I was on a brief break last week. We went to Simcoe Island (getting there is a 2 ferry adventure, winter population 20) and stayed in a small cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It reminded me of the cottages my grandparents had in the Kawarthas when I was a youngster. Dusty gravel roads with sunning garter snakes, fireflies at night competing with the stars for your attention, the constant sound of water at night. In other words, Canadian Eden.
What moved me these past few days was the wind. It blew constantly. Each day was hot but as long as you were close to the water the breeze cooled things off. And kept the mosquitos at bay.
I sat or stood (and occasionally napped) in that wind every day, for longer than I would have predicted. It wasn’t strong enough to blow me over. But it was strong enough to blow through me. I felt it pushing through my cells and exiting on the other side. While it was blowing I felt cleansed. Not sand-blasted, just like new life was blowing into me, taking my tiredness and all its causes.
In our faith traditions, including followers of Jesus, we talk about cleansing through the ancient elements. The waters of baptism. The purging of the Spirit’s fire.
Of old we spoke of our sins being washed away, of the fire burning away all the dross in our lives. The symbolism of baptism, being immersed in water for a brief moment, is of dying to an old way of life and then breathing again. Another interpretation could be that of being plunged into the seas from which we emerged to reconnect with the source of all life. Fire symbolises the uncontrollable, often painful, experiences of life that remind us of our true value and help clarify what we value.
Those two elements remind us, daily, of the peril of our planet, as flooding of coastlands and wildfires in California and Siberia and Northern Canada speak to us of the imminent danger of unchecked “controlled” burning of fossil fuels.
The wind, with its own destructive power, was the element the Ancient Church used to describe the Spirit. There were tongues of flame ascribed to Pentecost, but the wind was there too. It drove the early believers beyond themselves. It inspired them to courage and compassion and community. It permeated their existence.
Those of us who need to get beyond ourselves require more time out in the wind.
Comments? Questions? Contact Cameron, email@example.com