This morning there was a seal shadowing us on the beach. The tide was high and so the water was a little deeper than usual and this seal was quite close to water’s edge. Usually I would just enjoy the privilege of being in the company of this silent shadow but this morning I was concerned because this is the season when pregnant seals come ashore to have their pups and this is not a seal-friendly beach, being far too dog-friendly. It was pouring down and cold and grey but I thought that maybe by staying there, moving along the wave’s edge with the dogs, I would scare her off to find a more sheltered nursery. We stayed as long as we could, until my dogs were beginning to look as cold as I was, but as we turned away I saw another seal out there, and then another. What to do? This really isn’t a good stretch of sand for seal pups, too many walkers and too many excited dogs….too exposed. As I walked off I met a swimmer preparing for her daily dip so I consoled myself with the thought that she would continue to scare off the maternity ward. I’ve since learned that the cove where the seals usually calf has been reduced in size because the cliff there has subsided, so the poor things were searching for a new home, and just looking in the wrong place.
That unsettled me strangely, even made me feel a bit… well, not weepy, but conscious of the vulnerability of life, all life. At home we dried off and I fed the dogs and lit the fire, and eventually settled down to read The Times online. One article (I slipped quickly past the Trump/Biden nonsense) struck a chord….maybe because my emotions were already a tad raw….
“One of the world’s greatest pianists, who was forced to retire after a series of injuries, said he was overwhelmed with emotion after a pair of “bionic” gloves enabled him to play again at the age of 80.
João Carlos Martins, who was celebrated for his interpretations of the works of JS Bach during his long career, released a video on his Instagram account of his slightly faltering return to the keyboard, playing one of the composer’s adagios.”
And there I watched the video of this grand old silver haired man weeping with joy as he played, from memory, faultlessly, tenderly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDXuk9xo8hQ
I was just recovering from that when a friend Skyped and told me of someone she knew who had lost a child many years ago. This grieving mother would visit her son’s grave every year, on his birthday, and she would say “Well, here we are… you’re eighteen now.” or nineteen, or whatever age he was. And that again stopped me in my tracks. A mother saying to her dead son “Well, here we are, you’re eighteen now.”
If that doesn’t break your heart…..
A day of tears.
I feel a bit overwhelmed, my friends! So much love and longing and birth and death all around us.
Birth. Death. Sorrow. Joy. Love. A grey sky, a cheerful fire, and aloneness. Such contrasts, how do we comprehend such great contrasts? My friends, today I am so lonely, and so filled with thoughts I can barely put words to. But my loneliness isn’t a sad thing. It’s just there. At times like this, what can we do, us feeble creatures? How can we understand and accept the heartbreak and the ecstasy of life, when both are there before us, in equal part?
I’m humbled by this awareness of our vulnerability, our helplessness, our love. It throws me back to this week’s lectio, gives me a new understanding or insight maybe… “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. ” Deuteronomy 8:3
Every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The word ‘word’ is everything – it’s God’s grace, and wisdom, it’s creation (God breathed the world into being) it’s Jesus Christ Emmanuel, it’s the Bible, the Holy Spirit, it’s GOD. And we can hear it, know it, experience it.
That makes me think of another verse Romans 11:36 ‘For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.’
All things! And then I go skittering over to Colossians 1:17 ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’ All things! The sky and the sea and the roaring fire, three damp dogs, a weeping man, a grieving mother, the miracle of birth… all things.
The pain we observe, or experience, and the love we feel, the longing we have for each other and for God…. all these are lessons, brought to us by God, to draw us closer to the one who longs for us, who yearns for us, who desires our most intimate and desperate passion. All these things, if we submit to them, accept them, pain and sorrow, joy and love, the lowering sky and the glow of the fire… they bring us to Jesus Christ.
The only thing that keeps us from him is our stubbornness, our desire to go our own way. Give that up, and there is God. Right there, in that moment of submission and trust and love.