There’s nothing spectacular about this photo, save for the memories it represents. I was meandering down the boardwalk, shrouded in ocean mist. My thoughts wandered, too, as is their wont on my morning walks. Suddenly this Torch Aloe appeared, cutting through the fog and setting ablaze a patch of lavender. The wonder of it all…high drama, whispered poetry.
I hope these unexpected encounters will always spark joy, and forever pique my curiosity. As Mary Oliver famously wrote,“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.”
More than these greens tossed with toasted pecans, I want to serve you the hymn I sang into the wooden bowl as I blended the oil and white vinegar.
More than honey ice cream beside the warm pie, I want to serve you the bliss in the apples’ flesh, how it gathered the sun and carried its luminousness to this table. More than the popovers, the risen ecstasy of wheat, milk and eggs, I want to serve you the warmth that urged the tranformation to bread.
Blessings, I want to serve you full choruses of hallelujah, oh so wholly here in this moment. Oh so holy here in this world.
This beautiful poem, Thanksgiving, was penned by Rosemerry Wahtola Trimmer. All photographs courtesy of my dear friend, Donna Sullivan.
I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to sing at Sunday Brunch with the Harlem Gospel Choir. I’m not a culinary expert by any means, nor am I a professional singer. But I do rattle around in the kitchen some, and I’m all about making a joyful noise!
I suspect that’s why this poem really resonates with me. It speaks to the savory-sweet truths about Thanksgiving. A tasty meal doesn’t require perfect recipes and the just-right serving dishes. It’s all about serving others–meeting your beloveds’ needs with compassion and grace. Abundance is sometimes equated with heaping plates and that uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling that follows. But in fact, a bountiful life is more accurately measured by our generosity of spirit. And here’s the essence of the poem, as I read it: When we prepare food with a song in our hearts, it nourishes everyone who gathers around our tables. And when we are “wholly here in the moment,” we give and receive a gracious plenty.
I went down to the beach again yesterday–after the tides receded, when the harbor seals typically sun themselves on the rocky shores of Goff Island Cove. It was a hallmark day: the 7th and next-to-last chemo treatment for my friend on the East Coast. Same as always, she was counting me to send pictures and videos, to help get her through the final weeks of that grueling regimen.
In the same way that I look to the skies for hummingbirds, she scans the ocean for seals. They are her spirit animals, harbingers of comfort and hope. No way would I ever want to disappoint her! That’s why, over the course of her many treatments, I’ve observed very closely “our” seal family’s habits and habitat. I know, from watching them and observing the tides, when they’re most likely to appear. They’ve become very comfortable with my presence; I call some of them by name. They’ve always revealed themselves to me, even when they hide from others. But yesterday…even before I descended the wooden stairs that lead into to the cove, I sensed that they weren’t there.
I blinked hard in the strong sunlight…didn’t see them on the rocks. I scanned the open water…no bobbing heads.Nature has her own, mysterious ways. She doesn’t operate on our timelines. I know and respect all of that. And still, I struggled against a rising panic. How could I explain to my friend that the seals hadn’t shown themselves–on a chemo day, of all days?
Tourists came and went, snapping selfies as they climbed all over the jagged rocks where the seals usually chill, calling out to each other in loud, jolting voices that would surely send the most habituated sea life into hiding. I watched an elderly couple explore the cove, clinging tight to one another as they bent over the tide pools, whispering excitedly about sea anemone, hermit crabs and shells. They were Eastern European, I think, from the sounds of their broken English. When they approached the rocks where I stood, I introduced myself. We used gestures and simple sentences to communicate, as new friends do. Quietly, because we shared a reverence for that space. When I said something about the “seals,” their eyes lit up. With huge smiles stretched across their sunburned faces, they pointed in unison to a distant rock formation, surrounded by water.
Here it is, a place they call Treasure Island.
And there they were: Freckles and Friends, sprawled on the rocks in the afternoon sun. Beyond the reach of any human beings, and almost beyond the reach of my little bridge camera. Snoozing, as seals do, after they’ve eaten a large meal and nap time stretches in front of them, unimpeded by predators and ocean surges.
A young seal was nestled into a patch of surf grass, at the base of the rocks.
The baby seal was wandering off by himself, as is his wont.
The oldest male, Freckles, was flanked on all sides by friends, all of whom were camouflaged by the mounded rocks that shielded them from the glaring sun.
Such a relief, to see them there, safe and sound…and, well, present. Such a pleasure, to send photos to my friend! Videos, too, like this one.
I’m reminded once again, of the good that shows itself when we hold out hope in the face of doubt. This is what it means to “get by with a little help from our friends.” This is what it means to keep the faith.