"Me As a Lobster" I typed laboriously on the tiny keyboard of my cell phone, which had just captured a photograph of me grinning through the face-shaped opening in a human-sized wooden representation of a lobster standing on his tail. With the press of a button, I sent it off to my daughter, who loves everything connected with the state of Maine.
I'm afraid it's not warm enough for the alewives, my hostess said, disappointed. But maybe it'll warm up on Sunday and they'll start running. The alewives, it turns out, aren't ladies who spend too many afternoons at the pub: they're fish who return from the sea to their freshwater pond to spawn every year, swimming upstream against very strong rapids to do so. Right across the road from the house in which I stayed is a fish ladder to which thousands of them come every year. People travel from miles around to watch them.
Fish are cold-blooded, though. Everything within them quickens or slows in response to the weather. Not that they mind much, since it means that they don't experience the difference between the temperature of the air and the temperature of our own bodies that sends all the rest of us scurrying for our fleece. When it's cold, they just don't move until it gets warm again, no matter how many people may be waiting on the bridge above the fish ladder to watch them swim upstream.
I was in Maine to talk about the spirituality of getting older, something in which we all will have opportunity to become expert if we choose. Aging is so much about limits: some of us will run marathons and give birth into our eighties, we are assured, but most of us will notice some diminishment of physical power and will elect to sit this one out. And so we will have the opportunity to know the second thing that aging is about: grace. Grace is the saving goodness of God, given us for no reason other than that God loves us. Being God-given, it bears the marks of the divine freedom and the divine newness. Maybe we can't do or be many of the old things any more, but God gives us new ones we can do and be.
We talked about the Serenity Prayer in relation to the aging project: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. It's a prayer all about limits and grace. There are many things I cannot master, more all the time. I'm going to have to make my peace with that, or I will squander whatever time I have left mourning what I have lost, and will never learn to love what comes next.
Maybe the alewives will come this afternoon, we told each other an hour or so before I had to leave for the airport, but they did not. Still too cold. Families in rubber boots and sweaters trudged up and down the path to the fish ladder, though, happy to be out together even if the fish weren't putting on a show, and the water itself was a beautiful and powerful thing to watch, as it rushed and fell over the rocks.
Want to see the alewives? Visit http://www.gma.org/undersea_landscapes/alewives/
This weekend, a visit to North and South Carolina:
Sunday, May 27, Barbara Crafton will preach at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, NC at 8:00 and 11:15. http://www.allsoulscathedral.org/Directions.htm
Sunday, May 27 through Thursday May 31, "Gardens and Grace" at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC, with Philip Roderick, Terry Hershey, Denise Inge, Barbara Crafton and many others. http://www.kanuga.org/conferences/2007/gardens-grace.shtml
Saturday, June 2nd, 9:30-3:00, St. James Center for Spiritual Development in Greenville, SC. http://webpages.charter.net/owlwoman/SJCSD/Index.htm