Faithful Living: Digging clams, finding God
By JOAN BAY KLOPE
Whidbey News Times Columnist
May 14, 2010 · Updated 2:36 PM
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
—George Gordon, Lord Byron Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
“Hey! There’s a minus tide later today. Get your license and grab a pair of rubber boots. I’ve got a bucket for you. It’s clamming time!”
Putting down the phone, I gazed out my home office window with soul-satisfying anticipation. In no time I’d be heading to Penn Cove, one of my favorite places on the planet. I’ve been blessed: I’ve looked out onto the grand city of Paris atop the Eiffel Tower, gazed up at Yosemite’s magnificent Half Dome, and snorkeled the waters off Kauai. No experience swells my heart like wading in the emerald-blue water and following eagles as they soar above the cove. Nothing is better on a warm day than plunging my hands into quickly dug holes and gazing into a bucket, filled with gifts of the sea.
I’ve lived by the ocean my entire life, yet her gifts frustrated me for the longest time. The wind blew my hair into my face and sand into my picnics. I shivered with every bluster and my skin inevitably burned on the warm days. For years I went about the business of living, forgetting to look out onto the water and listen to her music.
Then we moved to Whidbey Island, building a house in the woods, not far from the shore. Utter beauty called for exploration and the little annoyances no longer deterred me. Rubber boots replaced my sandals. Winter jackets protected me from the chill. A bucket and shovel gifted me with culinary delights beyond description and pleasure.
I’ve not made these discoveries on my own. I’ve had guides; friends who gladly share their time, stories, recipes, and knowledge of nature’s gifts. I, in turn, now view these adventures at the beach, plunging hands into cold salty waters, as sacred time spent with friends and God, Himself.
I’ve come to understand that He speaks not only in the Bible, not only in song, or formalized gatherings, but in the clouds. He speaks love and companionship during spontaneous outings, when friends step away from their responsibilities to be childlike and playful; when children splash and dogs fetch; when we experience complete freedom to be authentic and uncalculated; when we love God’s creativity and express appreciation for it all -- out in the open, with no fear of criticism.
I can’t help but imagine that God delights when the wind catches hold of our hair and we smile. When we haul mussels home and make plans to cook with friends. When His gifts produce in us soulful pleasure, enabling us to build care and friendship into our relationships.
John Muir, a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States once wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
It’s clamming time! Want to go clam with me?