Friday, May 27, 2011
Moose Turds and Wild Celery
I’m sitting on the beach wearing an insulated shirt with a pullover sweater and my coat and a windbreaker over that. My native friend and mentor, Al, in shirt sleeves, mumbles, “If it weren’t for the breeze, it would be unbearable out here.” No honestly, that’s what he said! All the Alaskans are hot because MOST of the snow is melted. I don’t get it.
It was another day of exploring and learning new things……about Alaska, nature, God and myself. It started at 8 this morning when Al and his brother, Thomas, picked me up to let me go with them to “set the net”. I think that’s how they put it. We drove in the pickup past several fish camps and they stopped to let me breathe it in and take pictures along the way (although my camera battery died after just a few shots). I know they were rolling their eyes at the white woman behind her back. Especially when I started filling my pockets with moose turds. Hey, they’re free and I’ve decided that is going to be the souvenir of choice to bestow on all of you when I come home. They’re lighter than beach agates and will ship cheaper. Have you ever seen a moose turd? They are perfectly formed and pure vegetable matter. A marvel of nature I think, and they don’t stink. I finally asked Al for a baggie to collect them in. Much eye rolling going on.
We finally reached our destination which was Al’s salmon net line, already anchored several yards off shore and ready for us to attach the net and pull into the water. The tide was coming in. We settled ourselves on the beach and had some snacks. Al brought hot coffee. It was amazingly peaceful. We watched as an eagle swooped very near us to pick up a salmon backbone he spied on the rocks. He soared over us and all around us and we found his nest through binoculars.
I’d been asking questions about how the native ancestors got enough to eat (no doubt, more eye rolling). Al took a few steps into the woods behind us and came out with a green sprout he called wild celery. I peeled the ….whatever that is that you peel on celery……and tasted the stalk. It was delicious….unique. I got the message. There was food all around us.
After the tide started to ebb, we saw a salmon caught in our net. Yay! We had hoped for more, but one good one was considered success. We started to pull the net in but……..our salmon had messed up the line and it was stuck. We pulled and pulled, I got REAL muddy, but no luck. We would have to wait for the tide to go all the way out so we could get to the net (If this had been Florida, we would of course have waded out, swum over to the net and untangled it). I had the feeling Al wanted to cuss.
Thomas had been gone for a while and appeared out of nowhere with hotdogs. He built a fire and we had a picnic on the beach. I sarcastically asked how Indians build fires and he shot back, “with bic lighters”. True enough.
After much waiting, rock collecting, eating, napping and almost cussing, the fish was retrieved. Then the fun really began back at Al’s house when he showed me how to clean and fillet it. I was trying very hard to NOT look like a prissy toenail painter. But this job was hard. I commented that I felt like I was on a reality TV show and was about to get voted off. Al scowled and said I was going too slow. OH! So it’s really a game show…..A Minute To Winit? I was thrilled beyond words to be learning to do this stuff.
When I left home in Florida, my guiding verse was in Isaiah. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Every new thing is a confirmation that the world is bigger than I could ever imagine, that life holds mysteries I have only begun to unravel, that God is actively creating and renewing, and I am a player in His epic tale. Eventually I will leave Rivendell and the Misty Mountains behind and return gratefully to the Shire. But I will have the assurance that God will still be doing “a new thing” in me. It isn’t about the new sights, or the new friends, or the new skills. It’s about what He’s doing in me. Creating and renewing.
btw, I got to keep the salmon.