Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: February 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Live the Question

"You are so young. You stand before beginnings. I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can - to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions like locked rooms. Like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot be given to you… because you could not live with them. It is a question of experiencing everything… You need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." - Rainer Maria Rilke

Ever since a book titled, "Letters to a Young Poet" caught my eye, this quote has been one of my favorites.  I hold it close to my heart and have gradually, over the years, been learning the wisdom of it.  This has certainly been a time when I stand before beginnings and at times it seems like a wide chasm before my feet.  As a single adult, I have heard many times from others how  lucky I am to not have a great deal of responsibility, to be able to pick up and move wherever I want.  I do admit, it's nice to not have to take into consideration a house or family, but what many who have these responsibilities don't seem to understand or remember, is how frightening a wide world of possibility can be.  When you can go in any direction, how do you know which one to take?  How do you begin to find your way?

I wish this was a post where I outline the answer, give you the steps on how to find your way.  But I have to tell you it is not.  I am still "standing before beginnings" myself, not for the first time, but definitely once more.  I know what I want, I even know where I might find it, but going from point a to point c can sometimes be far more complicated than going through point b.  And sometimes, it is far more simple than we could ever think or hope. 

We each wrestle with this question of where is life?  Where am I going?  What am I supposed to be doing and is this it?  For some reason, we see life as this goal we need to achieve, not necessarily the journey we take. We think we have to get somewhere, to reach some kind of marker.  And as much as I would love to reach new heights in my career and to do during the day what for years, I have been doing at night, a deeper wisdom urges me to enjoy each day as it comes.  Still, I look to the horizon, and shade my eyes so I can see what might be there, just a few steps away.

I do know this: that if you feel called to take new steps, to courageously walk into that horizon, you have merely to put one step in front of another.  God gives us strength for today.  We can plan for tomorrow, but we need to remember, we are living in today, not tomorrow.  And when we do think of tomorrow, we need to take the steps today to get there.  God will provide.  I don't know how and I don't know where, but I know when.  Tomorrow.  And maybe someday, if I keep living the question and taking the steps I am given along the way, I will find myself living the answer on some distant day.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Community: Dragon Boat Style

I think I should write a book and call it, "Everything I Learned about Community, I Learned on a Dragon Boat."  "What?" you say, "What is a dragon boat?" followed, I am sure, by the exclamation, "Sarah, you get yourself into the craziest things!"  This, I readily admit, is true.

I'll start at the beginning.  Several years ago I saw a display of a dragon boat at a local festival called "The World Beat".  I was intrigued and I was told you could check out a practice with the team for free.  However, I never got around to it and I didn't realize they practiced year round.  Then this last fall, my friend Emily posted on facebook to see if anyone wanted to try out dragon boat racing.  (Yes, this is the same Emily who got me into Kung Fu. I have since asked her to warn me before she posts anything else.)

To answer your question, a dragon boat is rather like a cross between a canoe and a row boat.  Now take that image and elongate it, painting dragon scales on the side while you're at it, and make it long enough to fit twenty people, ten rows of people sitting two by two.  Now add a caller in the front and a tiller in the back and you have it- a dragon boat.  Now, while keeping that picture in your mind, imagine a group of 12-22 people (we have to have at least ten paddlers to manage the boat plus the caller and tiller) of assorted ages and sizes from young to older adults, all wearing life jackets with a paddle in one hand.  They are grinning and they are laughing.  They love to paddle.  Depending on the time of year, you can also add a very odd assortment of hats on their heads.  Imagine the oddest one, and weirdest, for Emily. 

When we have enough paddlers, we start by stretching out and warming up our bodies at the top of the stairs at Riverfront Park and we jabber about how we need to recruit more people so we can go out more often.  You see, we are the die hard winter paddlers.  It's not actually that cold.  And it is really fun to paddle on the river in the dark (scaring the geese!). At six, we walk down to the dock, hand out paddles and life jackets for anyone who didn't bring them, and then line up by the boat.  Our coach looks us over and decides how she wants to torture us for the night.  She starts with the lead paddlers, the ones whose rhythm we watch for the rest of practice.  They are in the front.  Our middle lead paddlers are, that's right, in the middle.  She partners the rest of us up in teams and tells us where to sit. 

With our partner, one person gets in the boat and the other stands on the dock holding the paddles.  The paddles are then handed over and the second person takes their seat.  Once everyone is seated, we take in the bumpers (rubber floats that protect the boat against the dock and our other boat), then close our mouths and listen up.

Guiding this large boat is a big job.  That person is called the tiller.  Our coach is up in front.  You do whatever they say because if you don't, the water is very cold with a strong current and you don't want to know that intimately well.  Your default it to listen to the coach but the tiller is the ultimate authority and if they speak, you pay attention only to them.  The rest of us?  We are a team.  We do everything together in one rhythm, ideally anyway, each paddling on our place in the boat.

One of the things I have learned about community is you stick together.  One group or people or even an individual does not move out of sync with the others.  If you are not paddling and moving your body in rhythm with the others, paddles are going to hit each other and you are going to be pushed up against by the others around you.  Unity is the name of the game.  You HAVE to stick together if you want to get anywhere.

Another thing I have learned is that while we are all pulling equal weight in the boat, we have our lead paddlers and they set the pace.  You watch when their hands move up and down and you make sure you are moving at the same time as they are.  It is good to have leaders in the boat.  We need them.  We need mentors and teachers and pastors and people who will guide. 

Don't forget to laugh.  That's the next lesson I learned.  Whether our coach is reveling in the delight of torturing our team making us do sit-ups in the boat or we're taking a moment to simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings, we love to laugh. One of our current sources of mirth is coming up with a name for our team.  We did take a vote but as our coach didn't like any of the choices, she nixed the whole thing.  So now we have fun coming up with all kinds of silly names during our practices, "I'd Rather be in the Slough" being one of my recent favorites.  We like our team.  We like joking around together.  It makes practices a lot of fun and between that and being out on the water, these times have quickly become some of my favorite of the week.  It reminds me we have to have laughter in our lives.  We have to have fun, to delight in the gifts God has given.  This is important.

God has given us the gift of the people around us.  They are the ones with which we share the boat, the ones we "paddle" with.  These are the people who make our "practices" so much more fun. You simply can not make it back to the dock alone. And I learned all that in a boat.