Sometime shortly after the demise of my first marriage, back in the early 80's, I met a woman at a church supper. Maggie, a devout Episcopalian with aspirations to the diaconate, was 60-something at the time, newly abandoned by a husband who had run off to Florida with a young man, embarrassing their four children and leaving Maggie somewhat of a pariah in the small New England town where we both lived.
Maggie was an amazing woman with a strong sense of humor and a profound love of God, and we discovered at that church supper that we had gone to the same high school in Illinois and could both still sing that school's alma mater. For whatever reason, we became fast friends, and I began spending a lot of time at her little red house on the edge of the Connecticut River.
Prior to her husband's abdication, Maggie had been heavily involved with a women's bridge group in town, and they used to go off together in the summer to spend time at a small cottage on an island off the coast of Boston. No longer invited on these mini-vacations, she still had access to the cottage, so she invited me down for a weekend, a trip which initiated my lifelong love of islands.
Baker's Island was tiny, only a mile long, accessible by two mailboats a day. While there we walked the perimeter of the island -- which didn't take us very long -- and I discovered cranberry bogs and another lifelong obsession: beach glass, worn smooth by the pounding of the surf. We sat on her porch and played cards, watched the sun set over the nearby lighthouse, and Maggie sang old sailor's hymns from the community church hymnal accompanied by the harmonica I had brought with me.
There was only one bedroom, but there were wide window seats around the perimeter of the living room, which looked out across the Atlantic Ocean to a horizon unbroken by any other land. So I slept there, and on Friday night I was awakened at some point by what looked like it might be a nuclear explosion somewhere across the sea -- maybe in England? I stared, transfixed and horrified, as the huge ball of light began rising slowly over the sea, sending a bright ribbon across the water straight into my living room.
I thought about waking Maggie to tell her the end of the world had come, but I was too terrified to move, and it seemed to be happening rather slowly... and then I realized it wasn't an explosion at all, but simply the full moon coming up on the horizon. I had never seen such a thing before -- never having lived on the water -- and an enormous sense of peace and connectedness stole over me: the power of that first ocean moonrise is something that lives with me still.
This morning I sat in meditation, resting in one of the visual images that often accompanies me in these quiet times: a distant horizon that somehow represents the passage of time, with a vertical line connecting the divine light above with the divine light within me, below that horizon.
And as I sat, breathing deeply at the intersection of the horizontal and the vertical, I thought of that long ago night on Baker's Island; of Maggie, who later became my daughter's godmother, and still later passed away. And it seemed that God was that immense moon, and I, made in God's image, could be that ribbon of light, the reflection of that divinity reaching across the surface of life and into the deepest heart of being.
Just a thought. But pleasant, nonetheless.