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I Must Go Down to the Sea Again

by Deborah Streeter

“I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide, is a wild call and a clear call that cannot be denied.” That’s the call, from John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever,” that I try to follow as a longtime ocean volunteer and an ordained minister on behalf of ocean conservation.

I already write a short weekly devotional piece, “Blue Theology Tide-ings,” linking ocean and spirituality. In this new column I will try longer ocean essays, with more detailed science as well as personal reflections.

I’ll begin with a series about “Ocean Literacy,” the seven principles that scientists and educators agree everyone should understand about how the ocean influences us and we influence the ocean.

 

Tuesday
Jun202017

You Don’t Need a Weatherman……

Continuing my series on the Ocean Literacy Principles, how the ocean influences us and we influence the ocean. I am not an ocean scientist, but I am an ocean lover and communicator, and I am authorized by my church to be an ocean minister, so I am using these columns to teach myself and maybe others how to read the ocean. This week, weather and climate…..

Ocean Literacy Principles #3: “The Ocean is a Major Influence on Weather and Climate.”

Mark Twain once quipped, “Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” The joke is, of course, that there isn’t a damn thing we can do about the weather. We can’t stop it from raining or we can’t force the sun to shine. Weather just happens; we must accept it. So Twain thought.

Sadly, we now know differently, that we can and do influence the weather. Twain (actually, he was quoting his good friend and co-author Charles Dudley Warner, let’s give him credit for the quip) had a 19th century world view on weather. Even in the 20th century, with new technology and satellites, we didn’t progress that much in our knowledge of how humans affect weather.

But now most people (besides our President) taking climate change seriously. Now we know that every time we turn on the ignition in our car or buy imported food, we actually are affecting the weather. And that’s where the ocean comes into the picture. All the CO2 created by our cars and the trucks and tankers that bring us food and goods from far away is making the ocean warmer and more acidic.

Keep complaining about the weather if you want - actually we will probably be complaining more and more, as the weather gets more and more extreme (scientists are now calling it “climate chaos” rather than “climate change.”) But we no longer can say there’s nothing we can do about it.

Here are the sub points of this Third Ocean Principle about weather and climate.

1. The ocean interaction of oceanic and atmospheric processes controls weather and climate by dominating the Earth’s energy, water and carbon systems.

2. The ocean moderates global weather and climate by absorbing most of the solar radiation reaching Earth. Heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere drives the water cycle and oceanic and atmospheric circulation

3. Heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere can result in dramatic global and regional water phenomena, impacting patterns of rain and drought. Significant examples include the El Niño Southern Oscillation and La Niña, which causes important changes in global weather patterns because they alter the sea surface temperature patterns in the Pacific.

4. Condensation of water that evaporated from warm seas provides the energy for hurricanes and cyclones. Most rain that falls on land originally evaporated from the tropical ocean.

5. The ocean dominates the Earth’s carbon cycle. Half the primary productivity on Earth takes place in the sunlit layers of the ocean and the ocean absorbs roughly half of all carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere.

6. The ocean has had, and will continue to have, a significant influence on climate change by absorbing, storing, and moving heat, carbon and water. Changes in the ocean’s circulation have produced large, abrupt changes in climate during the last 50,000 years.

7. Changes in the ocean-atmosphere system can result in changes to the climate that in turn, cause further changes to the ocean and atmosphere. These interactions have dramatic physical, chemical, biological, economic, and social consequences.

One reason we were able to ignore climate change for so long is that we took only the short view, we noticed only weather, not climate. The difference between the two, according to NASA is:

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.

One reason we haven’t noticed our influence on weather is that we think too short term, maybe only as far ahead as the six-day forecast. Climate is the long view, ice age rather than “cloudy with the possibility of showers overnight.” As Al Gore taught us, climate change is completely natural, the climate has always changed, but very slowly. Our challenge now is how fast it’s changing, temperature and ocean chemistry are accelerating at a terrifying speed. And that’s not “natural.” It’s on us.

If Mark Twain was the quintessential 19th century social and weather commentator, Bob Dylan fills the same bill in our time. In his classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues” he sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Weathermen and weatherwomen prefer to be called meteorologists, I believe, and they do base their predictions on science. But as Bob sang on behalf of us skeptics about authority, we don’t really need to check the Weather Channel; we can tell all by ourselves which way the wind is blowing.

