Do Oceans Separate or Connect?
I recently walked from sea to sea. Not 3000 miles across the US, but 85 miles west along northern England’s Hadrian’s Wall, from Tynemouth on the North Sea to Bowness-on-Solway on the Irish Sea. I dipped my hand into each sea, as I began and ended, a blessing and baptism.
“Sea to shining sea” is of course a sweet phrase from “America the Beautiful,” but other nations use the same phrase. Canada’s national motto “A mari usque ad mare" means “From Sea to Sea.” The Psalmist uses water to show God’s power and presence; "God shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
It seems we North Americans use their ocean geography as a way to establish boundaries, these are the nation’s limits. But Oceanic people experience the ocean as a connector. Their ocean voyages formed their first identity and they continue to ply the sea for food and adventure – for them the ocean does not so much separate as invite.
I got this idea from Anglican Bishop of Polynesia Winston Halapua and his new fabulous book, Waves of God’s Embrace: Sacred Perspectives on the Ocean. He writes, “The waves flow. The currents on the surface and deep beneath the surface move. The creatures of the sea — the whale, the shark, and even the jellyfish and the plankton — move. The wind moves on the waves. The dance of people takes up the dance of waves expressing strong relationships — the interconnectedness of energies.”
The two much smaller seas, North and Irish, framed my walk, connecting my first and last step. They reminded me of all the ways the one world ocean is connected, wave to wave, sea bird to sea bird, shining sea to shining sea.