As I took a long, solitary walk along Lake Pontchartrain this Tuesday, I was captivated by the beauty of the sound of the rolling waves stirred by a brisk northwest wind. As I snapped a photo, I wished I was able to somehow embed that sound in the image. Though I am usually a “visual” person, as they say, this particular day it was the swooshing sound of the waves spending themselves on the rocks and black bog peat that drew me in.
I had handy D.H. Lawrence’s poem, The Mystic Blue, as I love to read great literature by the water. As I read his poem, which utilizes the sea to speak of human love, splashes of color washed over my mind’s eye amid the rich sounds that seeped into my heart’s ear. As I read aloud, I listened to, looked at and breathed in the sensual riot that is the shoreline of our lake. Lawrence’s words awoke and sang within me something new, they delivered a different sense and proffered a strange tone. Being by the water always seems to stretch my internal horizons and affords me a certain inner freedom of imagination in which I am able to see things more clearly — “to see rightly with the heart,” as the fox in Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince puts it.
I am grateful to God for this nearby “deep,” and hope I can always channel its beauty into my intellectual work to the benefit of others.
St. John of the Atlantic
When I was fully immersed in my dissertation research on St. John of the Cross, I recall reading an account of John’s very first visit to the Atlantic coast. While his fellow friars encouraged him to join them in visiting a famous stigmatic at a monastery in Lisbon, Portugal, eyewitnesses to the event later said that St. John was so rapt in quiet awe by his first sight of the ocean that he opted to remain behind and spent an entire day and a night sitting and praying along the shore. I imagine him sitting with me as I, too, look on and attempt to pray.
Now, here’s Lawrence’s poem that I spoke over the ebb and flow of the waves:
Out of the darkness, fretted sometimes in its sleeping,
Jets of sparks in fountains of blue come leaping
To sight, revealing a secret, numberless secrets keeping.
Sometimes the darkness trapped within a wheel
Runs into speed like a dream, the blue of the steel
Showing the rocking darkness now a-reel.
And out of the invisible, streams of bright blue drops
Rain from the showery heavens, and bright blue crops
Surge from the under-dark to their ladder-tops.
And all the manifold blue and joyous eyes,
The rainbow arching over in the skies,
New sparks of wonder opening in surprise.
All these pure things come foam and spray of the sea
Of Darkness abundant, which shaken mysteriously,
Breaks into dazzle of living, as dolphins that leap from the sea
Of midnight shake it to fire, so the secret of death we see.
Then I turned to Matthew 4:18 and, as I’ve done many times before on this lake’s shore, rejoiced that Jesus and his disciples also loved the sea so.
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Thanks for indulging my indulgent musings. Here’s my pic: