High high tides this week, bringing storm and kelp, sweeping beaches clean, dumping the detritis in all our nets. The supermoon added extra pull on our already massive tidal range of 26 feet. Meaning we live in two worlds. This one:
And this one six hours later.
The swelling waters brought a fish through my doors the same day. A big fish, a 30 pound king salmon.
Such fullness! Such a feast! Until I filleted it down to its spine. Nothing left but bones and death.
Such has been my week. These times come to us all. High full tides, a bounteous salmon---then a sucking minus tide, a gutted fish, an empty plate. Has your week been like this as well? I confess it is partly my reading. I am reading Shannon Huffman Polson’s just-released memoir North of Hope.
(Shannon was my student in Seattle Pacific University’s Master of Fine Arts program.) I knew about this story several years ago, when we worked together, but reading it again, this time in excruciating and haunting detail, I was devastated afresh. Shannon lost her father and stepmother to a rogue bear in the Alaskan Arctic wilderness. I grieved again and again with her for the magnitude and the manner of her loss----and I had my own grieving to do as well . . . the loss of my own father, who gave me nothing and took nothing when he died. (
I am thinking of him all this week as I proof my next book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.)
We all contain such hollow spaces and empty moments. Times of such aloneness, when we should have been loved but weren’t, when someone who should have taught us, didn’t. When someone who should have given us words to guide us, didn’t. When someone who should still be with us, isn’t. And when someone we really need to help,
j u s t c a n n o t h e l p u s. He cannot. She cannot.
And the earth spins and tilts and the moon pulls and the ocean rises toward it, and the tides flood the beach, stretching our nets first one way, then another. We strain all the harder at lines so taut we can hardly lift them. And maybe we cry, salt water into salt water. Maybe we feel sorry for ourselves. And its all right that we do. God, who knows just what has come to us, what he has given us, is sorry too.
When sadness comes, let it be. At least for awhile. Moses did. He dared to write—and God dared to inspire him to write these dark words:
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
We fly away------but not yet. Here in the now there is still the other. The water will not stop moving. If we look, we can find good and goodness around us to count and name: blessing and offering and surprise and beauty and love. This is my week too:
But I don’t send you these photos of my blessings as some sort of consolation to either of us. Photos from my island won’t fix anything. I know it’s not enough. Nor is it enough for me to live here in the midst of this beauty and wildness. Toward the end of her book, Polson quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship”
. Polson does indeed give us worship in her remarkable book. I have learned the same.
Toward the end of Moses’ psalm, he asks this of God:
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children."
If you see it here in these tiny photos taken by a simple, watching woman just learning to see---then I count this one more blessing in a troubled week.
Here, then, is where sadness goes,
His unfailing love.
W o r s h i p.