A Sadness That Speaks of Something More

The waves of the Salish Sea caress the side of the kayak as my wife and I watch the sun drift across and below the horizon.  The snow-covered peaks of the Olympic Mountain range preside over the landscape.  Like gods, they expose my frail and transient existence, calling me to lose myself.  The brilliant blue that had previously owned the sky, slowly yields to the deeper hues of orange, red and purple.  The beauty of the moment fills and expands my soul.  I am awed and broken by it.  Yet, as the light seeps from the sky, I am aware of a familiar ache pressing into the center of my chest.  It informs me that such beauty is only a transient guest in my life – one that cannot be compelled to stay longer.  Aware that it is passing, I loosen my grip on the moment and acknowledge the sadness that presses in. 

As a younger man, I would have tightened my grip on such a moment, fighting to extend, if not capture the moment.  “Let’s stay a little longer… Let’s buy a beach house… Let’s move.” I would’ve said to my wife.  As if such beauty – such transcendence - was something to be conjured, scheduled or, even, purchased.

More recently, I have come to see that such moments of beauty and fullness are only transient gifts in this life.  Never meant to fully satisfy, they only whet the appetite and bring clarity to that for which my heart longs.  They remind me that I am only a stranger in this world; life is not to be found here and striving to do so is futile.  Like my spiritual fathers, I am “longing for a better country – a heavenly one.”  The joy that does visit this life is inextricably bound to a groaning; to embrace the beauty of this moment, guarantees the sadness of the one that follows.   

My eyes fill with tears as I allow the waves to turn my boat toward the now darkened landscape behind me.  Little dots of light – fires lit by those camping on the shore - mark the landing.  With each stroke of the paddle, the sadness washes over my heart, rocking it like a piece of driftwood on the shore - each wave incrementally turning my heart away from this moment, away from this world.  Surrendered to something beyond, a hope strengthens me as I paddle back into the darkness. 

- Jeff Pipe

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