Wednesday, December 30, 2015



When I started volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1997, the Kelp Forest exhibit was located in “The Nearshore Wing.”  Recently they renamed that half of the Aquarium “The Ocean’s Edge.”

I like “near” better than “edge.”

I like “nearshore” because it’s scientific.  Marine scientists divide the meeting of land and sea into various “zones.” Textbook cross sections label the many zones, from the high dry beach on down to the deepest dark ocean, as variously “nearshore,” “high intertidal,” “benthic” and many more.   I thought “splash zone” was just a cute name for the kids’ section – no, it’s a real zone where there’s wave splash on the rocks, but not constant water.  Every plant and animal adapts to life in its particular zone.

I also like “near” because it’s sort of comforting – something is nearby, nearly here.  Shall we meet at the nearer shore? It’s a soft word.

“Edge” is hard, scary, sharp.  The marketing department is probably trying to hype the visitors’ sense of adventure.  We’re on the edge!

I’ve got enough hard, scary, sharp edge places in my life.  So does our world.  I guess I’m not a thrill seeker.  I like to figure out who or what is near so I can make a connection and we can be nearer.  Nearer and dearer.

This creature wants to live in a near zone, not on the edge.

At the candlelit Taize service this month, over and over we sang, “Look to God, do not be afraid, lift up your voices, the Lord is near.”

As I set up my crèche scenes I tried to place everyone near each other; parents, baby, sheep, shepherds, magi – more body heat.  Nearness brings warmth.  It’s cold out there.

In my daily reflection I read from the book of James, “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”

With my writing partner I tried an early version of this post.  I got going about whether “near” refers to time – it will arrive soon, or space – it’s located close by.  I wrote a paragraph arguing that the time-space continuum proves “near” exists in both time and space.  I went on for some time.  She said calmly, “Near means intimacy.”

Nearer, my God, to thee.

(Photo Chad King, NOAA.  These strawberry anemones look like Christmas decorations,
soft, and near. The photo is off Pacific Grove. You can also see them in the Nearshore Wing.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The King Draws Near

The King Draws Near

We went down to these our favorite tidepools on the afternoon of the Winter Solstice, to check out the King Tides.

King Tides are the mightiest tides. The highest highs of the year.  And the lowest lows.   Every year near the Winter Solstice and Christmas and New Year, the high tides, called tidal surges, crash and flood.  Tidal scourings, the lows, happen at the same time, sucking water far far out, revealing rocks and tidepools and plants and animals not seen any other day.

Faithful readers of these Blue Theology postings recall (Nov. 5) that I am a low tide girl, I like the surprise revelations.  The photo that day was a lovely Monet, a wide Normandy beach.

This too is a low tide picture, but it’s the Central Coast, exposed rock AND crashing waves.  It was both revealing and scary.

That King Tides come this time of year seems appropriate.  As times are ending and beginning, shortening and lengthening, so too are the oceans rising and falling at annual extremes.  Why now?  Earth and Moon and Sun, those distant swirling rocks, this time of year draw the closest to each other.  In their annual dancing around the galaxy, the three now form a line as if square dancing, with paired dance steps called perigee (Moon closest to Earth) and perihelion (Earth closest to Sun).

Our family was doing a little perigee and perihelion dancing that day, drawing near together for the holidays. So we too danced down to the sea.  We climbed far out on newly dry rocks.  The Sun did seem just a bit nearer as it set into the sea.  We gave thanks for the King.  Tides.

(I first posted this last year, also on the solstice.  We’re together again this year, and did some more dancing down to the sea.  Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hold Fast

Hold Fast

Today’s message, from the Gospel according to Kelp Plants, is: “Hold fast.”

This remarkably strong and dense ball of tightly twined root-like material is called a kelp “holdfast.”  It clings “fast” to the ocean floor rocks, anchoring the plant soaring 100 ft. above it through many years of wave and winter storms.

This small holdfast (compared to the towering stalk) is a dense, strong, deep anchor.  And it teems with life itself - thousands of tiny organisms live in its hidden holes and crevices.  In marine biology classes they do “hold fast dissections.”

It is not a root system, for the kelp does not get nourishment from the rock it holds onto; rather the plants are fed through their leaves, called blades, thanks to the motion of the water and photosynthesis.  But when kelp is finally ripped off those rocks by a winter storm, it dies, having lost its anchor.  (The kelp we see on the beach after a storm is less than 5% of all anchorless kelp; most sinks to the ocean floor and feeds animals waiting in the dark for that gift from above.)

Our marine preacher, the kelp, proclaims, “Hold fast to that which is good.”

