To and Fro

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I went out for our last sail of the year. It was a glorious day: the sun sang splendidly against a cerulean blue sky. Lake Ontario shimmered even though it was a little darker than its summer hue, portending winter’s approach. Soon it will be too cold to sail and so our sailing season winds down. While it is always a little sad to take down the mast in preparation for hauling out the boat, it seems a fitting task in October.

The winds yesterday were solidly out of the east and after bringing down the sail in order to motor to the marina, I set for south and the boat was just off perpendicular to the waves’ roll. A familiar feeling accompanied this: a strange kind of rocking in which it felt as if my body sloshed port and starboard at the same time. You don’t really get quite the same feeling under sail, yet it felt oddly familiar. Clearly I have had this feeling before while boating, yet the familiarity was not of that sort; not an “I remember this from last month” kind of familiarity. No, the familiarity was rather primordial. Not exactly an embryonic memory, yet more that than not.

It strikes me that this is really rather what life is sometimes like: a sloshing back and forth, a kind of moving in two directions at once. Pulled by this, pushed by that and sometimes that duality is calming and comforting – as it was for me yesterday – but sometimes it leaves me a little at loss; “at sea” as it were, and uncertain what to do, where to be, how to act because being pushed this way and that simultaneously is more than I can handle.

Strange this: sometimes a rocking motion is comforting and at other times it is uncomfortable or perhaps uncanny; a kind of eerie experience of my being tossed about in the world. Often it is marked by a loss of control that rattles my sense of well being. Yet, oddly enough, at other times being out of control gives me a paradoxical taste of freedom: since I am not ultimately in control I feel free to do what seems, what feels, what presents itself as right. Why does this sloshing, this tossing to and fro sometimes set me free, and other times unnerve me?

Likely the answer to this last question is too near to me to be seen objectively. Yet I know that when I content myself in my creature-hood I oddly find myself transcending myself, and when I want to play God, I realize I am not, and am reminded that I am dust – sometimes dust in the wind – blown about by circumstances beyond my control if not my knowledge.

The very taking down of our mast in a small way replicates this: I have no choice but to say farewell to a season, yet find the come and go of each season is a genteel reminder that ebb and flow is the way of life and death, and death and life. Each comes in its turn and with the passing over of one to the other I am reminded that it is enough to be in the hand of the One who rocks the cradle, who stays the storm, who paves this and problematizes that path.

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18 thoughts on “To and Fro

  1. I’m in love with your word choice!

  2. I do know that feeling – I put my trust in the hand of the One, but must confess that the storm sometimes gives me that “alligators” feeling

  3. shoreacres says:

    “Confused seas” we call them, and they are hard to navigate. A long swell from one direction and wind-driven waves from another and even with the sail up it’s not long before someone’s saying, “Let’s think about changing tack”.

    Of course, there’s something else. Take down the sail, and the boat’s not balanced as it’s meant to be. Raise the sail, and the sense of being a life-sized bathtub toy disappears. Even in strong conditions, trimming sail’s a better bet than dropping sail. Maybe that’s life lesson #832: always have a storm sail at hand, ready to be hanked on!

  4. Marie Taylor says:

    Very nice. “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…” The feeling reminds me of the seeking for the center – like on a tightrope – seeking for balance and in balancing feeling the freedom of no-thought.

  5. dianerivers says:

    So well said, as always, Allen. I love fall, but this whole end of season thing is always a little bittersweet. (Plus, I’m feeling a little seasick from all that rocking . . . !)

  6. Denise Hisey says:

    Your contrasting the comfort vs discomfort of the rocking is very relatable for me, Allen. Lovely post -again.

  7. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks. I’m glad that rings true for you. I suppose it is okay to have a sensation, a feeling, an emotion that is unique to me, but there seems to be something nice in holding it in solidarity with others.

  8. jannatwrites says:

    I’m not a sailor, but I could ‘feel’ this. There is comfort when we just let ourselves “be” in God’s care instead of mucking around like we know our way better.

  9. agjorgenson says:

    I agree totally. On a side note, it is interesting that during WW II in the Canadian navy, there was a disproportionate number of young men from the prairies, who like you (Arizona if I remember) did not grow up near water, but grew up feeling the sway of waves albeit in the form of wheat fields!

  10. Chris Edgar says:

    Yes, I can imagine that being buffeted by wind out on the ocean is one of the most direct ways to experience the lack of control that’s our lot as human beings — and, as you say, it’s comforting for me to know I was “born in free fall,” as Alan Watts put it, because no mistake I make can be too great to disturb the progress of the bigger game that’s going on.

  11. I love the idea that God sometimes “problematizes” our way. Hardening our hearts, even a bit, maybe. What a lovely meditation this was, made more so by the memories of boat and lake. Thank-you!

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