Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Walking a New Path

Walking a New Path

This is a new path at Point Lobos State Reserve.  I walked it last week with my adult children Owen and Norah, at their invitation.
It was the day before Norah’s wedding.  Talk about a new path!

If our lives are journeys, (“the way,” “the pilgrim route,” “a long strange trip”) it’s a special day when we find a new path.   This was a special day.
In fact, while parts of this path, called the Lace Lichen Trail, are indeed brand new, other sections are the old trail rebuilt.  Before, it had lots of roots and bumps and narrow spots and winter creek beds.  It’s been improved to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards. Now it’s hard and smooth and wide, some little bridges.  For the first time, people in wheelchairs can move with ease through this mysterious forest, where feathery lace lichen droops from the branches of Monterey pine. The trail is better for parents too – they can now smoothly wheel their kids in strollers, as the smell of the sea and the roar of the waves beckons them westward.  And all walkers are safer than before, since the trail, which used to be shorter, now extends with brand new sections all the way from park entrance to the sea. No more need to walk along the road.

If life - and marriage - are journeys, we surely know that these paths have bumps, gullies, narrow spots and some danger, if only from distracted drivers. 

So it is definitely a blessing when folks open up a new path for us.  What a gift to find a route that welcomes us all, safer, with bridges, a way for wanderings and discovery, whatever our age or ability.

Thanks, California taxpayers and Point Lobos Foundation for this blessed new path.

(Come on one of our Blue Theology youth mission trips or adult retreats and feel the Spirit on this new path.  Also, I now post these Wednesday “Tide-ings” at <> as well as here.)           

Thursday, June 18, 2015

To Fish for Depth and Mystery

To Fish for Depth and Mystery

For centuries, native Ohlone women ground acorns in these deep granite holes.  I took a friend to see this rock today - it’s now at the edge of Point Lobos State Reserve, overlooking Carmel Bay, with the Carmelite Monastery in the distance - and we could almost hear those long ago women and their children chatting and singing as they prepared this essential food.  (California grinding stones are often in places safe for children to play around, since it was women’s work, and with a good view, since it is long tedious work.)

What is now Point Lobos State Reserve was a rich source of food and community for the Ohlone, and many are the food prep areas, like this one.   Many also are the separate sheltered cooking areas, safe for fires.  Those we call middens, now marked by ashy soil and broken shells (yummy abalone served alongside the acorn mush.)  Point Lobos was a safe place, and bountiful.

The barbed wire fence was erected later, in the 1930’s, to mark the park boundary.  Around the same time a family paid to have the Carmelite Monastery across the bay built for cloistered nuns.  They still pray and sing the daily hours.

When Sally Smith did the pen and ink drawings for my book collection of many poets  inspired by Point Lobos, we chose this drawing for the chapter of “spiritual” poems, the ones not about cypress or otters, but those evoking mystery and death.  The history of Point Lobos is not just one of bounty and safety.  The barbed wire reminded me of another shameful part of Point Lobos history, the forced interment of longtime park resident families, like the Kodanis and Obatas and many other local Japanese American citizens, during WWII.

Ohlone women still come to Point Lobos, and when they see this rock, that wire fence, and the monastery beyond, they probably recall their own people’s forcible removal, and the miserable legacy of Junipero Serra’s missions, another American genocide.  (Already we have local protests of Serra’s upcoming canonization.)

We titled the book “Dancing on the Brink of the World” which is a line from an old Ohlone song, one probably sung by those grinding women and children.  They lived, literally on the brink, on the edge of the continent, atop high sea cliffs.  And they also stood on the brink of eradication, death by fences and friars. 

It’s all the same granite: Point Lobos cliffs, this grinding stone and the walls of the church.  It’s hard, and lasts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Te Mano O Te Moana

Te Mano O Te Moana

I can’t speak Tahitian, but when I saw this image, I could almost guess that “Te Mano O Te Moana” means “The Spirit of the Ocean.”  It’s the cool logo of an ocean stewardship organization in French Polynesia, a nation of 118 islands across a 1200 mile ocean expanse.  These folks surely know the spirit of the ocean!

