For many years I returned to an island in Maine for a few weeks in June. It was a quiet time, still between seasons, no longer spring but not yet full summer. The ferry ride to the island was an hour long ritual of shedding my winter skin, my city skin and settling into a different rhythm. The blue wind and wide sky, the sea scattered with bright lobster buoys rolling between the islands, the harsh white gulls, the pungent, salty smell tinged with old fish – these things would work their magic on me and I would open to this small three-by-five mile island universe. My weeks-long song of praise would begin. My tattered and aching parts would mend. My relationship with the Holy would redefine itself once again as my senses woke up one more time in the ways particular to this place.
Hallowed be thy name
Hallowed be thy name
The stones, the shells,
The sticks, the air, the sea,
The ways we name thee.
Coming back to where I first
Learned what is holy,
Returning to where it is easiest
I arrive stunned by longing
That fills my sleep with wrecked boats,
Dead-end roads and pathless mountains.
I collect this place day by day:
The white and golden bits of shell,
Chips of pastel sea glass, dried buttercups and
Fern fronds pressed in books,
Mica crusted stones,
Small strange sticks whose omens I can’t read.
Hallowed be thy name.
I hold you in the stones.
I bring you back each year
As though I am alone.
Every year on this island, parts of me that needed healing would realign themselves like broken bones being reset. I was a true pilgrim returning every year for the healing waters, and the quiet places where I could hear the comforting voice of God in the shifting wind.
I haven’t been back to the island for three years. The bowl of stones and chips of mica by my front door, the jar of sea glass on my kitchen window sill, the pressed flowers that fall out of my old journals, the small grey stone circled with a vein of white that I keep in my jacket pocket, the bundle of gull feathers tied with dried grass— these are my island sacraments. These are the elements of my communion with this particular presence of God and they remind me of God’s grace every day.