Kodiak Island

Why I'm a Happy Prisoner (& Wonder Years Giveaways)


Last week you should have been here on Kodiak Island. The sun shone like the Sahara and people ran around in sun dresses and tank tops. These are people usually dressed to the chin and ankle in multilayers of Grundens, Carhardts, X-tra Tufs and Guy Cotton (and therewith I name the four clothing groups of Kodiak). 




Sally has freckled legs? Gus has calves? Mara has tanned shoulders? Andrew has ankles? And someone please put pants on that fisherman in Bermudas with luminously pale hairy legs! (Oh wait. Those are my legs.)


But of course what a miracle, for Kodiak Island to have sun like this!


I haven’t been out in it though. I’ve been living like a prisoner. I’ve spent the last 5 days alone, inside, writing 11-12 hours a day, until my brain, fried, fell out and my eyes swelled to slits, and my hands cramped. I stopped long enough to cram scrambled eggs down my throat and to pump coffee and kombucha.

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But look what I’ve got!




I finished the first draft of a script and the outline of a new book. I can't wait to tell you more about it as it starts. (It involves a film crew out on our island taping Ann Voskamp and I--and 20 writers.)

 Here’s what I've come to say this week. Most people think being religious, going to church, being  “Christian” means following rules. They think it means voting for a certain political party. They think it means living a mean hard intolerant life, like the grim characters cast in Hollywood’s movies, when their movies include a token “Christian.” They’re either that or they’re just plain from-Mars cuckoo. Either stereotype concludes the same: Not fun people. Not a fun life. An abstemious life. A harsh suppressed virginal life. At best, a dutiful life, not a spontaneous joyful life.

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But I am joyful. I am buoyant. And I know lots of Christians who are. I am joyful though I have such stacks and loads of work to do---people waiting for words, classes, food---and I give up Kodiak sun to do it. Happily. I’m giving up some of my favorite summer things this week, this month.


I am working like a prisoner, like a slave. I do this often----and I love it. Even when I'm tired and hating it. Because I get to speak to people and share the best news I know, news that keeps changing my life--and maybe others' too?  And because maybe I will write something that lightens someone else’s load?


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The Apostle Paul called himself "a slave for Jesus Christ," and if we're lucky, we're all His slaves. And Here is just one piece of the strange happy news of the gospel. Everything God asks us to be and to do, he enables us to do. He gives us joy to do. It’s what we want to do. I want to give stuff up to do better stuff. This work that overwhelms me often is yet a glad burden that wakes me up each morning and skips me through my day.

But it’s not all easy, being a Jesus-person. Especially for Christians in other countries who are routinely persecuted and killed because of who they love and serve. This is the ultimate price to pay.  For us, in the West, our struggles are smaller. But still, Forgiveness is not easy. Loving our enemies is not easy. Going the extra mile for a stranger is not always easy.  But so much of what our Father asks of us, he makes easy.

(Remember when the baby cried in the night----again? You thought it was so hard to get up----again. And it was. But it’s harder to stay in bed, yes? Remember forgiving your husband---again?And deciding you would not build walls against him. No, not easy, but this is what Love does. It turns us inside out and sideways-over so that obeying and doing for others is our delight even when it hurts.)

We’re Christians because we believe Jesus is real and true, and it also happens that it’s the best life we know.

It can be yours as well. Jesus wants to take your burden. He wants to make a swap with you. 

 “Come to me, all of you who are tired with heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.”

                                                                 Matthew 11:28-30 New Century Version (NCV)


I hope you'll do it. There's no better life.


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It's been awhile since I gave away some Wonder Years! I'd like to give FIVE away this week!


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(Thanks to you all, "The Wonder Years" is headed for a third printing!)

To enter, would you do this? If you know people who need messages of hope, photos of wild Alaska, honest words from this pen, cultural commentary and hands pointing to Jesus, would you subscribe them to these weekly notes? Or just send their emails to me (leslieleylandfields@gmail.com) and they can be added to the list. But please, ONLY with their permission!

Thank you friends. It is always a joy to share this space with you.

FISHCAMP VIDEOS: Where the Rocks Cry Out+The Seals Jump In

Would you come with me to an incredible place? Let me take you down into my summer neighborhood on the west side of Kodiak Island.

You won't need boots or a lifejacket today. I'm wearing them for you. I want you to see this, to see who lives here in this bay, who shares these salt waters with us. 

Here, maybe just as in your neighborhood, the rocks DO cry out already, stacked with ledges and condos of chicks and mamas, all cooing and singing their gull-y songs of flying and happy being . .. .

And of course, not them alone, but fox and deer, otters and puffins, and always the eagles.

I have been here a very long time, but still, I wonder, and maybe you do as well:

Are they here for us? Are they here to enliven and ornament and animate our quiet black rocks and silent grey beaches?

Or, is this their given task---to entertain us, so we can ogle and photo and show them off, to our own glory?

Or, are they here as signposts to our great and glorious God, their own maker, to point us beyond ourselves?

 Yes on this one, but more even than this. They live beyond us, in their own salty gardens and rich noisy families and rocky condos and ocean cities. They live their full lives without us, not needing us or wanting us.

We, however, need them.  Desperately.  We often can't remember who we are, or whose we are, or where our food and our very breath come from. 

But they do not forget. They don't need us to glory in their Maker. They already know in their little gull heart, in their seal spirit, their eaglet mind that God is their creator, the one who loves them and feeds them.

                                                         ( fish for dinner)

But we forget. Until we look around. Then, if we are truly seeing, we can say with the Psalmist, 

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations!
Oh look! The deep, wide sea, brimming with fish
past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. 
All the creatures look expectantly to you
  to give them their meals on time.
You come and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back, they'd die in a minute---
Take back your Spirit and they die, revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life--
    the whole countryside in bloom and blossom!