Since we celebrated World Oceans Day this week (June 8), I will dip my toe, in this week’s Blue Theology posting, into distant waters, beyond my usual California Central Coast perspective.  (The UN established this holiday at the Rio Summit in 1992, honoring “oceans,” but many geographers say that there really is only one world ocean, all connected. I like the concept “one world ocean.”  With one spirit.)

“Te Mano O Te Moana” is also the name of a new film released this spring about an epic odyssey that 100 Pacific Islanders embarked on several years ago.  A group called Pacific Voyagers build seven traditional-style ocean canoes, called vakas, but with added solar power, not gas, for instruments and communication, as part of their commitment to fossil fuel-free ocean voyaging.  Sailors from many Pacific Island nations took part, journeying from New Zealand, where the ships were built, to Hawaii, from California to Cocos Islands off Costa Rica, and from the Galapagos to the Solomon Islands, stopping also in Tahiti, Samoa and San Diego.  They said they sailed “in order to reconnect with traditional navigational skills, relying on the stars, wind and wildlife as our guides, to connect with different Pacific communities and with the ocean, and to spread the message of ocean protection.”

“We mapped our way in the wake of our ancestors.”

I like that - “wake” of our ancestors.  We all sail in the wet wake of our ancestors, and we owe them, as well our descendants, oceans with healthy spirits.  Or one spirit, one ocean. 

You can see a great trailer of the film at <>

Wednesday, June 3, 2015



Look at this close-up of Jesus’ right hip.  It’s so swirly!  

Now look at his whole body. Even though he is seated, his body and clothing seem to move, to whirl and twirl.
  It’s a solid rock sculpture, cold Romanesque stone, but Jesus seems to be leaping off this massive tympanum in the basilica at Vezelay in Burgundy.

That’s where I spent Pentecost last year, on my biennial pilgrimage retreat.  During the weekend workshop on the Holy Spirit, “Le Saint-Esprit,” 25 French pilgrims and I took part in a candlelit service in this narthex.  The flickering lights seemed to tickle the risen Christ into even more vigorous dancing.  The Holy Spirit was indeed “poured out.”

This Sunday, Pentecost, I will worship and preach with the good folks at La Selva UCC.  Ministers wear red stoles on Pentecost for the tongues of fire.  But I of course will wear my Blue Theology stole and speak of the Spirit poured out.  It’s a water day too.  In Acts it says 3000 were baptized that day.

“Il vint du ciel un bruit comme celui d’un soufflĂ© violent …” 
“There came from heaven the blowing of a violent wind…”

 “Des langues qui semblaient de feu….Ils furent tous remplis d’Esprit Saint..”
“Tongues of fire….they were filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“Je repandrai de mon esprit de tout chair..” 
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.”

Richard Rohr says, “Our common metaphors for the Holy Spirit all honor and point to a kind of flow experience: living water, blowing wind, descending flames and alighting doves.”

Pentecost is a day of flow.  Spirit poured like water.  Wind and fire swirling and curling. Blowing, flowing, moving, pouring.

May the Spirit flow in and through……

I write another weekly column, “Building Blocks.”  This week it’s about pews – their surprising history, sleeping in them and taking them out to have a church trapeze.  Check out

A Lament Psalm for Refugio Beach and Creek

A Lament Psalm for Refugio Beach and Creek

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Dear God, an oil pipeline ruptured this week across Refugio Creek and Beach, near Santa Barbara.  We call it a refuge, but nothing was safe there.  Over 100,000 poison gallons spewed out, fouling stream and plants, killing birds and sea lions, imperiling sea otters and migrating whales. 

This is a very present trouble in your refuge, O God.  And we need help!