For some, these words are a familiar Biblical benediction. They can also bring comfort in these dark Advent days of waiting, and in this global time of worry and fear.  Hold fast.  Find a rock, a foundation, and hold on.

My “French-Word-A-Day” lesson last week was “Tiens bon.”  Yes, the author said, it is hard here in France to have hope and faith.  But, she added, we are “holding on,” we say to each other, “Tiens bon.”

There’s hidden life teeming in our strong anchor.  It can weather many a storm.  Ultimately it will give life to countless other lives.

Behold and hold on!!  Tiens bon!

(Photo by Chad King, NOAA, was taken right off “Lover’s Point” in Pacific Grove.  Little know fact; the Methodist founders of PG named it “Lovers of Jesus Point.”  Somehow that name no longer is on
the maps!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015



We all went “googoo gaagaa” over this little baby Giant Sea Bass last week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Just three inches long, and like a puppy with huge paws, it looks as if it will need some time to grow into those big fins.

25 years from now, when it finally reaches sexual maturity, and its full adult 600 pounds, and six-foot length, our reaction will be more “Wow!” or “Watch Out” than “Ooh, so cute.”

Then for its next 50 years of life, until it dies at 75, this Giant Sea Bass will be the calm, wise yogi of the depths.  But for now, little Nemo-esque, it darts and pokes and attracts adoring fans.

It’s the season of the little child: the baby in the manger, the little angels and shepherds in Christmas pageants, the kids in shelters we eagerly shop for.  All will grow into adults and get much less love and attention than their cute former selves.

The Aquarium has noticed how our hearts go out to babies; as a very effective way to promote sustainable fisheries and ocean conservation our exhibits often feature baby sharks, baby sea otters, baby turtles – all so little and cute.  And all threatened with extinction from human aggression (our hunting, eating, polluting, climate changing.)  (Note I said aggression, not ignorance – we know better!)  Giant Sea Bass faced extinction as well, until strict fisheries management began to reverse their doom.  (

We easily go “googoo gaagaa” over the baby Jesus and keep him a helpless, harmless baby.  That’s a good way to begin the relationship, but I’d rather improve the odds that his life and teachings can mature and reproduce.  Long-lived yogi of the deep and not just the little cute hatchling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Leaves, Rain Drops, Tears

Leaves, Rain Drops, Tears

It’s a leaf, green and fed by the sun.  The symbol for the UN Climate Change meeting this month in Paris.

If it were blue, it would look like a drop of water.

White or clear, a tear drop.

If it were red, doctors would recognize the “tear shaped” red blood cell.  That would be bad - it’s a sign of blood disease.

Come to think of it, that bright sun in the upper left might be intended to suggest disease for the leaf also.  It’s too darn hot.  Rising temperatures are also a disease symptom, the disease known as climate change, killing our earth.

Might the artist have intentionally chosen a leaf shaped like a tear (there are other leaf shapes,) to suggest human tears, of sorrow or anger, as world leaders meet to try to halt what the Pope called “the limits of suicide?”

Did the UN know that their historic two-week conference would take place in the first two weeks of the Christian season of Advent?  (I doubt it, just noticing….)  A time of expectation and waiting.

Traditionally Advent’s first Sunday is “Hope,” the second “Peace.” We might find a little Hope if the leaders act. We might see some Peace if farms and cities can be sustainable.  (Syria’s torment began when years of drought forced most farmers to move to the already challenged cities.  Climate change breeds war and poverty and injustice.)

I call these weekly writings about ocean spirituality and stewardship my Blue Theology “Tide-ings” and I try to make them “glad tidings.”  Of great Joy.  (Joy is another week in Advent.)  Sometimes it is hard to find Joy, and Peace, and Hope, and Love, in our suicidal destruction of “Our Common Home.”  (The Pope’s title for his encyclical.)

But I was heartened this week to read about people of faith who walked to Paris (“the People’s Pilgrimage”) from the Philippines and Rome and five continents to bring petitions calling for climate justice, from folks of many diverse faiths,.  1.8 million signatures, delivered to a high UN official on the steps of St. Denis Cathedral this past Sunday.  (One of the most precious of France’s churches, burial place of most royalty, the very first Gothic cathedral.)

A Brazilian cardinal and a South African Anglican bishop handed the UN official the signatures and she cried, thanked them for their millions of miles walked, and joined in on a spontaneous dance of Joy. <>

There’s that word again, Joy.  Francis ended his encyclical with Hope.  Paris of all cities longs for Peace.  And we await this Advent the renewal of Love in our midst.  Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.