Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Otter's Prayer

The Otter’s Prayer

Let us pray.  We, the struggling Congregation of Southern Sea Otters, need some help here, dear God. 

We thank you God, that human beings have stopped slaughtering us for our fur as they did for centuries. 

But how long O Lord, will our congregation remain so small?  After more than 100 years of no slaughter, our membership is still less than 3000 of us in our whole range, which is just the Central Coast.  In the good old days there were over a million of us on the West Coast.   Like many other congregations, we are not growing at a sustainable rate.

We thank you God, that the water in which we live and move and have our very being, and where we each must find 20 pounds of food to eat every day, is cleaner, with less toxic stuff like urban, industrial and agricultural runoff than it used to have. 

But people still put lots of bad stuff in the ocean.   How long, O Lord, will our young adults disappear (die) at a rate greater than they should be (also like many other congregations)?   How long will moms have to struggle so hard to find food for their little ones?  (Sadly, otter fathers don’t really join in.)

We thank you God for the work of so many on our behalf, like The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Friends of the Sea Otter and The Otter Project and many others, for raising awareness and advocating for us and making this very week, the last in September every year, Sea Otter Awareness Week.

But how long O Lord, will we have to worry about getting tangled in deadly gill nets and fight with fisheries over where we can live?  How long will people have to stencil on storm sewers, “Flows to the sea, don’t dump your oil here”?  How long will people build over our estuaries and wetlands (75% of California’s are gone) when we love living in sheltered rich places like Elkhorn Slough?

We are sorry, dear God, that we, like humans, sometimes think we are a little special, that we are just below the angels, and deserve some extra attention.  I mean, we function both as a sentinel species (like canaries in a mine shaft, our diseases and challenges show others that things are bad out here) and a keystone species (without us the whole kelp forest habitat crashes, for the abalone and sea urchin that we eat will clear cut it).  This place would be lost without us. 

Plus we are the cutest damn creatures in all creation. 

But we are trying to be humble, O God, and ask only for our share.  We have heard you have a preferential option for the poor, for the least of these.  We could use some help.

When we pray, O God of all creation, we say “thank you,” and “We’re sorry.”  We cry out for “help” and we lament “how long?” 

O God (and people) in your mercy, hear our prayer.

On our Blue Theology service trips and pilgrimages in Pacific Grove we pray with and for all of God’s creation, including otters, and do our best to hear their prayers.  I post these “Tide-ings” each Wednesday here and at

Fabulous photo by the fabulous JR Sosky.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Glad Tide-ings

Glad Tide-ings

From here you can see the tide
turn like a door on its hinges:
We’re just going out. 
Do you want anything
from the ocean?

I read this poem last week on a sign overlooking the tidal Piscataqua River as it flows past Portsmouth, NH into the sea.

That’s Maine on the far shore.  Both states border the massive Gulf of Maine (Cape Cod to the Maritime Provinces) where high tides flow fast and inexorable, lapping right up to the dock, and the low tides disappear like nothing down into the mud.  When the Piscataqua’s tidal currents turn on their hinges they can be deadly; its flow is the third fastest in the US.

In Maine I visited my friend Sally Smith in East Boothbay.  She took me sailing (we were careful about the tides), fed me lobster roll and showed me her paintings, including this one of a fisherman’s camp at low tide, temporary beach.  (She was the fabulous artist in our Point Lobos poetry book.)

Tides on the move, as the Portsmouth poet says, are like going out for dinner.  Actually both lunch and dinner, since they come twice a day.  I looked up the poet, Robert Dunn, and he was your basic charming eccentric poet with the simplest of lives, working part-time at the library and roaming the streets selling his poetry chapbooks for a penny, insisting on giving 99 cents change for a dollar, refusing copyright.  A friend poet wrote a tribute to him called “The Penny Poet of Portsmouth.”

What is it about poetry and tides?  Both rise from a force surprising yet inevitable, incarnating power, change, mystery, fluidity.  “I must go down to the sea again, to the call of the running tide.”

Even scientists wax poetic when trying to explain the tides:  Rachel Carson wrote, “The winds, the sea and the moving tides are what they are.  If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities.  If there are not there, science cannot create them.  If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” 

On our Blue Theology service trips and pilgrimages we write poetry and prayers while walking by the sea, inspired by the mystery and majesty of the Monterey Bay tides.  I write these “Blue Theology Tide-ings” (get it?) every Wednesday.

Stone Sea in St. Louis

Stone Sea in St. Louis

Andy Goldsworthy named this sculpture "Stone Sea, calling it "a sea made of what was once the sea."  Compressed in a sunken courtyard at the St. Louis Art Museum, it is 25 arches of stacked limestone, evoking waves.  It's the same local limestone that formed the ocean floor when a prehistoric ocean roiled here and across the whole Central US millions of years ago, its bedrock.

"Bedrock," he says" isn't this dead, static material, but is alive and moving, indeed limestone is made from compressed animal life.  I wanted to reveal the fluidity of landscape and the cycles of nature."

Ever the Blue Theologian, when it St. Louis this week on church business, I found the sea!  The ocean is everywhere, even in Missouri.  Fluid as bedrock.


The ocean is wet in Pacific Grove – come for a service trip or adult pilgrimage.