The conquistadores and the padres gave the name “Refugio” to this creek and beach in honor of Mary, the Lady of Refuge.  Dear God, we know these men weren’t perfectly Christ-like, but they did love His mother.  In their prayers they called on Mary as Healer of the Sick, Consoler of the Sad, and Refuge for Sinners. On old land-grant maps we read “Nuestra Senora de Refugio Peccatorum.” Refugio.

Refuge for our sins.  All of us sinners seek refuge in you, O God.  We can easily name the sins of Big Oil: greed, destruction; they offend your creation.  But it is our whole culture and lifestyle that separate us from you, God

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
Though the mountains shake the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2)

Your psalmist says we need not fear, but God, we live and breath in fear.  In our fear we worship convenience and profit.  We accept unsafe pipelines, we consume and drive, we concede power to others.

The earth, the climate is changing, O God.  Help us not to live in fear, help us to shake the world into your realm.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…” (Psalm 46:4)

Your Refugio Creek is not glad today and I imagine neither are you, O God.  Rather you weep.  Many Catholics find comfort in the weeping woman they call Mother of God.  We cry with you God, over your blasphemed sanctuary, your despoiled refuge.

“Come, behold the works of the Lord….
God makes wars to cease, breaks the bow, shatters the spear….
Be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:8-10)

Be our refuge and strength, O God.  Keep us safe, make us strong.

(On our Blue Theology youth mission trips and adult retreats here in Pacific Grove we give thanks for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a refuge formed 25 years ago expressly to prohibit oil and gas drilling off our coast.  The Refugio Beach is just south of the Sanctuary’s borders, hence coastal oil rigs and pipelines.   But there is a local effort to set apart a new refuge there, The Chumash National Marine Sanctuary, named for the native Chumash people.  Support it!)

Dry Whale Bones

Dry Whale Bones

I’ve always had a bone collection.  Various skulls and femurs, deer and mice and cows and seagulls and seals, found mostly in Eastern woods and wetlands and beaches, many I still have.  My mother patiently let me clean them in the kitchen sink and taught me how to identify them. 

One time she gently showed me that what I was sure was a dinosaur skull was actually a deer pelvis.  For my high school science project I strung together that pelvis with the other deer bones I had found that day in a muddy New Jersey brook and hung them, a complete body, from the bio lab ceiling.

Not unlike this whale skeleton which hangs from the Monterey Bay Aquarium ceiling, a young grey whale found dead on the beach just as the Aquarium was set to open 30 years ago.  But instead of scrubbing it in the sink as I did, they buried it in the sand for a year and let bugs and worms strip it clean.  Then a final scrubbing through a local car wash – that would have been fun to see! 

It hangs there to remind us of how similar we mammals are.  See those hands hanging down on either side?  Although huge and submerged, the grey whale is a mammal like us, with hands and fingers, formed into fins.  That long backbone, which powers it from Alaska to Mexico and back each year – has the exact same number of vertebrae as we have.  And as many as my deer skeleton had. 

Bones laid bare show how, deep inside, we all look pretty much alike.

Old timers remember climbing on the bones of this huge fin whale washed up and first displayed 100 years ago at nearby Point Lobos.  Today the bones lay scattered and strewn on the ground outside the Whaler’s Cabin and Whaling Museum, which displays harpoons and try pots to remind us of the violent deaths of millions of whales at human hands.  Sad to be hunted, sad to become a tourist attraction.  The bones now educate and remind us, we hope, that we can change our evil ways.

Bones are fun to find and reunite, but there is a sadness in bones too.

Every body is made up of such beautiful bones, carefully knit together by God, as the Psalmist says, fearfully and wondrously made. 

Ezekiel was shown dry bones in the valley.   God said to him, your nation is dead and dry, like these bones.  But the word of God could bring them back to life.

Maybe the tables are turned, and it is these bones that can preach us back into new life in harmony and care for all creation.