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"Fish Tales" October, 2004
[WEB EDITOR’S NOTE: “FISH TALES” is no longer a separate publication, but is The Bishop’s Column in our Diocesan Newspaper, THE DESERT NEWS. Other information which was found in FISH TALES is now available either in THE DESERT NEWS or on this website. Check RESOURCES, ENRICHMENT, BISHOP’S SCHEDULE and the WHAT’S NEW page.]

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Bishop Katharine

Do you remember being asked to write an essay like that when you
were a child? It dawned on me that reflecting on such matters is probably
good for all of us. It‘s part of being aware and grateful for all the
gifts in our lives, and reflection usually helps us see where God has
been at work, even when we‘re not actively aware of it.
I spent the first week, more or less, at a mountain cabin doing
very little other than “vegeing out,” reading, eating, doing chores,
watching the obscure sports of the Olympics, and enjoying the Oregon
rain! It was a very important kind of sabbathÐfree of deadlines or major
expectations, a time just to be.

The next chunk of time took us to the Toiyabe Mountains for a
backpack trip on the Toiyabe Crest Trail. This range is south of Austin,
and reaches well over 11,000 feet. We didn‘t see another soul for four
days. We did see a camp that someone had set up, complete with four or
five horses (three of whom were outside their improvised paddock!), but
not a person to be seen. We started out on the trail in the middle of an
afternoon, fresh, with full and heavy packs. We climbed up over a major
pass and started down the other side toward the Reese River valley. In
the following days, we continued up to the headwaters of the Reese
River, then over another major pass onto the side of Arc Dome. From
the high points of the trail, we could see at least a hundred miles in
every direction, from the Sierras to the west and southwest to the myriad
ranges of Nevada. Absolutely glorious!

Camp each night was improvised in a more or less flat place near
a stream. I was repeatedly amazed at how much water there still is in the
Nevada high country, even at the end of August. It may have been a
small stream, but wherever there was even a bit of water, life and
growth were luxuriant. There were still flowers blooming, paint brush
and asters in abundance, and even a few rare solitaries, like purple
monkshood. Birds everywhere during daylight, hawks, eagles, sparrows,
flickers, meadowlarks, and the ubiquitous camp robber. In the early light
we could see insects everywhere in the air, and the ants, spiders,
lacewings, and many others beneath our feet. Tiny blue butterflies and
black and yellow locusts. We saw quite a few deer, even bucks with 6 or
7 points, and the tracks and scat of large predators and herbivores, big
cats, coyotes, owls, as well as cattle, mountain sheep, and maybe elk.
There were bones everywhere, from tiny birds to the largest of the grazers.
Along the trail one afternoon we came across one elegant deer skull
with 7 points. I was struck by the proximity of life and death, and the
regular emergence of new life from the legacy of another life.

Backpacking is hard work, and by the third day we were
exhausted. Dick insisted on a rest day, so we only went a few miles
before setting up camp. We knew that our
last day would be intense, with much elevation
gain and miles to go before we slept.
The rest day was a gift, like the first week of
this sabbath, and we rose refreshed and
ready to tackle the big climb. We had a
spectacular trip up and over the crest from
one side of the Toiyabes to the other, and
came back to our car late in the afternoon.
We found a tire that was almost flat.
A minor distraction, we‘ll just change it and
go on to Austin and find some dinner, we thought. Well, once the car
was jacked up and the lug nuts off, we saw a big screw in the tire, but
the wheel wouldn‘t budge, frozen fast. We put the lug nuts back on, let
the car down, and drove ten miles VERY slowly into the settlement
around the Yomba Indian Reservation. As we were approaching the (one
and only) intersection at 20 mph, here came a car with a patch on the
door saying Yomba Shoshone Territorial Sheriff. We told our sad story,
and the sheriff took us off to find some air for the tire. Ten minutes later,
we were on our way, abundantly grateful for his appearance.

I‘m using the last part of this sabbath to work on an instrument
rating. When I finish, I‘ll be able to fly in much worse weather, and perhaps
be more available in the far reaches of this diocese. It is intense
study, for there are many, many details to be absorbed, and flying under
a hood (a view-limiting device so that the pilot sees only the instruments
and not the ground outside) can be a challenge to the stomach when it‘s
rough, but the whole experience is a joy thus far. Intense, focused, mental
and physical, and with a great instructor! Not a bad recipe for life.

What have I gathered this summer?

Life is meant to be lived in company. Most of life seems to have more
value when there is someone else to share the load and the delight,
whether it‘s the glory of the mountain scenery or the tent and stove that
must be carried, whether it‘s the challenge of learning a new skill or
doing the chores that never end, whether it‘s finding help in the wilderness
or celebration in the city.

• Life is best lived in rhythm, of work and play, of intensity and relaxation.
As that wonderful prayer in the BCP puts it, “in returning and rest we shall
be saved.” The monastic communities have always known this.

• Life is abundant, in part because of the death that surrounds us.
Awareness of the gifts that enfold us, and gratitude, lead us homeward
as well.