Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What Goes Where?

What Goes Where?

Field Trip!  Our church’s Blue Theology Task Force put on hard hats today and watched 30 tons an hour of plastic, glass, paper and metal being sorted and bailed at our Monterey Regional Waste Management “Materials Recovery Facility.” Their mission statement: Turn Waste into Resources.

Every week I put bottles and plastic and cardboard into my recycling bin, but where does it go? I learned, for example, that a bottle enters the Materials Recovery Facility and 9 minutes later it is sorted from all the other recyclable material and all the glass goes off to the Gallo Winery where they will turn all the glass from the Central Coast tri-counties into new bottles.  New wine skins. 

The fabulous Kimberley and Angela from our Waste Management’s public education department taught us what is recyclable and what is not, how to shop more sustainably, where it all goes. 

We thought we were the first faith community to be so enlightened.  Turns out the local synagogue has already made their many wonderful food festivals zero waste.  A little ecumenical competition?

This summer we plan to bring here the 100 or so youth we will host on service trips about ocean conservation to learn what goes where.  There’s an app for that –

There is no such thing as “away.”  We can’t throw things away.  California law requires 50% of all waste to be diverted through source reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting.

Anything diverted from the landfill and the beach and the ocean, plastic especially, gives ocean animals a chance to live and breathe.  Godly work.

What is your local waste management facility doing to help the ocean?  Call them up and take the tour.  Or come see ours! 
___________ – Check out available times this year for your youth group or women’s fellowship or intergenerational group to spend a day, weekend or week at our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove learning about how God loves the ocean and wants us to love it better, including a spiritual tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   Ocean stewardship and spirituality.  I post these Wednesday devotionals here and at

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What is Their Speech for the Child of Pilgrimage?

What is Their Speech for the Child of Pilgrimage?

Plein air poetry at Point Lobos.  Eight of us, youth and adults.  Pens in hand, at cliff’s edge, we perch on an ancient cypress log, massive, smoothed and whitened by the relentless ocean winds.  We are crafting poems. 

Below us the wind and waves pound the granite.  We sit in a moist and mysterious grove of cypress trees.  Their branches twist and roots grapple tight to their rocky home.  Might these younger trees, only 150 years old, be the children of our ancient log, our poetry perch? 

While the crashing waves drown out conversation, we can still hear the songs of our souls.  Like the cypress holding on in storms and drawing life from the rocky soil, so we grab soul words and try to give them life on paper. 

When youth and adults come on retreat with us at our Blue Theology Mission Station on Monterey Bay we often write poetry.  Sometimes we write at night, guided by our church member and resident poet Patrick, in our cozy Victorian church social hall.  Other times we seek the muse at Point Lobos, or huddled in the beach-blown gazebo between the Pt. Pinos Lighthouse and Asilomar Beach.  We hope the wind and waves will give us dictation.

To prime the pump we read aloud a few selections from “Dancing on the Brink of the World,” a collection of poems about Point Lobos by 34 authors that I edited some years ago.

This 1953 poem by Carmel’s Dora Hagemeyer seemed apt for our location: “gaunt branches, urgence of the ocean, a million garlands.”

“Cypress Trees at Point Lobos”

These forms of flight, of agony, of flame,
Reach their gaunt branches to the sky,
Writhing away from earth in desperate gesture
Silvered with countless storms, silked by the wind,
What is their speech for the child of pilgrimage
Who comes to their rock-crashed garden?

This angular despair the heart knows
Elbowing away from grace –
This furious refusal –
Yet they have not escaped love!
Against the oncoming urgence of the ocean
Their intervals are blue with song,
And at their feet
The importunate wild flowers
Pay no attention to their epic sorrow,
But smother their ankles with a million garlands.
We hosted a great group from Danville Congregational UCC this past weekend.  The youth and adults shared some of their profound writings as part of the sermon Sunday morning, and then we spent a windy afternoon cleaning plastic off Asilomar Beach and marveling at the lowest low tide of the year.  We draw near to God when we walk, as Jesus did, beside the sea. will tell you more about our adult pilgrimages and youth mission trips.  I also host individual retreat restoration days.  Be in touch.  I also post these Wednesday “Tideings” at

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Whale Falls

Whale Falls

Where do whales go when they die? 

Most dead whales sink slowly to the ocean floor, until they rest in the deep, 3000 feet or more.  But that’s not the end of the story – keep reading to learn about whale resurrection and Blue Theology……

Sometimes we see (and smell!) dead whales decomposing on the beach or in near shore waters.  But those are very few of the many thousands of whales who die naturally every year.  (If we lived in Norway or Japan or Iceland we might see the carcasses of the 2000 whales they still slaughter annually in commercial hunts.) 

Those lucky enough to die naturally become what’s called “whale fall.”

Because it’s so cold in the deep, with lots of pressure, the whales decompose very slowly. Scavengers like hagfish and crabs show up first, and eat all their soft tissue in a few months.  Then furry worms and shrimp, called “enrichment opportunists,” move in and colonize the massive whale bones for two or more years.  Finally, the bacteria arrive and live for many decades, 50 years or more, off the bones’ lipids, feeding in turn many nearby mussels and clams. 

Researchers using a remotely operated vehicle studied one 40-ton grey whale carcass deep off the coast of Santa Barbara for over ten years and found more than 30,000 animals, representing 200 different species, living off the one animal.  A dead whale can be one of the most species-rich habitats in the ocean.

 “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

OK, this is a slightly morbid topic for my weekly post on ocean spirituality.  I’m pretty sure those are eels in this picture, feasting on the dead whale.  I learned about whale falls as part of my volunteer guide training at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I guess I already knew that every animal body eventually ends up in the sea in some diffuse form, thanks to decomposition, gravity, run off and continental shift, but this picture at first made me a little sad.

But I am a resurrection girl.  I do believe that life is always more powerful than death.  Even for a 40-ton dead whale.  In their one death they give life to tens of thousands of others.  In that miraculous balance of life and death and new life, there is no waste, everything has value and meaning.  Even in the darkest depths, a rich habitat.

They are haunting, pictures of whale falls, courtesy of deep sea technology.  I am moved, and strangely reassured, seeing both the death hidden in the dark and the new life blooming from it.  There is so much we know, and so much we have no idea about at all.  I like learning new things.  And I like letting the mystery be, down deep.

Where do whales go when they die?  To whale heaven of course.  From deep dark wet, they are transformed into new life.   Same as for all of us living beings.   We move from deep dark wet to light and life, again and again.
Very much alive grey whales are having their babies in Baja Mexico this month, and then will swim north to Alaska in a few months – visit our Blue Theology Mission Station on Monterey Bay for a day or a week, youth group or adult pilgrimage, to see whales swim by close to shore, and experience ocean spirituality and stewardship.  You can read these Wednesday posts also at Blue Theology Mission Station on Facebook.