Luddites like Trump may deny the obvious changing winds, but even Exxon executives and US Army generals know that the issue is not what is tomorrow’s weather report. It’s climate, and the climate winds of change are blowing strong and hard.

We who live near the ocean can see storms coming across the water and understand easily that weather starts out there. On the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts it’s obvious that hurricanes come from the sea. In the UK they know the Gulf Stream keeps their winters warmer than you would expect at their latitude. But ocean conditions are changing very fast. The Gulf Stream is slowing down and cooling off as well - another European Ice Age may be in the near future. Citizens of New Orleans know all too well that Hurricane Katrina made landfall at such amazing speed because a warmer ocean fueled the storm and greased its landing. We on the West Coast know that “100 year floods” now come every 7 years.

It was Dylan’s lyric that inspired the 60’s radical group, “The Weathermen,” who later changed their name to a more inclusive “Weather Underground.” They wanted people to wake up to how hard the winds of change are blowing, and they did their share of blowing and blowing up to try to effect more change.

The Weathermen began at the University of Michigan. Some decades later some other Michigan students started a business to provide weather data as an app. In honor of their fellow students they named it “The Weather Underground.” I used to think I didn’t need to read the weather report, that I had lived here so long I could predict California’s uniformly wet winters and dry summers.

But climate change has made even our boring weather so very unpredictable and dangerous. These days the Weather Underground app is one of my favorites. I realize I do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

When it predicts rain for week after week, I do, like Twain, tend to complain. But at least I know I can do something about it. I can reduce my carbon footprint. Do my small part to cool down the ocean. Maybe the weather will be better tomorrow.

Copyright©2017 Deborah Streeter

Tuesday
Jun132017

Love Me Like a Rock

We continue our series on the seven Ocean Literacy Principles. Scientists and educators agree that we can’t understand how the ocean influences us and we influence the ocean unless we are “literate” on these seven principles. “Literally,” we should learn to read them. I am not an ocean scientist, but I am an ocean lover and communicator, and am authorized by my church to be an ocean minister, so I am using these columns to teach myself and maybe others how to read the ocean.

Ocean Literacy Principle #2 reads: “The Ocean and life in the ocean shapes the features of Earth.”

This second ocean principle is not so much about water, the large fluid and wet ocean, but about rocks, the hard, mostly dry material that forms not just land, but the floor and walls of ocean basins.

The five main ideas are:

1. Many earth materials and geochemical cycles originate in the ocean. Many of the sedimentary rocks now exposed on land were formed in the ocean. Ocean life laid down the vast volume of siliceous and carbonate rocks.
2. Sea level changes over time have expanded and contracted continental shelves, created and destroyed inland seas, and shaped the surface of land.
3. Erosion—the wearing away of rock, soil and other biotic and abiotic earth materials—occurs in coastal areas as wind, waves, and currents in rivers and the ocean move sediments.
4. Sand consists of tiny bits of animals, plants, rocks and minerals. Most beach sand is eroded from land sources and carried to the coast by rivers, but sand is also eroded from coastal sources by surf. Sand is redistributed by waves and coastal currents seasonally.
5. Tectonic activity, sea level changes, and force of waves influence the physical structure and landforms of the coast.

“These rocks tell the story of Point Lobos,” said Ed, the geologist leading the walk. “Feel these boulders, see those cliffs, it’s granodiorite, massive and hard, they are the oldest, rocks here, 80 million years old.”

Pointing across the cove to the vast blocks of yellow sandstone with innumerable grey round pebbles seemingly mixed in and hardened, he said, “That’s the Carmelo Formation, younger, only 60 million years old. I wrote my PhD thesis on that rare formation, and geologists come from around the world to study it. After a long career at the US Geological Survey I am happy in my retirement to be a docent here and try to share the stories these rocks tell.”

Ed patiently explained how both these rock formations originated far south and east from this Central California State Park, which now advertises itself, in this latest millisecond of geologic time, as “the grandest meeting of land and sea.”

