Where the Sky and Water Meet

Me and the deepby Rebecca Fullan

0. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind blew over the waters.

2006. I arrive at Harvard Divinity school, and take a class called “Understanding Katrina: Theology, Ethics, and Praxis.” It’s about the hurricane. We read the Book of Job. It is my first time actually reading the whole thing. It has ferocious poetry, a devil who chats with God over coffee, playful and needling—it has hurtling, senseless devastation—and God says very beautifully that God is Power, and that Power is its own justification, its own self-contained law.

2002. A little drunk on wine and food and song, my three roommates and I run down to the ocean. We are in Spain, and everything is a little bit slanted, with unfamiliar words lurking around every corner. The sea is so dark we can only see the surge of it, here and there, now and then. We strip off our clothes. There is the sound, the rhythmic slap of water in the dark. We run into the dark and the cold. Later, we wrap towels around our heads and delight in what we’ve done.

2005. Tsunami. The sea oversteps its bounds, smashes the shore, washes everyone away. I read every paper I can get my hands on. I am holding my breath. By the time I hear about it, those who have drowned have drowned. On newsprint I save them. Some months pass, then Katrina follows.

2008. I take a class called “The Deep.” It is about the sea. There is a Jewish story that talks about God’s daily schedule, and it has time blocked off every day during which God plays with Leviathan, the sea monster, because Leviathan is the only thing big enough for God to play with. This is mentioned in class. We also discuss order, chaos, both-together– God, and the sea.

2002. Cristina and I float gently, and stand and circle our arms. It is daytime now and we wear bathing suits. We speak of books we have loved. We make a friendship in between waves.

30ish. Jesus is sleepy. The storm as lullaby, the boat as cradle. He licks salt off his lips when the waves crash over. Woken by panicked anger, he forgets to be subtle, forgets, a little, to be human. He tells the sea to quiet, puts a hand on the back of the quivering atmosphere. This is almost as frightening as the storm—the disciples must decide if they trust in care, for it is sure they witness might.

2000. Nathaniel and I go in the ocean, even though it’s freezing. We scream and gasp, and stand and laugh. He says, grinning, that the cold water is shrinking his balls.

2006. The father of the woman I started sleeping with a week ago asks me if I believe in God. We are standing in the sea. My answer circumnavigates my meaning, which is, just like this. I believe in God just like this mysterious water that swells and lives and breaks and heals. This water I am standing in, but which I do not understand.

2009. I’m supposed to reflect on these readings. I wake up in an inside-storm, with wind and mystery and fear blowing me to pieces. I rock in the waves until they are stilled. Until I believe, again, in love as something stronger.

2007. We go to New Orleans. We cart trash out of a woman’s backyard. We see the incredible smashing power of wind and water. Dirty and tired, we go into the ocean in our jeans. We watch the sunset and it is pure pleasure.

2009. I believe, I believe, I believe. And even when I don’t believe, I swim.

Rebecca Fullan loves God and the sea, and thanks everyone mentioned obliquely or directly in this timeline for swimming beside her. She also recommends that everybody read the Book of Job, Face of the Deep by Catherine Keller, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

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5 Responses

  1. Becky! I’m so glad I got to share some of those memories with you! Your writing is always so inspiring. It breathes.

  2. […] indebted to Becky Fullan for the format of this post. by Kate Dugan &  Jennifer […]

  3. Thanks, other Becky! I miss you! 🙂

  4. Rebecca: The poetry of your words mirrors the ebb and flow of the sea. I have always been terrified of the sea and of deeper water than I can stand up in. I didn’t learn to swim until later in life and have not kept up the skill. Itr is my lot in life to be a bouy marker. Had I not learned to drive perhaps I would evince a similar fear of mass transit. Yet my idea of heaven, aside from a box seat behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, is a cabin deep in the woods with satellite radio but more importantly, the proverbial babbling brook which when looking at it for long periods of time, allows the mind to wander to cool thoughts, philosophical tugs of war within the soul. All the way not suffering the wear and tear of angst.

    A campfire holds similar sway but there is no way to manage a flame. You can do no more than stare at a campfire or feed it. You cannot lounge in it, stand up in it (for very long) or eat more than a dozen roasted marshmallows at any one time.

    Watching clear water rush over rocks with moss here and there is so calming that whatever hurt one has in their soul, it will be pacified (at least a little) by the healing power of water.

    Allowing us to share in your experiences is indeed a privilege. I look forward to your next sharing.

  5. Wow. I just read this. You are an amazing wordsmith, Becky Fullan and what a perfect format, images, feelings, memories lapping like swells on the ocean.

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