On Time – History Is Sometimes A Mirror

History and hindsight do amazing things for our sense of place in the world. In the context of current economic strife – I wonder many things. Certainly, we have been in similar places throughout our human storybook. But in different ways, this is a new time.

I wonder that if we had not embraced the slow, and accepted a suitable pace for achieving much, then for the sake of speed, progress and efficiency – we would have lost much less and learned better habits for our humanity along the way.

We have a collection of old National Geographic magazines in the office. The new editions arrive every month – but I love the storytelling of old, stories that took months to collect, photographs that had to be developed before they knew whether they’d got the shot. Before the seabeds of Chesapeake Bay were desolated with the smell of grease and smoke in the air.

As with so many things I post on this blog, I’m happy to throw a few puzzle pieces out there, and let you come up with what you will. But this essay moves me, in this time of regret and fear.

The Sailing Oystermen of Chesapeake Bay – by Luis Marden, Nat. Geographic, Dec. 1967

‘Dawn-etched phantoms from a bygone era, skipjacks dredge for oysters. Until last year, Maryland law decreed that only sailing vessels might take the shellfish from deepwater beds. Bit the coming of power may toll a knell for these proud survivors of working sail – and for a way of life.’

‘”The way I figure it,” said the captain, “most men live in hope and die in despair.” He eased the wheel off two spokes. “The trouble with drudgin’ with sail, you either got it flat calm or it’s too much wind. You go to bed at night wonderin’ where the wind’s gonna be, and you don’t know where you gonna make your day’s work.
“Days like this, when it’s pretty, we can’t work – ain’t neither breath in the world. When it’s blowin’ not fit for a dog to be on the water, you have to go.”
Yep, there’s hardship in the oyster [he pronounced it ‘auster’] business. “But,” said Capt. Eldon Willing, squinting at the red disc of the setting sun, “me, I’m like everyone else. I live in hope. I don’t think it’s ever been so bad as I couldn’t make it.”

‘”There’s no comparison between sail and power,” he said. “Take this boat, put an engine in her, sit on a box sniffin’ that old grease and push her into the Bay; turn one way, let go, heave and wind in. The same thing, day after day, whether it’s blowin’ or calm. I wouldn’t like it. This way, standin’ at the wheel with a breeze on your face and the sails flappin’…. It’s somethin’ that gets into you, you can’t get it out of your bones overnight.

“No sir, if it comes to drudgin’ with power, I’ll go home and get on relief. For sixty years now I’ve been drove hard and put away wet, and if it comes to that I’ll just set there and do neither thing in the world with the rest of ’em.” But I doubt that he would.

“Ever’ year there’s one or two taken up the creek to die,” lament watermen of proud old craft such as this skipjack [pictured] abandoned in Man Gut, a Dal Island backwater. Before mooring her for the last time, the owner salvaged all gear; tides and winds finish the hulk off. She epitomizes the fate awaiting the Nation’s last commercial sailing fleet.”

Photograph by Luis Marden.

On Distance – Je t’aime

“Dubious questioning is a much better evidence than that senseless deadness which most take for believing. People that know nothing… have no doubts. Never be afraid to doubt, if only you have the disposition to believe, and doubt in order that you may end in believing the truth.”
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Richard ‘Cheesy’ Cotman has been in my close circle since we were at high school. Born to fascinating parents and the perfect nuclear family, he’s intelligent, creative, a words+music fiend, who loves many of the same things I do – great stories, interesting characters, experiences, travel, places, adventure. He lives an unusual life, somewhat nomadic crossing plenty of borders.

I always was a little bit surprised at how cemented a place in my heart Cheesy has – and he’ll read this, so I can be both gushy and silly, overly sentimental in my memory – because I am a girl, and allowed. I admired him, a year above us at the boy’s grammar school up the road, us music students who played together and found ourselves as part of each other’s lives.

The first time Cheesy went to overseas to live seems so long ago now. In those days, there were letters with tickets, lolly wrappers and photographs actually printed on paper(!). I still have them all collected in a box. In that time, one occupies a space in the mind and heart.

On his return – our time & space in the corporeal so easily becomes more trivial, less precious.

On the next trip – a longer stint to Oxford, the advent of the blog had done much for closing the distance, but they were still letters of a sort. There was still an inevitable wait, space, breath between the event and the reporting. Many personal emails gave way mostly, to blogging…

Now, in Montpelier, speaking, thinking and even writing in French (je t’aime!), the distance is closing – thanks to Twitter. Montepelier time means that I am closing my eyes to sleep, somewhere around the beginning of his day and I am waking to some aspects of daily life. And while this moment by moment existence loses some of it’s intimacy .. it closes the distance. And I appreciate that so much.. because it means that those who are most proxim do not have the chance to dominate the spaces of my heart and mind, already claimed by others.

So I live daily, with @etnobofin, @ysmarko, @danivv, @hunz, so on, so on.

And that is why, [as my mother asks], I tell the world what I am doing in my Twitter/Facebook status. I’m not telling the world, but the world may listen, while I tell you.

On Space – The Beauty Of Lent

Song Of The Moment : Everything is Yours
by Audrey Assad and Steve Wilson

when all the world is blossoming
when everything around is bursting into life
and I don’t have to strain to hear the beat of Your heart
oh, oh…

when all the world is under fire
when the skies are threatening to thunder and rain
and I am overcome by fears that I can’t see
oh, oh…

if everything is Yours, everything is Yours
if everything is Yours,
I can’t let it go; it was never mine to hold.

who could command the stars to sing
or hold the raging seas from breaking through the doors
and tend the fragile roses with the very same hands?
oh, oh…

I can’t let it go–I can’t let it go
Cause everything is Yours, everything is Yours.

You can’t take Lent away from Easter. Previous years, the countdown to that precious celebration has been my Lent. 40 days of disciplines, prayers and preparation in every aspect of my being. But, when the Passion of Easter is no longer mine, I must t

hen, reframe Lent.

1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
2. a. Ardent love.
b. Strong sexual desire; lust.
c. The object of such love or desire.
3. a. Boundless enthusiasm:
b. The object of such enthusiasm:
4. An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger:
5. Passion
a. The sufferings of Jesus in the period following the Last Supper & Crucifixion.
b. A narrative, musical setting, or pictorial representation of Jesus’s sufferings.
6. Archaic Martyrdom.

So, this year, I choose to not fast, but to discipline. For each day of Lent, I am meditating on a single psalm (1 – 40), writing them by hand in a journal, drawing, commenting, letting ideas springboard.. noticing, observing. Then on Sundays, I feast and compile all those thoughts/ideas/cross references onto their own page.

This practice of reflection, noticing but then holding on to my conclusions has been a wonderful slowing of my devotions. It’s creating Space for truth to coagulate, unfold, take root.

However – halfway through my psalms and I cannot help but say.. how much is the presence of God for all people, found in the love and servitude of the poor. To love and love well, with grace and mercy is to worship.

As I read these psalms, reflecting on my own hands as I write (a slipping artform..) words, ancient and uttered on the page.. I find that I have been writing and singing psalms for a long time. For when you dive into these songs, you find again, the echo of the human voice so strong, you cannot help but come face to face with your creator and creation all at once.

Never Mine To Hold – The Wonderment That Comes From Time+Space+Distance
I said at the time of the Easter chapter closing, that the task was never mine to hold, that it was always held in God’s hands and he simply allowed my hands to slip inside his for a time.. I find that still to be true as I pray and encourage those who are attending/serving/working on Eastercamp this year. So thank you, Audrey Assad. Can I encourage you to click play.. and soak.