The Open Horizon

Vinalhaven is the only place I know where you can see the open horizon while waiting to pay for groceries. There is something about the open horizon that reminds me of connections we cannot see, but I know are there. Straight out from Maine lies Africa, or England, or Brazil…. There is an exciting comfort in this awareness even as I stand in line at the market with my basket of stuff. There is also something about shopping for the sundry necessities of daily existence that reminds me of our inter-connectedness. As I wait in line, gazing through the window beyond the boats in the harbor, I enjoy the truth that I am not alone, waiting to buy some of the necessities of life that were brought here from far away.

I used to live on the outer arm of Cape Cod where the locals called people from away, “wash-a-shores” like so much flotsam and wreckage that often littered the beach. The term was used in endearing and disparaging ways, depending on the general behavior and acceptance of the person being described. Some wash-a-shores were welcomed in as part of the place, like strands of rope woven into the fabric of the community, or useful knots in a collective net. Others kept to themselves and stayed on the edge of things, perhaps by their own choice. I aspired to be of the former type, and I wore my “wash-a-shore” status with appropriate humility and gratitude.

That was many years ago, and now I find myself washed ashore on this island, grateful to the forces of providence or chance that brought me here to share good news in an old church. It occurred to me as I gazed at the horizon while waiting to buy groceries that the forces of providence, or chance, or tragedy, or even grace, are sometimes hard to discern. Each of us from time to time can feel adrift, or lost, or alone in a storm where we might not even know how to ask for help from those around us. I think this is especially true at this moment in history, where forces of confusion make it easy to lose our bearings, to drown in a sea of concentrated bad news or lose heart from cruel voices inside our own heads. I know that I need reminders of a True North that has stood the test of time, remembered in a community of faith and service. Without that, even the exciting beauty of an open horizon might look empty, or worse.

Whether we washed ashore or were born into a family that has belonged here for generations, one of my prayers is that none of us lose the True North that helps us navigate the week or just get through the morning. When we feel alone, or desperate, or lost, may we remember the truth that we are never alone, that we are connected in ways we cannot always see. And if we come across someone who is feeling lost, or washed up, or stuck on the rocks, may we be blessed with even a strand of love and courage to remind them of the truth from the beyond the horizon that is also right with us in line.

Jeff Lewis

Union Church

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