"Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
"I am haunted by waters."
— Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It)
Maclean is not speaking of some eastern monism here. He is talking about how our memories, relationships, and experiences flow down through the waters that mark the boundaries and seasons of our lives. There is something about the water that has captured the imagination and stirred the memory of the sailor, the fisherman, the swimmer, the writer, the poet, and all those whose feet were tied to the land. We journey long distances to sit by the waters or sail across their depths on our way someplace else. In Genesis 1, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of chaos and formed the Earth out of them. We are attracted to the raging, turbulent, life giving waters, wherever we may find them, whether it be fly fishing on the Big Blackfoot River in Montana as Norman Maclean wrote about or riding the small waves of the warm Gulf of Mexico as has been my experience.
This past week, I have spent time along the Gulf Coast of Florida. I have vacationed here since I was a child and have been able to bring my children back to this place where the water meets the sky on the distant horizon and infinity bumps up against white sandy shores. The Emerald Coast has always been a place of dreaming and rest for me. Growing up near the Gulf in New Orleans and South Mississippi, I remember the storms that would brew up in late summer afternoons, the smell of fresh, salt air, and the plentious seafood that we would feast on seasonally. We were surrounded by the water and the water gave shape and form to our existence, whether we participated in its flow, were drenched by its fall from the skies, or just looked upon it as a brooding place of mystery from a far.
When I think of the Gulf, I think of beauty and peace and a warm breeze that washes over me as I sit along its shores in tranquility. I also think of its fierce power and 30 foot waves that can wipe out sleepy seaside towns when it is kicked up into a frenzy by hurricane tumult. Mostly, however, I think of depth and infinity and something to be enjoyed and respected, even feared.
When I come to the waters of the Gulf it is easy for me to think of God and my finiteness and my desperate need for cleansing and for home. He has spoken to me here through creation, and for that, this place remains a thin place where I can sense heaven and an inifinite future where the horizon will finally reach back to us and we will long no more.
And we will worship forever.