Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn: Moose Hunting and Float Plane Seasons End; Permanent Fund Dividend Arrives

Other parts of the country refer to this time of year as Autumn or Fall. In Alaska, we refer to its functionality as “the end of moose hunting season” or “the end of the float plane season” or, soon, Freeze Up, when bogs and shallow lakes freeze, followed by slow moving sloughs, creeks, and finally, rivers. It is also time for the Permanent Fund Dividend, or “PFD” checks which are distributed to every resident Alaskan in October (along with the predictable retail sales campaigns hoping to capture some of that windfall).  

End of moose hunting season:

Cow and calf swimming; don't shoot.
August is the rainiest month in South Central Alaska, followed by September, so it always rains on moose hunters (the season for residents runs from mid-Aug to mid-Sept, and for non-residents, about 10 days in early Sept). This year it has rained almost every day for three weeks. I feel like Mrs. Noah. Last year it rained for ten days straight. I pity those out-of-state hunters, clutching their $400 big game licenses (but that cost is just a drop in the bucket. Guided, trophy moose hunts are advertised for $10,000 – 16,000 per person). There they sit, dressed in their Cabellas outfits, surrounded by a mountain of gun cases, coolers, and butcher bags, waiting, waiting, waiting in the lobby of one Anchorage air taxi or another as their vacation time ticks down to a disappointing end. Every once in a while, sitting in our remote cabin, listening to the rain beat on the metal roof, we'll be surprised to hear a small plane, followed by two or three more in quick succession. Walking down to the dock in our rain slickers, we see a thin line of blue sky in the direction of Anchorage, and figure that the pilots decided to make a quick exit from crowded air space toward some remote spot where their arrival circumstances might be questionable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hagar's Prayer

Hagar's Prayer
Laura Emerson
Sermon delivered at several Unitarian Universalist churches in Texas

The story of Hagar and Ishmael  ( passages in Genesis 16 – 25) is one of the most poignant in the Bible. Who can remain unmoved by her plight?  Here we have a vulnerable young woman – a foreigner and a slave, with a child, who is cast out to her certain doom in the desert by the only people she knows!  She is certain that she will die, by the unforgiving climate, or the animals it harbors, or subject to the depredations of the people who traverse it.

Once she runs out of food, and runs out of water, and runs out of hope, she lays her son under the meager shade of some desert shrub.  She doesn't pray to be saved.  She doesn't even pray for her son to be rescued – because she has absolutely no expectation of that.  Rather, she prays to die, and asks to not have to watch her only child die first.

Some of you, I know, have had to endure this tragedy of outliving your child – every parent's worst fear.  Surely you could give us a sermon or two on the despair of profound grief, followed by the slow, incremental path of resilience.

Even for those of us who have not suffered this sorrow, Hagar's circumstances speak to us, too.  Who among us has not felt alone, afraid, and vulnerable, either as a foreigner or feeling like one in some aspect of our lives?  Who has not reeled from that horrible kick in the gut when you were rejected – ejected – by someone you relied on?  Perhaps a family member or friend, a boss, or trusted teacher or religious leader?  Hagar's story can resonates there,  too.