Let God enjoy His creation!

O, Let me sing to God all my life long!     

                                                  ----Ps. 104 (The Message)

Do you see, they are here, all of them, for God first?
He made them first, the creatures of sea and land, before any of us. He named them all "very good," before any of us. He delighted in them and blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply" before any of us came to be. 

They are His. Not ours. Because He delights in them---and He invites us to the same. 

Let God enjoy His creation!

Let us delight in God and His creation! 

Let us sing to God all our lives long!


Video Trip to Fishcamp, Eaglet Hatchlings: The World is Born Again

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”  --T.S. Eliot

We  arrived at our fishcamp island yesterday, an island  off the west coast of Kodiak Island.  While tearing around local stores gathering supplies for the summer,  I ran into several people who chirped, “Oh, you must be so excited you’re going out to fishcamp!”  I tilted my head, considered their excitement, but said it anyway, “It’s my 37th season.”  “Oh,” each person said, disappointed. And suddenly I feel old. Just a little bit used up. 

Which then made me feel guilty. Why wasn’t I more excited to leave Kodiak and spend the whole summer on a gorgeous wilderness, albeit cold and rainy island surrounded by mammals and fish most people only see in documentaries? It’s a good life. But I've seen so much. I know it deeply, intimately. It takes a lot to surprise me out here.

If we’re lucky, we live on this earth seven or eight decades. How do we keep our eyes wide and young? We know what happens to the old. They grow tired and bitter. They've seen so  much. They know life deeply, intimately. They‘re not up for any more surprises. I understand this.

I fly out into the rain under heavy skies, ride a cold open skiff pounding in metal seas to an island where I have lived—and died---a thousand times over. Where my husband and I have dug out a well, built a house, dug water lines,  hunted deer, raised six children, picked millions of salmon . ..  A place of many injuries; a place I have wandered alone in despair; a place where I have loved hard and worshipped hard. After all these years, is it possible to still see anew? Is it possible to see this island as God sees it?

"It is possible that God says every morning to the sun 'Do it again,' and every evening 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike. It may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy: for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." (G.K. Chesterton)

Today is my third day here. I'm starting to get excited. I found the eaglets yesterday, maybe ten days old, their just-hatched down still electric, alive. I watch them every year, from hatchling to hulking adolescence, and still this year I gape like a child, wondrous. 

I am ready to explore and know this place again for the first time. I am ready to bake stacks of bread, to sprint to the outhouse, to gut and fillet fish, to mend net beside the ocean, to finger berries into a bucket, to feed the hungry at my long table, to pick salmon from the waters.  

I hope you will come with me again---though some of you have been on this island tracking my steps before. Can we make all things new? Can we ourselves be made new? 

Yes. Yes! If we are willing, our older eyes shall see summer burst upon our houses and our lives again. And we shall lift our infant faces and our tongues to watch and praise----for the first most glorious time.

Are you with me? What do your infant eyes see in your corner of glory?

After Easter: What About the Hangover?

How did you wake up the day after Resurrection Sunday? S

o  much joy spent in furious singing and chanting, "Up From the Grave He Arose!" and  "Where O Death is your sting? Where, O Death, is your victory?" . .  .   And a breakfast buffet at church, all sugar and cream, then dinner and a company of Beautiful Others at the table, and

 too much ham, too much salt and too many desserts . . . and a late late night. Yes, Jesus is alive, Praise God! but Monday morning I'm hung over. Exhausted. And sad. There are sorrows that cannot be named  still . .. and


tomb is empty but mine----my tomb? Maybe yours? Still sealed. With a body in it. Not risen. 

Doesn't this happen every year, this whiplash between the grief of Good Friday and the giddy gladness of Easter----and then one more neck-breaking twist we never talk about: the morning after? The hangover after all the hullabaloo? When your fridge is full of leftovers (yes, Praise for this too!), but real hobbled life has returned--with extra force for its temporary absence?   

I found an answer to this today, on Earth Day,as simple as a walk. Come with me for a moment? I promise not to prettify or falsify . …

 I walk heavy-hearted into the ugliness of what winter has left behind---a grey day, so many days of rain, my muddy pot-holed road, 

I cross the freshet which looks more like the sewage-et this time of year (it's not) . . .

Past places of danger . ..

isolation . . .

and onto death---the lake where a much-loved boy drowned last summer . …

But among and around all of this-----is something else: the rainforest. This is rainforest country, here, this eastern side of Kodiak Island.

It's always green in here---and not an ordinary green. The green of Life itself. It comes from too much rain, and not enough sun. Even in the winter, when blizzards sweep it white, underneath, the green remains. 

Even the trees that snap off in hurricane winds sustain luscious green life. 

Nothing that lives or dies escapes the entwining moss  . ..  which covers all. 

Martin Luther wrote, “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”  

It is not springtime yet here, but a rainforest is always alive. 

Forgive this most simple allegory, and this simple hungry heart--- but I found him here today. In this rainforest. Christ. He has so encompassed us, so draped and hung  himself upon us, beneath us, over us, around us, that we who are dead are brought to life again, and we who are living are yet more alive. 

One more resurrection. I needed it this day. Watch for it. Every day will bring a reason to die, and the reason you do not: because He lives, still. In you, on you, around you, under you. Today I see how He is hung upon me like a scarf, like moss, like  the green growing force that He is, He who will never stop clinging to me and to you. He who makes even the hollow places, the graves we carry within us, 

once again,


And tomorrow, we will know His resurrection life again, another way. This time----how?  Will you tell me what you find??