a word from the sea – Dec 2002

For 8 years now, I have been living in a land-locked county on this small island mainland Britain, and not seen the sea much, unless you count one or two channel crossings by coach or plane, but that isn’t being on the same level as the sea.
I remember one day, while living on the coast in North Wales, I went for a walk along the promenade near Tywyn, and a word of guidance rose from the sea – Gesund in der Tiefe -. I heard it, or knew it, in my native German, and I find it difficult to translate into English, the literal ‘Healthy in your Depth’ does not quite seem to mean the same thing, but it will have to do. ‘Health deep down’ somehow does not quite seem to reach deep enough.
I knew in my heart, somehow, it was a message from an old Carmelite monk who had been a very good friend to me with a few such sentences when I visited him in Glasgow.
At the time I thought it might have been the point where he was dying, in his 90s. But I later learned that his brethren had shipped him off at that time, back to Ireland, to a Nursing Home. He died there, a couple of years later, I believe.
On the outside, he looked emaciated, underweight in any case, and many visitors to the Monastery whispered among themselves that he was dying, for years. The last few times when I saw him, his brown Carmelite frock, the Habit, was not always very clean. He had published one book, showing his clear thinking.
Without doubt, his clarity spoke to my soul as I reached out to his, on a handful of visits.
The Carmelite Masters of Spirituality like Teresa (of Avila) and her contemporary Juan, had all started off with personality issues, suffered early loss, did not fit in, and survived on a somewhat queer single-mindedness that did a lot to see them through but had its downside itself and that had to be transformed before they could convey their specific message to the world of readers. Juan as a poet of love – never once mentioning god – yet breathing Love in every line. Teresa with her narrative geology of the soul as a castle, about different layers of consciousness, long before Jungian psychology came into fashion.
I did not know about them when I was growing up in southern West Germany, without the sea, I had sense in my soul that there was Love and Meaning in the world. It nearly drove me crazy that I did not seem to find it. Until it found me, in a Lesbian Feminist Residential College near Cologne – no sea in sight -, and the Cemetery nearby, but that’s another story.

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~ by Barbara S on February 22, 2015.

3 Responses to “a word from the sea – Dec 2002”

  1. “Gesund in der Tiefe” reminds me also of the theme of Grimm’s fairy tale of Sterntaler – the girl who lost everything… until a treasure fell from the stars into her apron, held up to catch it. Although the gift here comes from on high, it arrives, is beyond what the person can access herself. The same seems true for the innermost depth, nd perhaps the two are not that different or separate.

  2. Teilhard de Chardin adds a respons to the theme to receiving insight, grace…- his Prayer or Mass for the World. As he finds himself working in the asian somwwhere, as a geologist, unable to perform the ritual as a Catholic Priest, as a Jesuit, of the Eucharist which, too, combines offering and receiving – he turns his being and doing into a Prayer for the World. That for me, is Depth responding.

  3. The receiving-and-giving I also find, seminally, given in John Lennon’s song Above Us Only Sky – as I am unable to hear that song without a sense of awe for the width and depth of Life.

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