”
The high bush cranberries are almost all ripe now. The blueberries are beginning. After cresting yesterday, the river is settling down again and the beach is reemerging once again.
Sunday’s readings have Elijah in the wilderness, hearing God in the still small voice. Jesus walks on water. Both readings show the spiritual journey as movement, with God appearing in unexpected ways: as quiet, as a calm more powerful than the night’s most fearsome storm.
One of the girls and I watch fish from the bridge. The little specks are all tasty gnats.
On my Saturday afternoon walk, I ran into Sandy's dad. “You’ll be back in civilization soon,” he said. “Back in your real life.” I answered, “I guess.” He said, “It is your real life.” I answered, “Yes, it is my real life,” sad to be leaving here, but thinking about home in new ways. “It’s civilization.” “Is it?” I wondered. “Yes, it is civilization. That is what they call it, so that is what it is.”
The word civilization comes from the same root as “civic.” It is related to citizenship, to city. It is a way of looking at how people live together. We have come to a great crossroad in time where we are being called to look closely at how people live together. A wilderness without people to take care of it is as artificial as a city where all the trees are cultivated and all the animals either pets or pests. We are all connected. Buddha talks of Enlightenment as being the moment when we fully become part of the great interconnected Mind. Paul tells us that we are all part of the body of Christ. Modern “objective” thought has done a great deal to separate us. The writer of today’s reflection in Forward Day by Day writes of a verse in the Book of Acts that it “discloses that the early Christians were socialists. They were not Marxists, holding with atheism, class warfare, and suppression of dissent, but economic socialists – private property was unknown among them.” This statement reflects how tainted so many of us are by ideological “isms.” To have all things in common is really not socialism or any other ism. It is simply a fact of life on earth. We share air, ocean, land, mind, spirit, the adventure of being human. Hopefully, we share the gifts that have been given us with others. What I think I own, I really have on loan. When I am gone, it will be someone else’s turn to have a hand at my house, my library, my reflections, my successes, my unanswered questions, even as I have inherited all these things from my elders.
A Smokehouse. Smoked salmon last all winter. King Salmon run in June. The Silvers come in August.
Jesus arrived in the midst of a heartbroken people at one of history’s most difficult moments. He showed them a truth that was stronger than the attachment to wealth and the idolatry of Imperial Rome. That truth is alive and well. It is the light that shines in the darkness. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit, calling us across miles, ages, and terrains to find one another and reweave history’s tattered threads.
And so, on my evening walk, a rainbow.