Waves wave. Swells swell. Oceans are never still, always moving. Shaking out a bedsheet explains it all.
I am loving the book “How to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea” by Tristan Gooley, a quirky British explorer and navigator.
Here is how he explains that a wave is actually not water in motion. A wave is energy moving through the water. Like the bedsheet.
“There are three types of waves – ripples, waves, and swell. Swell is best thought of as waves that have enough energy to travel well beyond the place of their origin. Ripples will struggle to reach the far side of a pond if the wind dies away, waves will only travel a few miles without a supporting wind, but swell will cross great oceans – thousands of miles is common.”
“All water waves – ripples, waves and swell, take energy from one place to another. In the oceans there are only three main sources of wave energy: the moon, earthquakes and the wind. The most common is the wind – it passes over the water, imparts some of its energy to the water, this energy moves in a direction, and this is visible as a wave.”
“This idea of waves taking energy from one place to another is important, because it is very tempting to think of waves as the water moving horizontally, but that isn’t what is happening.
“Think of shaking out a bedsheet. The shaking makes a visible wave that takes lots of energy from one end to another as it travels. The force that is giving it the energy, in this case, one pairs of hands, moves it to another place, in this case a whipping sound at the other end of the sheet. But, the sheet itself hasn’t move horizontally, only up and down.
“Watch any waves out at sea and your eyes will tend to follow an individual wave as it travels, giving the impression that the water is moving with it. But focus on anything floating on the surface, like seaweed, a piece of wood, or a bird, and you will see how they stay in the same place, as the wave’s energy moves them up and down, but not along.”
Wave, shaken sheet, even Holy Spirit – we picture these as individual things, but they are really energy moving through things. We know this when we use “wavy words” to describe the energy of fullness and passion. “My heart swells with love.” “I am feeling waves of emotion.” “A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd.” Moving energy, filling up, spilling over.
“Fountain fullness.” Those are the “wavy words” that St. Bonaventure, Franciscan mystic and theologian, uses to describe God.
We all can float In this wavy fountain fullness, trusting God’s wet and wonderful energy to move in and through us. Thou swell.
“Keep Tahoe Blue” is a popular bumper sticker. Our Blue Theology Mission Station tries to “Keep God Blue” by helping people of faith connect with ocean stewardship and spiritualty. Take part in our youth and adult mission trips and retreats, read and share these Wednesday “Blue Theology Tide-ings,” and come to our newest project, a May 9 Blue Theology Retreat and Resource Day for Clergy and Religious Educators in Pacific Grove. Bluetheology.com
“Ocean Swell” painting by David Gayda.