It was a mad dash out to fish camp. I had less than a day to get ready. I was supposed to stay in Kodiak and clean our house for renters. I was supposed to do the shop-till-you-drop at Safeway (remember last year's shopping cart entirely full of tortillas?) But the salmon season opened early----surprise!! About a week sooner than anyone expected. Duncan and I jumped from one plane to another then to a boat and here I am. Again. My other life. My "Crossing the Waters" life.
But I am not always smiling. Yesterday the fog rolled in. A strange fog that arched and rainbowed over the fishermen as they drove home to our island. It's message? No, you will not die by flood, but you will get very wet. And so it came. We woke this morning to a North East wind, blowing 40 mph, making fishing out of skiffs on the open ocean-----hard. Messy. Very wet. Sometimes impossible. Here, the waters in the channel, where they begin, are the calmest the seas will be for the next three days. They will head out from here into high galloping seas.
And here it is. This life on this island, in these waters. Not simple. Not easy. It's war sometimes. I watch them go into the storm, three of them my sons, and two nephews. Some just kids. But not really. Not after a lifetime of doing this. And for me, it's been a lifetime of watching them go, or joining them. Thirty-nine seasons. Yes, nearly a lifetime. Is there anything here I haven't yet seen or done? Is there anything new under this fish camp sun?
The Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes wonders this too. He opens with a wail and a moan, and both eyes wide open:
“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.
“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
What does a man gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
. . . All things are wearisome;
man is unable to speak.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Can one say about anything,
“Look, this is new”?
Some commentators and readers over the centuries have insisted this “wisdom book” could not be canonical, could not be inspired by God. Where is the cheer, the victory, the triumph of the Christian life? (“The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.”)
No one is spared. Even writers get a dose of reality:
The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?
What DOES profit us here in the midst of this furious cycle of life? He answers this question three times in the course of his book. Here, my favorite rendition:
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. . . and Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Soon it will be lunch. Ten men, my sons, nephews, husband and crewmen will lumber through the door soaked in salt water, muscles weary, hungry. As they have done for decades. Soon after lunch they will go out again. And then after dinner, they will go out into the storm yet again. But right now? Right now the carousel stops. Right now we gather around the table. We gather dressed in work clothes that shine with fish scales and sweat. We shall eat our meat and homemade bread and drink our tea with gladness. We will laugh. For God is with us. For we are working with all our might. For God approves the work we are doing.
Like this, I will make it through today. Through another fishing season.