I suppose on Ash Wednesday I should be writing a deeply spiritual meditation on the meaning of Lent, at least for me, and, indeed, one is rattling around in my head. But first, some thoughts about the ocean.
My practice of morning prayer during our annual Maui sojourn is to sit on the lanai enjoying the early hours of dawn, slowly letting the words of scripture embrace my thoughts. This year, for the first time, we have rented a fourth floor condo right on the beach. Our lanai looks out over a well tended koi pond, a popular beach walk, with the beach and ocean just beyond. There is something about the ocean that I find almost hypnotic. What begins as scripturally ignited prayer quickly becomes a nearly absent minded contentment at just watching the ocean, the shore break, and the occasional whale antics between here and Lana’i. Somehow it seems a part of prayer, but prayer with no object and little subject.
As the morning progresses into warmth, the beach becomes alive with tourists. Some are taking long morning walks, some are running, and some begin to populate the beach with folding chairs and umbrellas. A few get in the water. The crowd, on this multi-ethnic island, is mostly white, very white, and determined to be less white when they go home in seven days. Beautiful agile young people with sculpted bodies mix with their less agile elders whose bodies bear the marks of surgeries for heart, back, knees, and hips. I wonder if the young will take better care of themselves than many of us did, and do they have any recognition that they are looking into the crystal ball of their own future as they walk down the beach.
Far out against the Lana’i coastline, a tug pulls an enormous barge laden with all that civilization can produce. Sometime tomorrow it will arrive at the Big Island to disgorge its wares. If it’s on the barge, you can buy it. If it’s not on the barge, you can’t. These islands are two thousand miles from any mainland. It’s easy for tourists to forget. To live here is to be dependent. No sane person can take seriously the notion of virile self sufficiency. Survival, even for those living in aboriginal isolation in remote valleys, means dependency on others. That’s something mainlanders often ignore, or even deny, about themselves.
Lent is a good time to think about dependency. On whom are we dependent, and for what? Maybe what we can give up for Lent is the hubris of imagined self sufficiency. Come sit with me and look out at the ocean, and listen to what God has to say.
Sometimes I think I could be content just to sit here all day looking out over the beach and ocean as a form of unspoken prayer. Old men can do that, you know, and get away with it. As it is, we will soon head to church for ashes and Eucharist. This afternoon, God willing, we’ll head out onto the water in a kayak, or maybe I’ll do some paddle boarding. That will be prayer too.