I have moved from my home of more than 20 years, two miles high in the Rocky Mountains, to the forested edge of the wild Oregon Coast. Not one prone to easy transitions, I knew a change like this had to be a move from beauty to beauty. And that it is! The mountains in Leadville were steadfast, beckoning, authoritative in their ancient presence. To begin the day was to find Mount Massive and see how she was holding the world for me. Ambling toward the bathroom each morning, I’d see her through the same window before seeing my own face in the mirror. When, on winter mornings, the snowcapped peaks were a bright coral, I’d tell the girls God had gotten out her paintbrush again.
The ocean; the Oregon, winter ocean, is unpredictable, stormy and equally authoritative. Conversations with local residents about the ocean inevitably end with the warning: “Don’t ever take your eyes off the ocean!” A few weeks ago, walking along the beach, I stopped to take a photo of my shadow next to some quiet driftwood. George yelled, “Run!” The shallow surf came to shore with illogical speed and power, I nearly dropped my phone, but managed to clear her path. Point taken! We then walked to the jetty where we saw what looked like black waves breaking on the far side of the rock. As we came closer, we realized we were seeing a murmuration of starlings, mimicking the shape and movement of waves crashing. Astonishing!
I am lonely. COVID has brought an invasion of plexiglass. Voices through screens are thinner and movement pixilated. It’s difficult for us all. I miss half of what people say because I am busy imagining what it would be like to actually be WITH them. I enjoy a precious few person to person moments across 6 feet of space, masked, or I give sermons and speak liturgies through my computer, into tiny squares that hint of worlds beyond my screen. I see faces and shoulders of people at desks; my eyes drift toward the bookshelves and wall hangings behind them, searching for something familiar or surprising, a crinkled up napkin or a piece of clothing hung over a chair or doorpost. Occasionally, a cat moves through the space in the background. Light streams through windows I can’t see. The best moments for me are when folks get up and actually move, either carrying their laptop to the kitchen for a snack or leaving the shoulder/face square to take a 5 minute break. Second best is when official business is finished and we “unmute” and talk freely.
For now, I “let down my hair” by the ocean, finding a deep companionship there. The other day, she was oh, so loud and the wind was whipping at my face. I shouted over her roar, “I cant hear you, you're muted!!” She got the irony, and I felt the comfort of my own laughter. I am relieved to find this One who seems as pissed off as I am at times, and as moody. Calm as a lake at rest, reflecting light and sky one evening, then erupting in stormy stories overnight. I envy her bold, thrashing currents who demand I stay alert and have a real relationship, paying full attention to her in real time. I love this vast expression of life that won’t be held back, not even by plexiglass!