Point LobosThe grey granodiorite has been moving slowly northwards, at the same rate as our fingernails grow, a couple inches a year, since its story began in what is now Mexico. Some of those same hard rocks moved in a more northeasterly direction and formed the Sierra Nevada mountains; it’s the same granite at the east and west borders of the state.

Carmelo FormationThe journey of the Carmelo Formation is even more complex. Those pebbles seem to have been formed by volcanic activity in the Jurassic period in the Mojave Desert. When the rising sea submerged them, they tumbled in submarine landslides down canyons into the deep sandstone, where they fused into variegated blocks. Then they too began their journey north. Unlike the hard granite, sandstone easily erodes from wind and wave, and the ocean has further sculpted these rocks it birthed.

Geologist often try to explain their difficult science and the vast distances of geologic time and space as “stories that the stones tell.” Walking around Point Lobos with Ed is like listening to a master storyteller, revealing new lands and dramas in the subtle layering of a crumbling cliff.

On that walk Ed was telling just one small story in the vast library called The Second Ocean Literacy Principle. Reading the five sub-points of this Ocean Literacy Principle reminded me of his tale – it was like he was titling his chapters: Sedimentary Rocks, Sea Change, Erosion, Sand and Tectonic Plates.

I too am a Point Lobos Docent. The good State Parks folks encourage us to use our life or work skills as we interpret for guests, as Ed does with his geology. As a writer, I chose to research, collect and publish an edition of poems by 35 different poets, young and old, professional and lay, who had been inspired to write over the past century about Point Lobos. My friend Sally Smith added her drawings, and we decided to call the volume, Dancing on the Brink of the World, Selected Poems of Point Lobos. The title comes from an ancient song lyric of the native people of this region, the Ohlone. We felt those “first peoples” were the first Point Lobos poets; we could picture them dancing on this brink, on the dramatic granite cliffs and in the mysterious cypress forests above the crashing seas.

The word “brink” appealed to us, with its suggestion of danger and drama. And we liked the image of “dancing” also, for it’s not just us land creatures ancient and modern who move and dance here, but the ocean too, always churning and changing.

But I don’t think it was until I took that geology walk, and now trying to wrap my head around the second Ocean Literacy Principle, that I really made the connection that the land is dancing also, moving up and down, north and south, maybe more slowly, not so obviously as the endless waves, but move it does. Granite and sandstone and volcanic rock rise and fall. Now they/we are moving north, but 80 million years hence, in what direction will they be dancing?

Whether you live on the coast or inland, remember that all earth is moving. The atoms, of course, hum and spin. But active also are the tectonic plates, the eroding cliffs, the uprising volcanos, the churning shores.

Like a sculptor, water shapes clay and rock and sand and mountains and valleys. And like a sculpture, land and sea are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Here’s one of the poems from the collection, by Jeanne D’Orge, a Carmel Bohemian artist and writer from the 1920’s.

Hush!

If you lie close to a rock in the silence of the sun
You hear.
You will not hear with the outer ear
But you will hear
Thunder.
It will sound through the rock and through your body.
You will tremble as the rock trembles
At so terrible a sound.
To the end of time you shall never know
If it was the heart of the rock or your heart
Or the sea…..

_________

More info on Pt. Lobos Geology

Copyright © 2017 Deborah Streeter

Tuesday
Jun062017

One Big Ocean 

Ocean Literacy Principle #1: The Earth has One Big Ocean with Many Features

“The ocean is the defining physical feature on our planet Earth—covering approximately 70% of the planet’s surface. There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic.

“Ocean basins are composed of the seafloor and all of its geological features (such as islands, trenches, mid-ocean ridges and rift valleys) and vary in size, shape and features due to the movement of Earth’s crust (lithosphere). Earth’s highest peaks, deepest valleys and flattest vast plains are all in the ocean.

“Throughout the ocean there is one interconnected circulation system powered by wind, tides, the force of the Earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), the Sun, and water density differences. The shape of ocean basins and adjacent land masses influence the path of circulation. This ‘global ocean conveyor belt’ moves water throughout all of the ocean’s basins, transporting energy (heat), matter, and organisms around the ocean. Changes in ocean circulation have a large impact on the climate and cause changes in ecosystems.”

Here’s the ocean I see every day as I drive home. Google Maps calls it the Pacific Ocean. But Ocean Literacy Principle #1 tells me it is the Pacific Basin, actually the North Pacific Basin, a mere portion of the vast one world ocean.

