“How much is sky, and how much is the sea?” she asked. We were walking hand in hand on the strand.
“It depends,” I tried to answer, “on your point of view. If you’re in the water, with your eyes right at sea level, then it’s half and half.”
Of course, being November, we would not be in the water. But the fact remains that the horizon would be exactly midway between the infinite azure of the sky and the cerulean sailor’s blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s all blue this time of year. There’s little algae here. The sky is clear, so the clouds aren’t reflecting gray.
“How far away is it?” she wondered, and it’s a question that’s brimming on both our minds. That is, the distance to the horizon.
“I think about three miles, just standing on the shore.”
But I know she meant other horizons. We’re wandering these days, on the week before Thanksgiving, on that mystic threshold, that liminal sand, between firmament and earth, between the water of sky and sea and the certainties of land.
No. Not the future horizon, though there’s a lot of future in our heads. It’s our 40th anniversary, so we’re thinking responsible thoughts. Our children. Our granddaughter. Our house near the Sound Bridge. Our ability to keep up that house, and everything else.
But there’s another horizon, a bigger, much bigger, one. And that’s the horizon of “I can’t believe it’s true.”
As in “Life is news that’s too good to be true.”
Who could have survived me for 40 years? No one but her. It is unbelievable that I got so lucky with two lovely and loving daughters. It is utterly magical that my granddaughter is the fairy princess that she is.
And who’d have thought that we landed in this little Brigadoon, that — contrary to the story — doesn’t disappear for a hundred years but stays?
The sun is rising southeast on the horizon, which is now about six miles away (the deck is higher off the ground). You wouldn’t know right now that the sun is our local star. He is wrapped in white gold splendor, and it’s easy to understand why our forebears personified him as Helios, son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, brother of Selene (the moon).
Our own more local forebears, that is, the Chowanoac and Yeopim peoples, thought of the sun as “Kisu’lk,” “the father of light and source of life.” So wrote the French missionary Maillard of these southern branches of the Algonquians in the 1750s.
Our local forebears knew better about Providence. They knew that Nature herself (another humane personification) always gave more in abundance, that there was, over time, always enough for the people, if the people took proper care. They knew, better than me, that when I stare in wonder at the bloom of my lantana, that there are thousands of other blooms that I do not see, but still bloom for the sheer joy of life, sheer thanksgiving and reverence.
But more than this, the sun and the horizon are signs of an even greater personal presence. At every breath, at every heart beat, at every hush in the interstitial and unnoticed moments, there is the Presence of the Present. “Present” means two things. It means the here and now. It also means “gift.”
“In Him we move and have our being,” said the Apostle Paul to the great philosophers gathered in Athens on Mars Hill. He was quoting the Greek poet Aratus, who was writing of the great One who, like many thinkers of antiquity and across the world knew, is the Source and constant Provider of all good gifts, peace, beauty and truth.
I walk in the single but infinite condition of Giftedness. So do you. Even though the immediate horizon appears to be only a few miles away, it stretches in expanse over the whole circle for 360 degrees, and we cannot shake the immense awareness that this circle is only the first of an infinite series of concentric circles.
It is all Gift. Everything, then, is holy ground.
And what does one do in such a place that is everywhere? Moses took off his shoes, naturally.
For my part, on the cusp of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and in our 40th year of God’s nuptial grace and the glad friendship of my better half, there is only one word that describes this sensibility, this awareness of “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
And “We are all God’s children” (Acts 17.28).
And that word is, naturally, “reverence.”