I took my daughters up to Shaw Island for the annual All-Island Christmas Party this past weekend. The party, thrown every year by my dear friends Carole and Brud, is one of the few opportunities islanders get to really dress up; there are even prizes for best dress, best tie, best shoes, best jewelry, etc. This year one of the dresses that tied for best had last been worn 14 years ago to the Nobel Prize ceremony (she was a friend of that year's recipient).
It was the first year my girls have been old enough (and interested enough) to go, and they were having some reservations about the idea. But after the grownups on the island (all of whom remember my girls from grade school) quizzed them for a while about what they were doing now, the kids they'd grown up with started showing up, and though I gave up and went home at 10:30 (still under the weather with this cold) they were out partying until almost 2 am.
... which meant they slept in on Sunday. So I took that opportunity to walk one of my favorite beaches with my camera, just to see what called to me. Mostly what called were variations on this theme: the long strands of bull kelp, their sinuous light threads showing bright against the dark wet stones. I never quite understand why such things are satisfying to me, but I walk and let my camera bless them; letting them know they are a gift to my eyes, and gifting them in turn to you...
It was, in its way, a weekend full of blessings: an opportunity for me to reconnect with old friends, but this time my girls got to do the same. The cool thing, they informed me, about getting back together with their fellow classmates from the tiny 2-room schoolhouse they attended during their years here, is that "they get it."
What is it they get? I asked.
They get what it's like to grow up in a really small community, without a television, where everyone knows each other -- and get, in turn, what it's like, having grown up that way, to go off to college in a far more urban setting, surrounded by kids who DIDN'T have that experience. It's a bond they share, a special one, and as one grownup who had been a consistent mentor for their 4-H program said, "It doesn't matter where you live or where you go; you'll always be a part of the island."
Which was her way of blessing the girls: giving them assurance that they are part of a larger family. And isn't that always what blessings are about? I'm reading the final chapter of Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World, which is entitled "The practice of pronouncing blessings." In it she describes the benefits of the practice of blessing things and people we encounter over the course of our days. And though she doesn't specifically state it, I find I keep thinking of the practice as God's blessing flowing through us, which gives a sort of clarity and refreshment to those open spaces inside us through which the blessings flow.
And here's the quote from that chapter I loved the most, that helped me see why going up there, connecting with friends, and photographing something as simple as seaweed has such a restorative quality:
"God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake, no prayers but the ones we make, whether we know what we are doing or not. When Christians speak of the mystery of the incarnation, this is what they mean: for reasons beyond anyone's understanding, God has decided to be made known in flesh. Matter matters to God. The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility. Pronouncing blessings upon them is the least we can do."
I love that: "The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility." And I believe it with all my heart.