Our family settled in for a few days along the coast near the quaint seaside town of Carmel, California, named after the holy mountain where God spoke to Elijah in his “still, small voice.”
A low ceiling of gray hovered over the sea and the land, the winds cold, the sun weak. The sky held the earth close, breathing upon it like the Holy Spirit, as pelicans flew in formation, dancing for our pleasure. The world was all grays – gray greens of the cypress dotted gentle hills that rose along the sea, darker shades of gray waters rising and crashing upon the ashen shore, the white foam bordering steely crests, the lighter airier grays of the heavens above that carried the birds and bore the sharp breezes against our cheeks and stung our uncovered ears.
We wrapped our jackets tightly about us, in this unseasonable June chill, and looked out to the sea to Bird Rock where otters and sea lions gathered. My son led his family down the steep dunes along the cliff to the black tide pools to look for crabs and shells and other ocean treasures. I watched from above, as they stood stiff legged for balance, leaning forward and staring into the quiet mini-bays of life, soon returning with pockets full of shells.
Other days we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a remarkable city of glass windows and vast waters and rainbow colored fish of all kinds in their own homes and habitats. We petted turtles and wondered at jelly fish with their filmy parachutes of pale colors floating open, then closing, with the tides. We entered another world of ocean yet pleasantly remained dry, marveling and then marveling again. There were feedings and fights among the fish, as the strong devoured the weak. There were otters on their back tending their babies or cracking shells with stones. There were waterfall canyons where we stood and watched the foam arc over us. We wondered and we watched, moving silently in some kind of awe-some trance, as though we too swam with the fish, we too were surrounded by the oceans of otherworldly miracles.
In this time together, away from our ordinary lives, together once again as family, we visited old friends from my son’s school, friends now parents, with their own children. My son’s generation tended to their next generation, and I watched, removed from the old immediacy of parenthood, living in the world of grandparenthood. Someone once said it was an amazing thing to see your child become a parent, and it is true. I watched my son as he fathered his children. I watched with pride as he listened to them and corrected them, as he loved them and led them. It made me so very glad.
And it made me grateful and thankful for God’s blessing of this time together. The children, eight years and six years now, a boy and a girl, bounced to me with new joys and new discoveries and shared experience, their eyes full of the excitement of childhood innocence. I could see through their eyes this new world unfolding, and I was thankful. We created stories together as we shared lunch at a small restaurant in Pacific Grove, about a lavender seahorse named Lucy who searched for lilacs in an eatery in a town on the shore. We laughed and we created and we loved.
But most of all we spent time together. We shared meals, we walked the shore, we considered the fish and the oceans.
Today is Pentecost, the great festival of the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ’s disciples, and I thought how the Holy Spirit, this third person of the Holy Trinity, the spirit of God upon the earth, had descended upon us in the last few days, had united our family, knitted us back together. We formed a new garment with a tighter weave. We were renewed, as God breathed his spirit of life into us. We would not forget his fire and his love and the wind of the waters upon the land… even under these cold gray skies. Yet tonight, at supper, the sun came out, bathing the ocean with brightness and we shielded our eyes as it set into the sea of silver.
We watch and we marvel at the world about us as God transforms our love to be more like his own. Just like Elijah, God spoke to us. And just like the disciples at Pentecost, we knew the fire of his love.