December 11

Our Lady of Shells

Photography, Sacred life


Mother ocean, we huddle around her, poor lost children forever tied to land but unable to forget the slow, hypnotic beat of her heat, the gentle waves of her womb. She is reliable, constant in her changes; rising and falling without fear. Here her children go about their lives in worlds we can glimpse but not inhabit, feeling the loss of fin and feather down deep within the DNA that makes us, almost the same; all her children fraternal twins. If we could be like she, who births wild diversity without a hint of fear, who loves wide as the current, deep at the troughs.

When we forget that we are shell people, little soft beings infinitely fragile, protected only by the rainbow pearls of her hands; then we forget who she Is, we make up stories for ourselves full of violence and anger. Stories with no room for the gentle thrum of the tide in our blood, pulling us back toward her, the soul deep twist of our DNA binding us up with everything she has made.

And our souls grow lonely, out here in the cold air, out here in the dry air all alone and different, not because we are but because we have forgotten that we all swim in She whose heart is the ocean. Whose breath is the wind, whose blood flows salty and strong through everything that moves. She is called by a thousand different names, and no name for the roots of her go deeper than language can bear.

The oysters shine for her, pearl bright in the darkness that is life. Little bivalves, sipping life from the blood she spills that life might go on. Wild, crying gulls filled with vigor and bluster and the fire of her sun themselves without apology riding the milk soft streams of her laughter.

And we who stand with her tides licking at our feet and tip our faces to her veiled and hoary face worship in our own and quiet way, hard fought for we of all her creatures can forget that she is there.


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