Friday, October 3, 2014

Missing the Boat

Missing the Boat

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-tables,
digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy–
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

---Naomi Shihab Nye

While on a Sacred Rhythms writing/yoga/dance retreat in Cape May, leader Christine Valters Paintner read this poem to our group. Then we were asked to do a ‘free write’ answering the question:  What is the boat you are missing? (a free write invites a writer to simply ‘write raw, untouched- up and free’ without judgment or editing or over thinking)

My responding free write:

“What is the boat that you are missing? What is the boat, what is the boat, oh my God, what is the boat? The boat is life as it unfolds, slowly, beautifully even as I rush about wanting experiences, wanting love, my dog sighs in his bed, loving the warmth of his own body heat reflected back and holding him in fuzzy flannel.  

The boat is love blossoming everywhere in the obvious, in the unseen, hiding in crevices, in buzzing cicada songs, in flutters of wings and flow of willow branches, teasing in breezes and hints, in the color of pale blue climbing my split rail fence shouting glory, glory

while I grab another bag to stuff full of things I might need on my journey. While I gather up supplies to ease anxiety or bring comfort, my husband’s eyes lovingly follow my movements in brown liquid wonder. While my heart aches for a sunset, a cup of hot chocolate, a cardinal, a sign that God is near….any damn sign will do in this hour of deep longing…  I miss seeing how sunlight catches my friend’s hair and turns the white into strands of gold."

This is so like me, perhaps like us, as humans.  Longing, wanting, seeking is a good thing and might be what keeps breaking us open. Putting down our constant seeking for a moment, a day, a month or two, might be what finally wakes us up. Helps us pay attention to the love 

                                that is 

  Opening our eyes and seeing love, seeing with the heart and with our senses, seeing evidence that Something, some Force, some ENERGY,  indescribable yet tangible, is holding the universe together in love, in the very rhythm and breath of the sea caressing the shore, the beating wings of the monarch,

each human inhalation and exhalation. Love is the Source, the boat with a Capitol B.  Deep seeing this Divine Love gives our hearts more space to hold our own contradictions, and thus we become love, become compassion.

Through yoga, movement, breathing exercises and dance in the Sacred Rhythms retreat, we embodied what came up for us in class, what we wrote in free time.  As we moved or contemplatively lingered in yin yoga poses, our bodies also honored and released congested emotions and thoughts we've carried for a while.

I discovered an old fear.  I grew up in a large family.  Surrounded by many fun-loving, boisterous siblings, I grew up afraid if I retreated into my introvert self, I would miss a joke, the breakout of an impromptu song, a start of a game, everyone piling into the car for a hike or an ice cream cone,
 the arrival of the ‘chip man.’  

Once a month, the chip man drove his wonderful van into our lane, delivering boxes of graham crackers and large cans of Good’s potato chips.  If I were holed up in the bathroom, or out wandering the meadows when the van came, I’d miss the one opportunity mom loosened her junk food rules and opened the lid, releasing the fat- laden aroma of potato slivers fried to a crisp. All kids present were then allowed to gather round and eat right out of the can!

I feared missing the boat; feared getting left behind.  Like the last duckling to cross the bridge in the children’s picture book story of Ping....
I’d get a cosmic smack on the back for being late, being asleep, being lost, being preoccupied with my own needs.  I realize just how much this fear sneaks into my life, my spirituality.

How do I or you, relax to sleep, use the bathroom, go on retreat, let go of cares and anxieties just for a moment or a season to tend the body or the soul, tend creativity or do interior work or heal when we are constantly holding tight or over-adrenalized in constant readiness to gather more, fight some scare, run away or run toward something we might miss. It tells me a little bit more about my individual and our collective insomnia, restless seeking, emotional-physical-spiritual constipation.  

 No wonder Christine taught us retreatants how to sigh.  Sigh deeply, and with release. Sigh with contentment for this moment.  Sigh with joy, with letting go. Deep breath in; deep breath out.....exhale deeply and loudly ........SIGH.

What would it be like to stop seeking for this moment? To open to what beauty already is, to just open?  To stop gathering stuff or info, to stop running or bracing or fearing or being anxious. For Just This Moment? 


Trust the boat is here.

And here! 

If you do miss one...

....another one.... 

comes in the next moment! 

Relax......  breathe...... trust...... be who you are what you love.....   be....just be.....


Sink in....  

S t r e t c h....

          ...........SAVOR ...

                                                                             .....and remember to

 ....S  I  G  H! 


  1. Thank you, Sharon. Beautiful work. We are all brave and scared, aren't we?

  2. Yes, indeed, we are all brave and scared, Cathleen. Bravery doesn't come without fear. and every single human being is brave....sometimes it is brave to just get out of bed in the morning. Thanks for reading and responding.

  3. Thank you for your beautiful writing and pictures which so greatly illustrate your words. I have been a subscriber to Christine's Abbey of the Arts newsletter for a while now. My good friend and I are going on the women's retreat she is having in April in Washington state. After seeing what came out of your retreat I can hardly wait to experience Christine's presence as well as the other presenters who I am sure are just as fantastic as she is. I subscribed to your blog and look forward to your offerings.

  4. You are very welcome! Thanks for commenting and subscribing. And I know you will enjoy Christine's retreat - dancing monks are quite delightful!