Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hands On/Home Made

Hands On/Home Made

I went back to kindergarten this week and learned how to make an ocean tide pool to have right here in my own home.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium building is closed to visitors.  But like churches, we are much more than a building.  Just because folks can’t visit the Aquarium or a church building doesn’t mean they/we are not actively doing our mission - be a faith community, inspire conservation of the ocean.  You don’t need a building to do that, just teachers and learners, community and faith, imagination and play dough.  And technology.

The Aquarium is making all their educational curriculum available free to the public.  Or just go to and click on “For Educators.”  (Actually all the fab ed resources have always been available free, just now promoted more for learners at home.  Lots of other good stuff on the website also.)

Because I am an overachiever I started with the sixth grade curriculum: How to Be a Scientist.  I got through “investigate,” “observe,” “collect data,” “communicate.”  But I was impatient for something to do hands on.  So I tried kindergarten, Tidepool Animals.  Not just how to observe what lives in the tide pool.  But actually make your own tide pool, in your own quarantined house.

A blue towel or some other blue fabric/paper for water/waves.  Drape it over something elevated to show how waves move from high to low.  Paper bags crunched up for rocks.  Then add in the hermit crab, anemone, sea star you already made.  Oh, I skipped that lesson – can you tell I am an impatient learner?  Go back, yes, easy, just need egg carton, play dough, sticks, bread tie – hermit crab!

Hands on is good education.  Bringing it all into our own homes makes it real.

I recommend these projects for faith communities also - box projects of our love of God and neighbor, ie love of creation.  I adore those good wise texts, how to investigate, observe, communicate.  But maybe because I am stuck at home without weekly visits to the coast or Aquarium, I want hands on, action, to make a real model of a real tide pool. 

What would be my hands-on model of God? It might very well look something like this habitat -  funky, blue, moving, beautiful, hand-made and abundant with creatures. 

And God looked at all she had created, and called it very good.
I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Poetic Flow

Poetic Flow

“Go with the flow.” Good advice. 

But these days I am feeling more stuck and dammed than moving and fluid.  (Dammed, not damned. We are all blessed children of God.)

A moving stream, a rising tide – they flow.  Flowing, we accept, receive.  And often in flow we are fed – water flow brings all wet critters a precious gift - dinner.  Monterey Bay has two high tides and two lows every day – dinner served often and richly.  To be fluid and flowing is to be fed.

Meditating helps, with an image of flowing water, ocean motion.  Maybe I can ride out this storm of uncertainty and fear.

Prayer and walking are other fluid actions - they help burst that dam of fear and powerlessness.

I am also reading poetry, taking time to seek the gentle rhythms of verse, another slow, wet, moving practice.

I wondered, “Are there poems about flow?”  Look at what I found - this poem “Flow” written on a napkin at a bar.  Poet Bob Makela collected  “Barstool Poems” after a lonely night at a San Francisco bar. He and his roommate were having trouble working up the courage to speak to women.

“We were a couple of wimpy guys who had no guts to get up and talk to the women around us,” Makela says. “So I took a pen and a cocktail napkin, jotted down the title to a poem, slid my friend the napkin and said, ‘Write a poem to fit that title.’”

Soon their creative juices were flowing. The pair was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  “We met all the women in the bar that we had wanted to meet, but didn’t have the guts to get up and talk to,” Makela says. He has published several volumes of Barstool Poetry and created a more creative, fluid way to make connections, via poetry.

Poems do lubricate, lighten, loosen.  Pick a title - Flow, Tide, Wave.  Let the rhythmic waters wash over and though you, lubricate you.  You might make some new friends.  You will certainly be un-dammed.

Stay wet, my friends.

I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What Happens When Humans Are Gone?

What Happens When Humans Are Gone?

“Can the fish in that tank see us people?” is a common question at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Answer – no.  Birds and mammals – yes.  But even they seem to ignore the visitors.  They do care about the staff, at lunchtime, otherwise, pretty self-sufficient.