So what? What’s in a name? Pacific Ocean or North Pacific Basin. Well, an ocean is just water, but a basin is the water’s container, the floor and walls holding that water. And the ocean is no smooth porcelain sink or tub, no household basin. No, it’s a rough varied terrain of trenches and ridges, high volcanic peaks and deep rift valleys. Having seen some ocean topographic maps I know that just beyond that farthest rock in my picture, Point Sur, is an underwater mountain, the Davidson Sea Mount, taller than California’s massive terrestrial Mt. Shasta. A mile and a half high, its summit is still almost a mile below the surface. Oceans may seem smooth and uniform even on a rough day, but under the surface, every possible terrain.

And just as my sink and tub are not isolated basins, so these wet world basins are one connected system. No man is an island. Every basin is “involved” (in John Donne’s words) with the whole. Everyone is “a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” says Donne. Did Donne chose the word “main” intentionally, to mean both the majority, the predominant power or force (derived from magna, strength, force), as well as “main” the sea? Perhaps. We now know that the one world ocean is one main, one bounding main, the main main.

This is not what I learned from my fifth grade geography textbook Maps Mean Adventure! We carefully drew and labeled world maps as if there were a sign at Tierra Del Fuego that read, “Leaving Atlantic Ocean (41,000,000 sq. miles,) Entering Pacific Ocean (64,000,000 sq. miles.)” No, they are all connected, all one.

And if it’s all connected, like the plumbing in my house, then the water is always turned on, always moving. Even if it looks calm on the surface, the ocean is never still. Using two more metaphors (besides mine of domestic plumbing) the authors of the Ocean Literacy Principles compare the one world ocean to our bodies, with a constant “circulation system” or to a massive industrial factory, with a constantly moving “conveyor belt.”

Interesting metaphors. I can imagine the scientists and educators trying to find an understandable image for how these different massive bodies of water are connected in motion and energy. We too have a hidden but essential unified system that carries our blood around our one body. Circulation. Cut your foot and the blood pours out from your whole body. Donate blood from your arm and your body creates new blood. Breathe deep and your capillaries start an ocean-like current of oxygen pulsing from deep to deep. Ever moving, ever renewing. But if you have blood cancer, it doesn’t just stay in one place. No leukemia is an island.

Or the conveyor belt metaphor. A little mechanistic for my taste, like saying our bodies are “hard–wired” for something. I am not a machine, nor is the ocean. But maybe this image is easier for people to picture and accept than our hidden blood circulation. Since much of our food production is so mechanized, we can easily relate to food moving on these worldwide deep sea “conveyor belts.” About the same time that I was reading Maps Mean Adventure!, I remember an inspirational film, maybe it was on 1950’s TV, about American industrial know-how pounding out products in bulk. It was about corn flakes, how the Kellogg’s company used conveyor belts to take corn cobs off the field, and then chop, heat, measure, distribute, package, seal, truck, display, and sell, the final product being happy children at breakfast, little cogs in a machine. Despite the troublesome metaphor, it does “convey” the sense of oceans “transporting energy, matter and organisms.”

Next week we will look at Ocean Literacy Principle #2 – how the ocean shapes the earth, facts and ideas about rocks, sand, shelves and waves. For now, if you live near the ocean, or can only imagine it, try to think “one, varied and moving” rather than “separate, uniform and still.” As our bodies are mostly wet, it’s all connected, and designed for living and moving.

Copyright © 2017 Deborah Streeter

Monday
Feb132017

Who Built This Road?

Who paid for and built the roads and bridges you drive on every day? 

Former President Obama (sadder words were never spoken) was widely criticized by the right when he said “You didn’t build that,” to make the point that we all benefit from government infrastructure, research, education, protection, and so on.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business – you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Mitt Romney and others gave Obama a lot of grief for that now catch phrase.  But I am here to testify and to thank Obama and many others for having gone before me and built all kinds of things I benefit from today.  Like roads and bridges.

