1061. You never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars. ~Thomas Traherne


The voice of the sea
speaks to the soul.
The touch of the sea is sensuous,
enfolding the body 
in its soft,
close embrace.
~Kate Chopin

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.52.41 PM.png

I had to go. I just had to go down to the sea today if only through photographic memories. I haven’t been to the beach in so long, and it appears that I won’t get to go this year either, at least not for months and months. As a child, I was weaned and grew up on the beautiful, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and since then sand, shore, and sea have haunted me. Via sensory perceptions even as a young child I heard a voice, a clear voice-a familiar voice-a welcome voice-a sacred voice who reached down into the depths of my soul to touch me in ways that are still not easy to articulate. But here goes. Since the sea is always moving in its ceaselessness, I became aware of its cadenced rhythms early on. Day after day, night after night its undulations never stopped, and I found myself comforted by the sounds they created. Even when it was just along the shore and not out in a boat on the deep water, the songs of the sea continued to poignantly reverberate as they rolled in on the waves to the sandy shore. These were songs as primordial as the days and as ancient as the Holy One Himself who yet hovers over the waters, and when I sat quietly listening, waiting, and watching, I began to feel and internalize the pulsing rhythms of the sea while their songs filled up the space around me, its devout, hearkening witness. “Wild silences,” as haunting as the call of the gulls, were “heard” as well, and the elements of light and darkness affected and enhanced the ocean’s charms, chants, and silences as it enfolded me in its embrace. What’s more a lonely beach, devoid of crowds, also transports of delight to the magical, mystique of the sea. For it was then, and only then, that I was privy to the voices of the ocean’s more wistful “shy presences,” the ones with the subtle, emotive melodies.

If you look at the map in the collage you will see a blue marker where our house at 68 Prospect Avenue in Long Beach, California was. It was only a half a block from Ocean Boulevard, and once I crossed that busy street, all I had to do was take the stairs down from the seawall onto the sand. Between the houses on each street ran an alley way that you can see in one of the photos beneath the map. This passage way was one of my favorite places to travel as it was along those fences  that so many of the cherished, fragrant flowers grew, and in the distance you can actually see the ocean.

The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. ~Psalm 93:3  ✝

**Images via Pinterest and Safari; collage created by Natalie

442. Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.
My garden of flowers is also my garden
of thoughts and dreams.
The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers,
and the dreams are beautiful.
~Abram L. Urban

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 3.05.29 PM

Although I began gardening quite some time before I retired, I had little time to devote much quality time to it. Now that I own my time, the garden has grown a great deal and been refined considerably, and it continues to be a constant source of delight for me. Come rain or shine, winter, spring, summer or fall, I walk its paths looking for the presences and realities that feed my soul. From day to day they are different, and there are times when the abundance of them is less or they are harder to find, but I never fail to find something to feast on, even if it’s just a tiny morsel.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 3.09.03 PM

My garden, like any garden is still a work in progress however, and so it is never the same from season to season. The lay of the land may remain more or less the same, but the garden itself is dynamic and always in a state of flux–new things are planted each year, a few older or weaker ones die, and sometimes I find treasures growing in the garden that I didn’t have to plant or sow. And to insure that there is always something in bloom, I have tried to plant flowers in that flower at differing times so that when one group is spent, another is beginning to bloom. My garden, like any garden is still a work in progress however, and so it is never the same from season to season. The lay of the land may remain more or less the same, but the garden itself is dynamic and always in a state of flux–new things are planted each year, a few older or weaker ones die, and sometimes I find treasures growing in it that I didn’t have to plant or sow. And to insure that there is always something in bloom, I have tried to plant things that flower at differing times so that when one group is spent, another is beginning to bloom.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 3.12.24 PM

A woman who had never been in my backyard visited me for the first time recently, and as we wandered around, she kept saying, “Wow! You should have been an artist,” and I thought to myself, “No, God’s the artist; I’m just the schemer, planner, planter, and steward of His gifts.” It was a nice compliment though, and in many ways, I do think a garden is a reflection of the person who designs it and brings it into reality. On another occasion my daughter brought a friend to see my yard, and her comment was “Wow! It’s like walking into another world,” and that’s exactly the feel I’d been trying to accomplish. I always wanted my garden to be a tranquil place of beauty blessed by the kind of peace the world cannot give. I deliberately designed it to be a welcoming place, a place of delight, so that no guest leaves it without being blessed by its beauty, and above all else I created it to be a place that speaks of God, His abundant gifts, and His amazing grace.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 8.08.05 PM

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~1 Corinthians 1:3   ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.

 

337. We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it. ~George Eliot

I’d give all the wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life’s decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day.
~Lewis Carroll

Image

The sidewalks were long and narrow that ran between the stucco houses, and high was the exterior wall of the two-story duplex two doors down from us on the seaward end of the block. At the base of that duplex’s stucco wall was an elongated flower bed filled with pansies and strawberries, and about halfway down the wall was a door that separated the flower bed into two sections. Behind the door was a storage area, a closet of sorts, filled with all kinds of fascinating objects. Because the closet was under the front stairwell of the two story structure, it was one of those odd-shaped little niches with a downward sloping ceiling on one end. In the closet’s mysterious, deeper recesses were all kinds of tools. When the door to the closet was ajar, it meant Uncle was inside sitting on his stool and working on a yard or household task Auntie had commissioned. The “doghouse” as he called it, was a rich and irresistible den of curiosities for a young child, and in it with Uncle as tutor-in-residence I not only learned but also fell in love with a myriad of things. The closet with its earthy smells and assorted contraptions was a magical place, and the gardening tools were as provocative a sight for young eyes as the images of the storybook gardens they conjured up. Decades later when a friend commented that I live close to nature, I thought of that closet again and realized the lasting impression that it and Uncle had made on my life. Then and there in a place that smelled of soil and sea I came to love and respect the earth for its charming and sometimes “shy presences”–the visible ones, the audible ones, the tangible ones, even the ones that dwelt in dim obscurity. Uncle’s closet and his tales gave birth to “stirrings” that ultimately led me to believe that all Creation is a gift to be cherished and that its Maker is to be adored and praised.

Image

The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. ~Exodus 15:2  ✝

Image

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace!

**Images via Pinterest

15. The feeling remains that God is on the journey too. ~Teresa of Avila

God is always with you.
Simply turn your face to Him.
~Kirpal Singh

Image

When I feel out of sorts, I’ve learned to get up and go outside even if I have to bundle up under layers of clothes or suffer the misery of triple digit heat.  After wandering about my yard, its “shy presences” and silences begin to soothe me until eventually my inner compass restores the balance of my sanity.  The simple truth is that the rhythm of earth’s heartbeat has a way of drowning out the rabid mongrels in a world too often torn by senseless tragedies and horrific madness. When that happens I find that being close to the land is as comforting and reassuring as was slipping my hand into the safety of my parents strong hands when I was a child.  Now that they are gone and I am grown, I find the same kind of comfort when I draw near the Lord and His ever-present occupancy her on earth.

J. Philip Newell asks, “Where do we look, therefore, to learn of God?   It’s not away from ourselves and away from Creation, but deep within all that has life.”  What better place then to do that than a garden?  Newell goes on to say that “in looking for the life of God by listening within we will hear falseness and confusion, selfishness and violence of heart, but deeper still is the Love that utters all things into being.”  I heard such a silent utterance when I felt my child first move in my womb; the sensation felt like that of a butterfly’s wings barely grazing my flesh, but more than than it felt like the gentle touch of the Holy One Himself inviting me to walk in with Him in Eden.

“See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends His flocks like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  ~Isaiah 40:10-11   ✝