Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving Day Parade

This is where I’ll watch the parade on Thanksgiving Day.   Not the Macy’s Parade in NYC, but along my main street – Highway One in Big Sur.  

I’ll stand on these cliffs and see (or imagine) a magnificent parade of marine plants and animals.

H – Holdfast, Hydromedusa
A – Anemone, Avocet
P – Plover, Pisaster
P – Puffin, Pelican, Phytoplankton
Y – Yarrow, Yellowtail, Yellowlegs (Greater and Lesser)

T – Tern, Turbot, Tuna
H – Halibut, Hydrocoral
A – Anchovy, Abyss, Algae
N – Nudibranch, Notochords, Nematocysts
K – Kelp, Kildeer, Krill
S – Salmon, Sunfish, Sea Star, Sculpin, Senorita, Shrimp, Salp
G – Great White Shark, Gastropod
I – Invertebrates, Isopod
V – Vertebrates, Velella Velella, Vulture
I – Ichthyologist, Intertidal
N – Naturalist, Neurotoxins
G – Garibaldi, Gull, Gill

We here at the Blue Theology Mission Station join with our pelagic cousins to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

So much to be thankful for.  (Check out <>)

(Thanks Steve Lonhardt from <> for the great photo.  An amazing free library of ocean photos, thanks to NOAA.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sail On, O Ship of State

Sail On, O Ship of State

“Fluctuat nec mergitur” is Paris’s official motto.

It means “Tossed but not sunk.”   Or “The one who rises with the wave is not swallowed by it.”

You see it everywhere in Paris, on buildings like this school, streetlamps, even on every firefighter’s helmet.  This week Parisians boldly held up “Fluctuat nec mergitur” signs at rallies and wrote it on prayer cards.

Originally the motto of the Seine River boatmen in the Middle Ages, it’s a powerful metaphor for a city with a long tumultuous history; the small ship, the big wave, the brave sailors, the skilled navigators, tossed but not sunk.

“Fluctuare” in Latin means “be wave-like.”  Hence “rise with the wave,” a more active image than “tossed.”  Either way, the sea is rough, but we survive, strong and together.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow popularized the “ship of state” metaphor for Americans in 1850, concluding an 80 page (!) poem about the building of a ship with this stirring stanza:

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'Tis of the wave and not the rock;
'Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest's roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee, — are all with thee!

That stanza became a rallying cry for those in favor of Union and against slavery; children memorized it, Lincoln was seen to cry when reading it.  Nearly a century later FDR sent the poem to Winston Churchill, a former Head of the British Navy, saying the words were meant to encourage “you and your seafaring nation.”  Churchill cited it in a broadcast; cards and calendars with the words circulated both nations.

Leonard Cohen uses the metaphor in his song “Democracy,” with a twist:

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

At our Blue Theology Mission Station here in Pacific Grove we love all things nautical.  
We are pro-ship and anti-shipwreck.  We ourselves have been tossed in horrible storms literal and figurative.

We stand on deck in solidarity with the sailors of so many ships of state being tossed by “gale and tempest’s roar.”

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee, — are all with thee!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Holy Isle

The Holy Isle

Should I join this line of pilgrims to the Holy Isle, Lindisfarne, off the east coast of England, next summer?
This wet route, the Pilgrim’s Way, is marked by posts in the sand, since the path to the small remote island floods twice a day at high tide. This picture shows an Easter morning pilgrimage.

It’s been called “The Holy Isle” ever since St. Cuthbert was bishop and hermit there in the 7th century.  It’s a “thin place” with sacred ruins and an active spiritual community.  40 years ago, on my first pilgrimage to holy sites, I went to the holy island of Iona off Scotland’s west coast, whence came the monks who founded Lindisfarne.  Now I try to go to France and the UK every other year, on a “soul journey.”

This week I began the winter reading and prep time for my pilgrimage, almost as fun and devotional as the journey itself.  Today I read this description by a modern pilgrim who walked to Lindisfarne across the tidal waters, on the Pilgrim’s Way;

“Battling along the north coast with the wind blowing in gusts of 90 miles an hour, I came at last to Lindisfarne.  I arrived in time before the tide closed the causeway.

“I was in a sacred temple of which the sea is the keeper.

“Twice every day the sea opens the gates of the temple to let the pilgrim, the visitors and even the tourists in.  Tourists generally return before the sea closes the gates, but pilgrims are in no hurry.  They stay the night, or a few nights, to be soaked in the tranquility and purity of the place. 

“The monks who chose to build the priory here were very wise; there are very few such sacred sites where the sea is the guardian of the soul. 

“The moment I stepped on the white sand I was free of the busy world.  Here I was in the company of the sun, the sky, the sea, the sand dunes, and the spirits of saintly souls. 

“St. Cuthbert prayed and meditated in solitude, totally surrendering himself to the sacred sound of the sea. 

“Every night after midnight when all his fellow monks were asleep he would get up and go out.  On one occasion, a curious monk, a light sleeper, noticed this and followed him. 

He found him in the sea up to his armpits, where he spent the night occasionally singing hymns, and with only the waves for accompaniment.  At daybreak Cuthbert came out of the sea and knelt on the sand to pray.  Two otters followed in his footsteps, licked his feed and warmed them with their bodies. 

“This is the island where humans, nature, and religion are one.”  (Satish Kumar, in ‘Traveling Souls: Contemporary Pilgrimage Stories.’)

The Psalmist writes: “Your way is in the sea and your path in the great waters and your footsteps are not known.” (Psalm 77:19)

I think my path may be though the great waters, to a sacred temple of which the sea is the keeper.  There I could surrender myself to the sacred sound of the sea.


(I’m planning some guided pilgrimage walks around the Monterey Bay area, as part of our Blue Theology ministry.  Be in touch….)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dark and Wet

Dark and Wet

In an hour Orion will be risen,
Be glad for summer is dead and the sky
Turns over to darkness.
Good storms, few guests, glad rivers.

Our good rain this week brought to mind these lines from Carmel poet Robinson Jeffers.  I love the winter wet and am relieved to see our days turn over to darkness. Please please, more good storms, make glad the rivers.

Ron and I are clearing culverts on our dirt road, bringing in firewood and storing up supplies for a hoped and feared bad winter.

Jeffers can be a little dark himself; he is glad not just that summer is over but that it’s dead.  But even he, who knew my little Palo Colorado creek, would have called it glad this week. You can see it’s still a trickle, lots of early season silt, but definitely glad.

Inspired by the rain, and by a sweet exhibit at our local library honoring another great writer, Rachel Carson, I followed the call into the wet woods.

Carson wrote, “A rainy day is a perfect time for a walk in the
woods.  Then all the needles of the evergreens wear a sheath of silver; ferns seem to have grown to almost tropical lushness and every leaf has its edging of crystal drops.  Strangely colored fungi – mustard yellow and apricot and scarlet – are pushing out of the leaf mold and all the lichens and mosses have come alive with green and silver freshness.”

She was describing Maine, but it could have been this redwood forest.  The smell is dank, the creek gurgle is sweet, and a multitude of drops tinkle on leaf edge.

I rejoice in the dark and the wet.  There nestles needed rest, and new life.

(We may have few guests now, but folks are already signing up for Blue Theology adult retreats and mission trips, in February, spring break and next summer, to practice ocean stewardship and spirituality. We also guide individual retreats. <>)