I met the guy last week whose job title is “Monterey County Director of Maintenance for Roads and Bridges.”  He and several of the other staff from the county’s Division of Public Works came out to our rural neighborhood to listen to our concerns and share what they planned to do about the county road, which has taken quite a beating this year.  We had a huge wildland fire this summer, and then this winter’s record rains and creek runoff have clogged culverts with burned debris and burn scar sediment, washing out huge chunks of pavement and forcing periodic road closures.

The people in our canyon neighborhood have a reputation for being a bit rough.  I call some of them “hippie rednecks.”  We’re not crazy about outsiders and are very self-sufficient.  At the end of the meeting the county staff said they’d been a little nervous coming down here, and they appreciated our support and cooperation.  I like to say “we are rough  - and ready,” meaning we are a can-do group who don’t just call and complain, but go out in the middle of the night and clean culverts, and pull neighbors out of flooded ruts.

Rocky CreekBut we eager to know when the section of road washed out at Rocky Creek might be fixed, so people wouldn’t have to walk across the temporary pedestrian bridge over the rushing creek to get to the car they’ve parked on the other side, carrying groceries and their kids.  Mercifully my house is on the “civilization’ side of this washout, but I do have to navigate other narrowed roads and potholes and rushing creeks to get to town. 

So there’s been all kinds of cool road equipment down here, chugging away during the day, and some they just leave along the side of the road overnight.  I drive by this backhoe every day and it is strangely reassuring.  I remember when my kids were little how much they loved tractors and dump trucks.  When we lived in the suburbs we’d spend hours at the park playing in the sand box with little backhoes or just a bucket and shovel.  It also seemed that whenever we took a walk along a creek the kids would make little dams and bridges along the way. Is there an engineering phase that kids go through like the anal and oral stage, the pushing-earth-around stage?

Some kids never grow out of this phase.  Thank God for that, otherwise we wouldn’t have people like the county road staff.  Our neighbor Norman, who is a private road contractor, was probably such a road builder kid as well.  He has so many different tractors and backhoes and dump trucks and earth movers on his property that our kids used it as a theme park when they were little – “Let’s walk up to Normans and climb on the tractors!”  (Here’s our son Owen on such an excursion.)

Since we and most of our neighbors live on dirt roads, Norman is a busy man, especially this wet winter, clearing rock and mud slides, opening up culverts blocked by debris or sediment, putting in new culverts.  Before the rains came he used that same equipment to carry fire debris from people’s burned home, metal, cars, down to the paved county road and put it in the huge dumpsters that were there for months after the big summer wildfire.  Norman has pulled me and countless others out of ditches.  He takes his big old truck to town and brings back load after load of gravel to put on our goopy muddy roads.

I guess you would call this a “private-public” partnership.  We pay our taxes and are appreciative that the county is down here doing emergency work this winter and that they will rebuild sections of the road this summer.  We go out in the middle of storms and make sure the water is running off the road into ditches, not making ruts down the middle.  We take up a collection for Norman to work on our private dirt roads.  And we are reassured to see Norman and the county bridge and road guy consulting on what’s the best solution to the Rocky Creek mess.

I didn’t build this county road, Palo Colorado Road.  It began as a path along the creek formed by the native Ohlone people, maybe following deer paths.  Then it was a logging road as the area was practically clear cut of redwoods a century ago.  When we first came here in the 1970’s it was paved for only three miles in from the coast highway, and then it was just gravel for the five miles to the National Forest.  That stretch is now paved, but currently the last section of it is closed indefinitely, the country says, because of fire and flood damage. What will the Boy Scouts do this summer when they can’t get to their camp at end of the road?  I saw the Boy Scout director talking with the road and bridge guy also.

Who built the road?  All of them and all of us, we all build it together, and we have to keep building, maintaining, repairing, rerouting, cooperating, reminding the country supervisors that the Public Works folks need more money, offering to bring our neighbors food from town, and saying thanks to all who have built and will build.  

Copyright © 2017 Deborah Streeter

Tuesday
Jan312017

Down the Aisle

Our son is getting married next month, and my husband and I are co-officiating.  No surprise then, that as I wondered what I would write this week about walking, I recalled that special, once (or twice) in a lifetime walk we take, down the aisle.

If you think about all the walks you’ve taken in your life, walking down the aisle at the beginning of your wedding, while brief, may be one of the most memorable walks of your whole life.

