The title is a reference to the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield.
I am currently taking a summer writing class with Beth Kempton online. This piece was written after one of her guided meditations. For those of you who may not know, my father died in 2010 after a seven year battle with brain cancer.
I Must Go Down to the Sea Again
all of us (save him) in a circle on the damp sand I read both sonnets, his favorite and mine (a matched pair) as the sun set. Each of us took out a handful of ashes, and I went last. I had read that sometimes the wind can blow ashes into your face, and though I liked the idea of breathing him in, I wanted to set him free here — this place we loved, our holy place. The water was frigid, but I waded out up to my waist my jeans heavy and clinging, to rinse out the glass jar.
Here you go, Daddy, here you are — how we loved to find starfish, seaglass, rocks with holes — how we loved this place together.
A week later, just before leaving town, we stopped at the beach one last time. At my feet, the tiniest, smoothest rock with a perfect hole right through.
How I’d love to return — someday — swim down deep, sun breaking through the water, and see him sparkling all around me.
O, thou fat-cheeked darling Wet and sticky with milk drips Never have I wanted anything so much Than to watch you grow fat at my breast. How I delight in your soft, rolled thighs How I glory in the curves of your face. When you roll onto your back after nursing Contented sigh, eyes closed And emit an echoing belch I am a Michelin-starred chef At the fanciest restaurant.
I know you already know this poem. I’m really glad you do : I love this poem. I memorized it in sixth grade for a poetry presentation, and I brought in a CD player with a song I thought went with it, and my two plastic model horses and my American Girl doll sleigh to “set the scene.” I l o v e this poem. Everything about it. Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco and lived most of his life in New England. He was a teacher as well as a prolific and brilliant poet, achieving fame during his lifetime, He died in Boston in 1963. You can read more about him here.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Normally, on Fridays, I post recipes for, you know, food. This Friday wasn’t meant to be an exception. I worked on a homemade apple cider recipe yesterday and this morning, but the thing is, I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t wowed by it as I had hoped to be, and there was something off in the flavor profile that I wasn’t able to fix (not yet, at least). And I don’t want to share a recipe with you unless I really think it is worth sharing. But luckily, I’ve been working on some other writing, and it just so happens that it ends up being a sort of recipe itself. I’ll probably never be done editing this, and there will be dozens of versions. But for now, I’m just going to share it. Because vulnerability is important, or something.
For some background, I am not a person who grew up in a church. However, I have always been a spiritual person, starting at a very young age when I bewildered and amused my parents by “making up hymns.” I always enjoyed learning about our friends’ religious traditions and beliefs. I took several years of Jewish studies classes in college, and in my senior year I began correspondences with two other young women I had met online years earlier (incidentally, I have now met both of these wonderful people in person, as they attended my wedding). Both Christian, these two women are both kind, intelligent, and compassionate. One of them, Courtney, grew up in a Catholic family and is now a Catholic youth minister. The other one, Katherine, grew up UCC and is now a (very talented) painter. Katherine and Courtney both shared deeply about themselves, their churches, and their beliefs with me. Courtney, having had theological training, also patiently, honestly, and thoroughly answered any and all questions I had (and there were many, as I am a liberal, feminist, queer person who never imagined feeling safe or comfortable at a church of all places). I credit both of them with supporting me without judgement during a very important time in my faith journey. The fall after I graduated college, I discovered a wonderful church in my hometown. I poured out my life story into an email to the pastor of that church, and he met with me and, like Courtney and Katherine, was nothing but compassionate, welcoming, and kind. During that year, I attended church regularly and read books recommended by my pastor. With the encouragement of both pastors at that church, I decided to be baptized on Easter Sunday, 2013. It is a very happy memory for me, and I felt deep peace and joy with my decision.
When I moved to Indiana, I was very nervous about no longer having the support of my hometown church, so I did research in advance (typical me). I actually found the church I now attend six months before moving, but made myself wait a few months before contacting one of the pastors. (Still a bit early. Oh well.) And I am so glad I found this congregation. Since I moved here a bit over two years ago, David and I have attended our church and we love it to bits. Recently, I have been engaging in deep conversations with my pastor here in Indiana as well as other members of the church. I have been overwhelmed by love and support. So this is a bit of a love poem for my church.
A Recipe For Church
a generous helping of space.
space that allows for the unfolding of wings
space that opens itself to words too large to contain.
pinches of patience as you listen. patience as you hear. patience as you wait.
one strong net : for when we encourage you to leap, we also will catch you, over and over, as you fall.
regular meals. dinners. post-worship Oreos and punch.
a sprinkle of eye contact. during the sermon. when you know things have been tough. the “are you okay?”
we drive each other home, right through silence.
a weekly-or-more hug at the door, maybe with no time for words, but communicating all the same.
when turning the dial, making the choice for community, even when that is the harder choice.
the laughter, the laughter, the laughter.
interaction, despite awkwardness, despite discomfort.
the knowledge that we need this : that I need this. oh. so this is church.