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

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