Let’s compare walking down the aisle with other walks or runs we take, and let’s “walk through” some of the steps on this significant stroll.

By “walking down the aisle” I mean whatever way you arrived at the place you made your promises, literal aisle or not, church building or not.  How did each of you get to the place where you said your vows?

Having the bride and groom come into the service from two different directions and then standing together at the altar is a symbolic way of showing that, while they have lived up until now separate lives, now they commit to shaping a shared life.

Traditionally the bride makes a dramatic processional entrance that’s a combination of a fashion show catwalk and a flashbulb press conference.  As Brides.com says, to the bride, “Your walk down the aisle is the most epic, most photographed, most significant brief walk of your life.”

The groom, on the other hand, skulks in from the side and stands there waiting while everyone looks at the bride.  I’ve always found this disparity disconcerting.  Why have the groom sneak in the side door unceremoniously and the bride get all the fanfare?

I went to an outdoor wedding in the country once where chairs were set up in a field and various friendly people welcomed us, but the bride and groom were nowhere to be seen.  Suddenly there was a little buzz in the crowd, and people pointed up the hill, and there, walking arm in arm, strode the happy couple, arriving from some distant point out of sight, and coming together to the ceremony that united them.  They had taken a long walk, together, before even walking down the aisle.

When I celebrate weddings I try to encourage couples to pay attention to the patriarchal symbolism in much of the traditional service and realize they have lots of modern choices.  Beginning with how they begin.  This is not a property exchange, a transfer of ownership of bride from father to husband.  Both members of the couple can come down the aisle together, if they like, as my outdoor wedding story, since they have actually been together for some time already.  Or each come down the aisle one at a time, both on the arms of both or many parents.

For gay and lesbian couples it is sometimes easier to overcome these binding traditions and equalize the symbolism.  Not always - traditional roles associated with genders still prevail.  But there is often more of an openness to make the ceremony personal and real.

Let me offer some other training advice, having officiated at hundreds of weddings:

-Practice, practice, practice.  Practice walking down the aisle or however you are going to arrive.  We don’t do these slow walks very often, in new shoes, a long dress or new suit, with everyone looking us.  Try it out.  Like doing a pre-run of a marathon the week before.  Actually marriage is sort of a marathon.  It’s good to pace yourself, and remember you need to be in shape to hang in for the long haul.  (And in my experience, there really is such a thing as the runner’s high kicking in about half way in.)

-In the wedding rehearsal, practice leaving the altar first, and only then practice coming in, recessional before processional. I learned this odd training style, sort of like running backwards to practice agility, from wedding march coach extraordinaire Donna Hook, who coordinated the weddings at a church I served where we did 80 weddings a year.

Start the rehearsal with the whole wedding party standing in front, lined up as if the wedding were just about to begin.  Then practice the recessional, going out.  Only then practice coming back in, the long walk.

Coach Donna gave me these training words that I repeated to many a wedding party: “If you know where you’re headed, you’re more likely to end up there.” 

Sort of like the way some coaches say to visualize the whole race in your mind, especially the finish line.  If you know the point at which you will stop, and in this slow race, turn and face each other, you can figure out how to pace yourself to get there. Maybe a better analogy is practicing getting a good start out of the gate.  Racers practice that a lot.

-I always tell couples to take their time coming down the aisle, it actually isn’t a race.  But an Anglican priest I knew who was serving an American church said that the ponderous processionals drove him crazy.  He said the British tradition is for the priest to walk fast with the couple straight to the altar – is that true?

-We never walk or run alone.  Your friends and family on either side of the aisle are like the cheering crowds that make a huge difference for any walker or runner. Keep going, you can do it!   But in my services I point out that these folks actually are not mere spectators.  They have a promise to make as well, and I ask them to promise to love and support the couple, honor their commitment to each other, and never come between them.  If so, please say with feeling, we will.  So they are more like part of your running team.

Thanks for hearing me out.  That helped me prep and practice a bit for Owen and Sophie’s wedding next month.  They are not especially religious, and are being married in her parents’ New York City apartment, where we will fashion some kind of aisle for the 15 or so guests to line.  But I might just hum to myself the old Christian spiritual:

“Guide my feet, while I run this race.  For I don’t want to run this race in vain.”

Copyright © 2017 Deborah Streeter