It’s a good humbling reminder - animals in the wild get along fine without us, probably better.  Alan Weisman’s fascinating book, The World Without Us, tells how quickly so-called nature would take over if all humans disappeared. 

We call sea otters a “keystone species” – if they disappear, their whole habitat crashes.  The kelp forests would be gone, because otters eat the animals that eat the kelp.  100 years ago when we hunted otters to the brink of extinction there wasn’t much of a kelp forest.  The otters’ slow return also revived the kelp.

Are we humans a keystone species – if we were gone, would the habitat crash?  No, it might very well thrive. 

Related question: Now that the Aquarium is empty of the usual thousands of daily human visitors, do the animals notice, are they acting any differently?  The staff is still there, feeding and keeping them healthy.  Otherwise, I doubt the animals notice much else different.  Maybe that it’s quieter.

And in outdoor waters, lakes and river and ocean, do those wild wet critters notice that something has changed in the past two months?

We know the air is cleaner, the world is quieter.  Animals must notice this. 

Normally the birds in the Aviary very obediently stay on the dune side of their exhibit during the day, no glass.  But I sometimes imagine they hop or fly into the public space at night.  Maybe they even have a party to celebrate we are not in the way.    Fabulous marine scientist and artist Ray Troll painted this mural “Jelly’s Night Out” for a MBA jellyfish exhibit some years ago – now those are some party animals! (

And the Aquarium shared this unusual pic on their Tumblr acct of all five exhibit otters in the tank at once – usually only three or four.  “The girls say hello from the otter side.  All five of our resident rescues are on exhibit right now, which means the rascality levels are at maximum! Thanks to awesome aquarist Jessica for this pic of everyone’s favorite feisty five.” ( for fab pics, talks, behind the scenes stuff.)

Inside or out, then, this crazy time has even changed life

for animals.  Mostly for the better.  It sure looks like they’re having more fun.  I wish I were.
I post these Blue Theology ocean devotionals every Wednesday, here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Happy Ocean Mother Day

Happy Ocean Mother Day

“Look, I brought my mother to church today,” I said a year ago on Mother’s Day at Skyland Community Church UCC as I held up this beautiful blue bowl that Anne Swallow Gillis gave me long ago, filled with saltwater and seashells. 

Being a Blue Ocean preacher I could not resist linking Mother’s Day with the ocean.  The rich dark sea is mother of us all – she birthed all life billions of years ago and continues to ferment and foment new life.  And every human mammal spent nine months in the salty fertile ocean inside our mother’s womb.

This fabulous banner over the altar looks like that first wet morning breaking in the Genesis story, the Spirit “hovering over the deep and sweeping over the face of the waters.”  I think God just said, “Let there be Light, Morning has Broken! “  (I know, it looks like an angel, I haven’t spoken with the banner’s creator, but to me it’s the Holy Spirit straight from her hovering and sweeping over all that blue and now she’s bursting with the light.)

I decorated the altar with the bowl and with my four Blue Theology stoles, (click the pic to see the whole altar) and told the stories of the three dear wise talented mothers who created them– Sandy Johnson (orcas on the right and ocean diversity, second from left) whose “Woman of the Cloth” makes fabulous stoles, Patricia Wood, who gave me the sweet light silky one on the left, and Sue Lawson who made the sea star stole for me last year when I led a Blue Theology Retreat at our church in La Selva Beach.

We shared in the sermon time how our own mothers have been like the ocean, not only creative, nurturing, uplifting, but also sometimes restive, deep, even destructive.  There is power in mothering.

One theory about the origin of stoles that pastors wear (besides being like a yoke or like the towel an athlete wears around their neck) is that it is like the soft cloth that a mother (or father) wears all the time on their shoulder when holding a little baby, to comfort and to absorb some “fluids.”  Yes, stoles too can get wet.  I call my stoles my mother clothes, and my blue ocean stoles are my most precious.

Thanks, Moms.
I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Obviously this post is a repeat from last May, when we could still worship together inside.  Mercifully we are still able to walk and worship outside beside Mother Ocean, and thank her for air, climate, bounty and beauty.