Last week I had the privilege of officiating a wedding on Monhegan Island. I’d enjoyed talking with Ellen and Rick over the past months as they prepared to celebrate the home they had found in one another. I’d been looking forward to a trip to an Island that I’d heard much about.
On the day before we were to leave I received a phone call from the boat company.
“We wanted to let you know that you’re all set for your outbound journey, however….. coming home is another matter….
The day of our return home was also the day Hurricane Ida was set to come through the Maine Coast. The boat from Boothbay Harbor cancelled, and our return trip rescheduled to the “Hardy Boat” that would take us to New Harbor where we’d meet a car to take us back home.
Not the journey home we’d planned and not one I was looking forward to. I did not like tippy boats on tippy seas. However, I easily forgot the return trip as I luxuriated in the outbound trip sitting on the crowded top deck with other happy passengers taking pictures of the passing islands and lighthouses and thought how ocean travel was indeed quite a fine thing.
I loved clamoring the rugged trails on half the island that afternoon, celebrated a beautiful wedding by the lighthouse that ended with a soft sprinkle of rain. “Its like confetti!” I laughed.
A spectacular orange-pink sunset, and an over the top delicious meal to close the day at the Island Inn. What could I possibly worry about after a day like this?
I woke early the next morning to the patter of rain, put on my rain pants, rain jacket and boots and headed out to hike the trails on the other half of the island on trails had turned to not so small rivers. As the wind picked up and the trees bent, I decided it was a good time to turn home for coffee and breakfast.
As I came through the door to the Inn a woman asked, “What’s it doing out there?”
“Oh its just great! Pounding rain, howling winds, tumultuous seas! A real Maine storm!”
She looked at me askance. Not the answer she was looking for.
And I had loved the wet walk and now the plate of blueberry pancakes and bacon and hot coffee – what could I possibly worry about?
An hour later, luggage packed, standing on the porch of the Inn looking out for our little “Hardy” boat home to arrive. Pouring rain dripping off the eaves, white-capped waves, flags snapping.
“I’m so glad we don’t have to leave today!” said the couple sitting in the rocking chairs behind me.
“The Hardy Boat is sure tossing about in the waves,” the man with the binoculars shared. “It looks so tiny out there. Would you like to see?” Hands me his binoculars.
No, I do not want to see. No, I do not want to know. And as I looked through the binoculars because I had to see, yes, I wish I was staying until Saturday safe on shore with the rocking chair couple.
But no, our boat arriving through all the mess.
Maybe they’ll cancel the trip, I thought…alas no.
Instead, standing on the dock in my rain pants, rain jacket and very wet boots, hood pulled up tight over my head, I so don’t want to do this. I don’t want to get on the boat. I don’t want to go. But sometimes there is no choice and the only way out is through.
“Do you have sea-bands?” I asked the skipper as I stepped on board.
“Yes we do,” he said and I promptly bought a set.
As I sat clinging the bench as the boat clanged against the dock, I asked the 16 year-old deck-hand Rob if he ever gets used to this. “It never bothered me,” he said.
As we took off into a roll of waves, first mate Zsa Zsa offered assistance for our rocky journey home.
“Sometimes its helpful to hold something on a journey like this,” she said and passed out little white bags for us to hold.
And sometimes a ginger candy helps settle your stomach. I took a handful.
“If you’re worried about the boat, don’t be,” she continued. “This boat has been through much worse storms than this.”
I couldn’t imagine “worse” and was so grateful I wasn’t on board on a “worse” than this.
As we made our rolling way tossed this way and that across the pounding seas, up and down, side to side, I sat on the edge of the bench looking out towards the horizon as it appeared then disappeared below the waves. Remembered how I’d been told that in times like this what can help is looking out to the steadiness of the horizon which holds when nothing else is. Looking up and out far enough, far enough, I breathed, breathed. Finding a new way home.
Several years ago as I was preparing to leave a beloved home and set sail for an adventure into the unknown, a wise kind pastor said to me, “Endings are messy, don’t try to clean them up.”
In these last weeks before I set sail from this home of the past 20 months, I’ve been remembering his words and thinking on the messiness of endings.
How times like this require a putting down of perfection and releasing of control. An opening of hands. Of how a new way home is made not by clinging but by holding your sight to a far horizon always before us, steady and sure. Of the necessity of stepping into the fear and not around it, putting your hands in the care of a crew who has been through worse before and a boat that is hearty enough for seas like this.
And yes, in time, a harbor appears. Songs of praise. We made it safely, a new way home.