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Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Such was the invitation/challenge I received upon entering the directed eight-day retreat at the Jesuits’ Eastern Point Retreat Center in Gloucester, Massachusetts. For thirty years I pored over my Jerusalem Bible, cross-referencing both testaments, dating significant verses, filling pages in my journal. For thirty years I sat by the ocean, entering its moods, smelling its innards, listening to its voice. For thirty years I sat across spirited directors, sharing dreams, laughter, some tears. For thirty years I received squeaky-clean cleansing, stashed away my retreat notes, and resolved to meditate more upon returning home.

For a few months it worked until life crammed the empty spaces of my psyche, my Jerusalem Bible unopened upon my reading table. True, I did peek at times, warmed at my scribbles and highlighting, but the God of Gloucester remained hidden, until the next retreat. Funny, he always showed up.

Not since 2014, though, have I been able to travel. My Jerusalem Bible still lies upon my reading table, unopened, my psyche unwatered, crusted with flotsam and jetsam.

 

Again, I’m hearing the invitation/challenge, Be still and know that I am God. No reason to delay, even if the God of Gloucester only hangs out by the Atlantic. I still have the August 2004 photo of myself searching—I’ve been there.

I must explore further—See, afresh, what’s out there, today.

Have you ever read a book in which the ocean becomes a character, not just a vast expanse of water? Ever wondered about its varied soul expressions, its power to change lives?

In this coming of age novel The Plover by Brian Doyle (2014), Declan, the protagonist, names Pacifica the Silent She; it becomes his life-long elusive tie with the feminine, given his severe emotional scarring from childhood. His twenty-foot trawler, named after a small but sturdy shorebird, also becomes a container for the ensuing life conversions of other lost souls picked up during island stops for refitting, all desperately needing Eros. Through their laugher, their stories, their tending the ever-changing needs of the Plover, their subduing a murderous sea pilot, they forge into community, each caring for each other.

This whimsical story also features conversations with the herring gull, soaring nine feet above the Plover or perched upon its cabin during this voyage to “nowhere with no hurry to get there.” A wounded warbler also takes refuge beneath the water tank and bickers with two rats in the hold.

Always, though, it is the ocean soothing, questioning, and throttling the voyagers, nights and days. Descriptions of its sea birds and fish, and the earth’s topography miles beneath the churning waters add further substance to this wet world. Of particular note is the author’s sparse punctuation and the pell-mell pace of strings of sentences and word lists that mimic the ocean’s moods.

So when overwhelmed by life storms, we’d do well to seek out the living waters of a creek, a lake, or an ocean. Be still before what is and listen.

 

 

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