The will in the wind and the weather, The voice that calls and whispers… Whether doubter or believer, a fisherman knows this of “Him” if he lives in the storm, He lives also in the sunset’s glow, and in the red of the morning. ~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen (Sea & Sky)
Like the prodigal son I return to you, the sea. You who scare the idylls off into tame inner fjords, bays and inlets because you are much too majestic for weekend yachtsmen, outboard motors and hobby anglers. Without so much as a blink you swallow the sun like a raw egg-yolk for supper and at daybreak you lift heavy banks of cloud dense with rain and squalls, a wet cloth on sleep-heavy eyes and throbbing temples. With the horizon like a diadem about your brows you write your salt letters to the shore. Land changes, men and beasts come and go. Only you live your solitary life, the world’s blue eyes fixed on the stars and eternity.
So there will be no guiding light for you and me We are not sailors lost out on the sea We were always headed toward eternity Hoping for a glimpse of Galilee ~ Emmylou Harris ♫ (The Pearl) ♫
And I can tell by the way you’re searching For something you can’t even name That you haven’t been able to come to the table Simply glad that you came And when you feel like this try to imagine That we’re all like frail boats on the sea Just scanning the night for that great guiding light Announcing the Jubilee ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter ♫ (Jubilee) ♫
Adrift! A little boat adrift! And night is coming down! Will no one guide a little boat Unto the nearest town?
So sailors say — on yesterday — Just as the dusk was brown One little boat gave up its strife And gurgled down and down
So angels say — on yesterday — Just as the dawn was red One little boat — o’erspent with gales — Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails — And shot — exultant on!
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #6)
Now that I have a Kindle and can read for hours on end without bothering my eyes, I have delved into a huge comprehensive biography of the life of Emily Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. The above poem struck a chord with me.
What I’ve been learning is that Emily grappled with an exhausting spiritual struggle during her childhood and young adulthood. One by one more and more of her family members and friends experienced evangelical conversions each time a revival made its way to her mother’s church in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was never moved to convert, winding up a solitary holdout, and I suspect it was the hypocrisy and inconsistencies in the dogma as presented by her teachers and ministers that never sat well with her.
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church — I keep it, staying at Home — With a Bobolink for a Chorister — And an Orchard, for a Dome — ~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)
Emily found spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy in nature. I think it can be found in the creative arts, too, and in healing. I will read on, as I just got to the “Adrift!” poem yesterday, but my feeling is that once she made peace with this realization, she was able re-trim her masts, re-deck her sails, and get on with her true vocation, her poetry, her spiritual expression, her own way of worshiping.
As a child my intuition rebelled against my father’s atheism. The first chance I got I latched on to a religion with just as much oppressive dogmatism as the scientific atheism from which I was trying to escape. But while ‘gurgling down’ in my spiritual struggle, it slowly dawned on me that religion and science are simply different ways of trying to make sense of and explain the world and the universe. The assumptions of both can be terribly flawed and misguided. Organized religion and organized science can both be dogmatic and self-righteous. People who worship science, in my opinion, give up their own experience of the divine to the men in lab coats, our modern-day priests. Ideally there is a balance between Logic and Wonder, however.
When I started reading Emerson and Dickinson I found myself home at last with the ideas of transcendentalists:
The transcendentalists felt the presence of God in their intuition, but they advised that intuition should be guided by reason, and not follow its own course unaided. They discerned that God speaks directly to the self within us. They stressed the value and importance of personal mystical experience over beliefs, doctrines, rituals, and institutions. All their insights derived from their inner life. Their movement was a reaffirmation of the inner way of introversion or interiority. ~ Wayne Teasdale (The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions)
How I admire Emily for holding on to her inner life!