"Blessed Water, Source of Life”
The first house I remember living in as a child on the Guilford-North Branford line in Connecticut was a little ranch with a sloping back yard meandering down to West Lake, a huge weeping willow shading the corner of the property, a dock my father built for sunbathing and jumping from. There I played and tried to swim, sat in the rowboat as we paddled out and around, ice skated in the winter. The lake is my first water memory.
My grandparents on my dad’s side retired to an old farm property in Colrain, Massachusetts where we would visit on school vacations. Incredible gorges and refreshing swimming holes lay just over the border in Vermont. Down by the road in a wooden structure, the size of a miniature shed, was a natural spring. The coolest and clearest water I have ever encountered bubbled up from that spot. We would always collect a couple of gallons to bring home, extending the pleasure of it into our post vacation days.
As a youngster I loved to be outdoors in the rain, bundled up in my raincoat and galoshes, splashing my way along the roadside, puddle-stomping brought me such joy. The ocean was never far in those days and time at the beach was a regular part of my growing up at home and here on the Cape. Since that time, it seems I have always gravitated to the water, wherever I have lived. Maybe a nearby river or stream to wade in, the first house that Chuck and I ever shared together was on a small pond in Northwestern Connecticut, and now, here we are, surrounded by the ocean, lakes and kettle ponds dot the landscape all around us. I can’t imagine ever making a home where water wasn’t in close proximity. My first instinct upon discovering a watery spot is to lose my shoes and put my feet in. Chuck thinks I am part lab – drawn excitedly to the water’s edge. I think maybe selkie, those seal-like mythical creatures of Celtic lore. It is in my DNA apparently.
Infamous undersea explorer, Jacques Cousteau, is quoted as saying that, “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Interconnected. Interdependent. “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on earth you live,” notes American marine biologist, Sylvia Earle. The water cycle – melting ice cascading down mountainsides through rivers and streams – rainfall filling low places and making its way – all of it tumbling to the ocean – evaporation – condensation – precipitation and the cycle repeats itself. In this current age we know that we are altering the fundamental elements of this cycle – altering the cycle of life as we know it. Wendell Berry has said that we have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong though, he asserts. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.
The water is in us, we are of it, one with it in a sense. It really is a part of who we are. With every drop we encounter we are reminded of this connection. We belong to the water, not the other way around. It is no wonder that we are drawn to it as most of us who are blessed to live on this sacred spit of land must be. Drawn to this life-giving connection, to immerse ourselves in its cycles, to know ourselves as belonging to something vast and perfect beyond our imaginations. Drawn to discovering what it asks of us so that the cycle may continue unbroken.
We each brought our water today from some sacred place, be it home or from our travels. Water that is part of us because it holds our memories. Water that represents each of our individual lives, our journeys. Each memory another drop in the expanding pool that is our lives. We add our water to our common vessel, symbol of our life together here in this faith community, a swirling cauldron of memories and hopes, gifts and desires, part of a sacred circle. We say this is our church home, this Meeting House. It belongs to us, but even more so, we belong to it. And we may say that what is good for us will be good for the UU Meeting House of Chatham, but maybe we can flip that like Wendell Berry has suggested and think that what is good for UUMH will, indeed be good for us, too. It is an ever so slight shift in perspective that asks us to consider the whole. And in a way, isn’t this what we have been asking ourselves in small groups this month? Continue to ask ourselves? What do we know of the necessity of this place? What does it need in order to flow effortlessly in the cycle of time in these surroundings. What do we need to do in order to be good to it; good for it? And can we accept what it offers in return as good enough for us; sufficient for our own thriving, even if it looks different than what have become accustomed to?
Today’s water ritual is an invitation to take off our shoes and roll up our pants legs and wade in, to immerse ourselves in the waves of existence, to feel its life-giving properties, to hear its voice calling out to us from the depths of its being. Come, it says. We belong to one another. My wholeness will quench, rejuvenate, refresh. Together we are bound in a common destiny, the cycle of life.
Blessed be and Amen.
Rev. Tracy Johnson
UUMH Chatham, September 11, 2022