For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…
—I Corinthians 12:13
I’ll try to explain.
First you immerse.
Okay, go ahead.
There’s water all around.
You’re suddenly submerged
Next, let go. Start slow.
Simply stretch straight out, face down.
Flippers if you have them help.
Occasional gentle foot movements
And you shoot forward.
You can peer up, lift your mask and see
The green rim of distant coast.
(But we’re not doing that now.)
Just relax, be still, bob and drift…
You do not sink.
It’s true that
A new heave of wave you never saw coming
May suddenly torpedo you high ahead,
Woo, so high! Then down down
You’re sucked in, pulled back in and
Don’t forget that sharp flipper snap they showed you.
It will send you safely zooming to the surface again.
I tried skydiving once, but, hell, this…this is truly flying,
Floating without a parachute.
Go on. Try it now. That’s right: Just
Slip down over the side there.
Now look around.
Suddenly you’re in vast openness. Seemingly bottomless.
You can spin, burst forward, then drift and bob a bit
Stare out along your extended arms, cupped hands.
Gaze down deep to see
Weaving rising silver-bubbles, rainbow creatures,
Streaming green seaweed.
Ocean. It’s power, spirit.
It supports you. Cleanses.
(But also floats your boat.)
Is it love?
It propels you forward to godknowswhere.
Covering 70 percent of our earth-surface…
Making up 60 percent of the human body
We’re sharing something big.
Wade in the water, children.
Ocean rushes and leaps
Splashes sparkling up high into the slippery cold air
Pours to the shore
Then sucks itself and any floating debris (like you and me)
Back out into the unknown distances again.
We’re not alone in that water.
There’s company, natives—
With thought, memory, observations, and their own kind of talk.
Hold your breath and dunk your head.
Deep down you can feel the hum of animal intelligence.
Up ahead giant gray whales breach,
Dark and slippery,
They leap and loom.
Plunging dolphins spin and swirl all about you
Watching. (Eye contact for those split seconds.)
Up up through wave foam and wind song.
* * *
Not to say it’s always safe. Certainly not.
Ocean can be lumpy with plastic waste and
Blue-green algae. Sometimes crowded with
Hungry toothy monsters.
God’s going to trouble the water.
Children fleeing fierce homelands
Poor frightened ones
Cling tightly to the crowded boat sides.
Whipped and crashed
Through the storm’s roar, they’re flung by the
Heave and pour.
* * *
Of course it’s been the stuff of songs:
Give me some time to blow the man down!…
…Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow.
By a gentle nor’wester how steady she goes!
Seawalls and levees.
We want to join.
Be scattered and dissolve.
But we also want to keep away, keep breathing.
It’s risk. Loss. Disappearance. Absence.
But also holy mystery? What can it mean
For us human squalling babies?
By water and the word.