The sun burst into my room this morning, like a early surprise guest, boldly claiming it was here, and asking what’s for breakfast. Such a different day than yesterday, the greens reflect the light, the blue sky a sharp contrast to the dark forest colors. Birds sing spring songs, cheerily at their tasks. A little breeze gives movement to all around, bringing with it the smells of trees alive and growing. Jays seems more content today, less screeching, more quiet chatter, exploring the branches, and my balcony.
A few years back I took sailing classes. It was always something I thought would be fun, and on a trip out to the channel islands a friend and I decided to follow up, sign up for classes. The sight of a spread of canvas going over the wide blue sea is an incomparable sight, except for the view beneath those sails, which is soul expanding beyond description.
In sailing one learns a great deal of analogies for life, for ministry, for spirituality. So many in fact that it is easy to become insufferable to those who don’t know how bad luffing is when seeking speed, or what to do if asked to open the main sheet.
Another analogy came to mind this morning, one apt for my present state. The ocean is a beautiful, wonderful place to be. It is also not very hospitable. It likes its own, and we are not its own. The funny thing about boats is that the sea is not good for them. Salt water does interesting things, which is why the way of sailing is such a busy life. Always there is maintenance, always repair. Put off tasks for a time, and corrosion sets in. Put two unlike metals near one another, and they will break down, causing no end of trouble. The terrible thing is that this kind of trouble reveals itself at moments of stress, when wind and wave are fiercest. What was done or not done in the times of ease shows in the time of trouble.
There is also the problem of barnacles, little pernicious beasts with hard shells who like to stay in one spot, and the spot they like is often a hull. They float around after birth, merry as can be, food for the various other animals, until they find a nice place to settle. Then they glue themselves on, and feed from the water moving by. Hulls travel, and make for a lovely barnacle buffet.
When barnacles build up, they cause a major loss of speed, manueverability, and other problems. This is called fouling. The problem is that these baneful molluscs are under water, where they can’t be seen. Out of sight, out of mind. So, regularly a ship has to have its hull scraped. If done regularly this can be done by a diver. If put off for too long, the ship has to be hauled out into a dry dock, where more radical measures can be taken.
But because the rising and continual problem cannot be seen by our eyes, the only indication that fouling has occurred is the vessel’s reduced performance. Sailors who are experienced don’t have to look. They know to clean. Those who don’t, learn, with costly consequences of their ignorance.
So too the spiritual life. We go through this world, where many things attach, things we invite and don’t. Our goal remains the same, maybe, but through the passage in this world our progress is slowed, fouled by the accretions of society not amenable to our goals.
A person has to stop, take stock, re-evaluate, clean. This is most useful after a task has been finished, or in whatever natural point of stopping reveals itself. We can barrel onwards, persistent to the end. And while we may feel wonderful about our perseverance we do not notice that we slow, that we misstep, that we are being passed. The stubborn persistence becomes a vice.
That is how I feel today. I have pushed for a long while, a set of tasks which were on my heart pressing me on. Now, with some of that finished, I feel a need to stop, pull the hull out of the water, take stock of my heart and soul in a way which goes beyond just the daily considerations.
This may mean nothing more than a day or two of casual examination, changing pace to spark my mind and let the whispers of my soul have a voice.
Other things loom on the horizon, some started, some still hopeful. Today, however, I have a moment in which I can stop without guilt. And so I think I shall, spending time outside with a book or two I’ve wanted to read, or at least get farther along with. I also have a rather unique tan problem, the kayak tan, dark knees and white shins… something which looks a bit silly while wearing shorts.
This is a day for some light reading, some well written fiction which could swallow me whole. Only I don’t have anything like that handy. My situation has limited my reading explorations, so I think I’ll take up some good classic history. Gibbon, or maybe Eusebius, then again, I’ve been trying to make my way through Bede for a bit now. Maybe a taste of all three. Or maybe a longish nap in a hammock strung between two mighty cedars.
Scraping the hull, that’s the task, however it may work itself out.