Paul Lutus, a seasoned sailor, with many years of solo sailing experience, once said that after years of living on the ocean he no longer fears death. Where his fear lies is in the notion of injustice – the loss of opportunities – of being cheated out of life by some stupidity, as by someone who couldn’t point their car in the right direction, for instance. After spending years on the sea he realized that he belonged to it, and barring an error of his own doing, when his time came he was at peace with the fact that the sea might sometime take him. Naturally, as with all of us, he really doesn’t get to choose. But I admire this sailor’s state of mind and spirit. I think it is his interpretation of a view I share myself.
I, nor anyone else, is the pinnacle of creation. We don’t own anything. We don’t own time, nor space, nor even the land our houses sit upon – anywhere. We cannot see our own futures and the only thing we do possess is fleeting – this moment of this life, and perhaps the next moment. Some of us have faith in God and the continuity of some form of existence beyond death. Some people don’t share in that belief. Some get by without it. My faith is a part of who I am, but I also realize it will not provide me with a magical formula nor superior knowledge. I assume that is why it’s called faith.
When I was in my early twenties, not so very long ago, I spent several days with friends from Scotland touring around Glacier National Park. One afternoon, while they were madly snapping photos, I hiked out to a lonely spot on a high precipice overlooking St. Mary’s Lake on Glacier’s east side. It was not a long way from the road, but as I stood there in the icy wind looking down over the frigid, turquoise blue lake with the wild slopes of dense forest looming on the furthest shore I was hit suddenly with acute awareness that I was probably the most insignificant dot on that landscape. It was one of those “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” sensations, but enhanced by the cold wind, the even colder lake, and the vastness of wilderness beyond my eyesight. Ah, besides the fact that indeed, Grizzly bears do roam this area.
Since that acute experience I try to remain open to such insights. They are not something I consciously pursue, truthfully. They are disconcerting in the least and I prefer to dwell in a rather comfortable, psychological spot where I am significant. And, in my daily life, most of the time I do have an important place as mother, friend, wife, daughter, etc. Simply told there are moments, being near the ocean especially amplifies my perception, when I am able to barely grasp a fraction of God’s power which speaks beyond anything to do with me. I am a part of this creation, yes, but I cannot ignore the wild vastness of the ocean, nor of life itself. This hint of understanding could be overwhelming, yet I am penetrated instead by the beauty of it all and remain standing on the beach being thrilled by each crashing wave. There is something transforming about such experiences. They no longer frighten me, and like the lone sailor, I feel as though I am at peace with this power beyond.
Wave photo by Ian.