“You always have some sort of secret delight, don’t you.”
-Katherine Brook to Anne Shirley
The bridge spanning mainland Canada and Prince Edward Island is so long it fades into the gray of the water and the sky.
From the driver’s seat, I can see a little red lighthouse at a coastal tip. The green bluffs, the red sand, the sprinkles of blue, purple, pink flowers even from here.
I’m trying to open my heart to receive the impact of this reality—I’m really here, on Anne’s island of dreams.
And he’s waiting for me.
I don’t know where we are going, the three boys and I.
They are kind to drive sixteen hours with me for a destination, an encounter that is mine. More than that—loving, and trusting of my footsteps with God to follow me (literally) to an unidentified place on the island.
His instruction brings us to a red dirt road under construction, to tail a line of cars crunched behind a vehicle plowing dirt, flanked by another flattening the ridge, and I can’t stop laughing, thinking, Jesus, what even….
Rabo, our Irish friend, is tired of the traffic and hollers at me from the back seat, on sing-song repeat, “Take a risk, Grey-iss!”
Turn right, God says suddenly. It’s a turnout through the trees, and the construction vehicle is nearly on Pippin’s tires, but I crank the wheel and ram over the ridge, spitting dirt, throwing the boys into the air.
I’m laughing, Rabo cheering, “She took a risk!” as we rumble into a half-mowed field.
Beyond the tall grass, a bluff and a channel of Atlantic water.
He and I wade ankle-deep across flat, red stones. The bottoms of my feet turn orange in the soft, clay parts of the shoreline. The slatted bluff to my left is overgrown with flowers: clumps of delicate white sprigs, clusters of the blue and purple, spread-eagled daisies.
It looks exactly like the images I treasured in my childhood, and now the magic is my reality to treasure as well.
We explore a quarter mile and choose a cutout to sit and watch the fishing boats rocking beneath a gray sky.
We should build a house, he says.
I chuckle, remembering how I did that all the time as a little girl.
What do you want to make first?
There was a box crate abandoned on the rocks further back. I retrieve it and turn it upside down, setting on top the shells I collected along the way, a crab carcass, a twisting of flowers. Now what?
How about a chair.
Two thin rocks each with a rounded edge fit together as the seat and backing. Sticks for the armrests. A long staff with a draping of dried seaweed becomes the lamp behind it. A mattress of washed-up seaweed and a rock pillow. I find a block of wood and a red brick for a mailbox.
He tells me to retrace my steps, to collect the things he points out.
This shoreline is your life. The water is the ocean of your heart. But you stayed on shore for most of it. Everyone starts as an orphan.
They become sons and daughters when they have love. To have love they must die. Only when they die can they be resurrected, and only when they are resurrected will they trust love.
Stop there, at that wheel. Take that with you.
It’s a rusted, orange helm, probably of a fishing boat. It’s almost as big as me; I can barely get it upright. Jesus, I can’t, it’s too heavy.
I know. You’re always trying to take the helm, but it’s too heavy. You’ll have to leave it and let my spirit take the sails.
He instructs me to walk in the shallows of the water. Slimy algae grows there, little polyps, waving like tentacles. This is the part of your heart where the orphan lives. Where your flesh festers and the water is lukewarm.
Do you see the paradox? It’s green. It’s the perfect environment to produce life, if you allow.
I know that, for so many years, this was as far as I ventured into my heart, because there was safety so close to the shore, and because the ick of its shallows made me resistant to going deeper.
We walk on the rocks, along a path of oozing, purple jellyfish. My feet make tracks around them, as if they are the experiences in my life that stung me, trying to get my attention for love, but I couldn’t see past the pain to the beauty of what it would produce. Instead I learned to sidestep them.
To the right of the jellyfish mine is a field of seagrass, slender, yellow-green shoots bending together in their organic formation.
These are the seagrasses in your heart. All the good, native parts of you that lived even before you knew your heart. You are the field.
Over the ridge of seagrass, the water rolls in miniature waves on the shore. The channel absorbs the gray of the sky, rippling, reflecting tree shadows.
This is where I coaxed you into your heart.
I think of sailing, of sounding my depths, of exploring all the ocean of my heart. After I learned his love on the water, I didn’t want to return to shore.
But we do return to the shore, where I find the splintered parts of a boat among the rocks. An entire beam lashed together with rotting rope, fragments of metal and railing, intact, rusted instruments.
This is where you were shipwrecked. My spirit blew you toward the shore, to teach you my love on the rocks as well as the ocean, but you fought for control of the boat.
Until I ran aground. I can see it.
You have died.
There is a trail of ship pieces along the shore where I tried to carry the remnants in hopes of resurrecting them. One-by-one I dropped them, step-by-step, death-by-death, ‘til I reconciled that I may not be able to return to the ocean. He instructs me to pick up a few artifacts, a long brittle plank of wood.
I clamor over the last of the rocks to the house we have started. Build a rock table and position the artifacts. What do you want me to do with this board?
Snap it in half. Make doorposts out of it.
I wedge them between rocks, creating a sort of hallway between the kitchen and the bedroom.
Now walk through. You are passing into the place I have prepared for you.
Like death to life. Like orphan to home.
Your bed is made of all your seaweeds, the shallow and the deep. You resist sleeping in it, do you know?
I pick up an artifact that looks like a flashlight, the end of its chamber fossilized. What is it?
The end of your telescope. You tried to see far, but it was a narrow view. Now I am widening your eyes to see all of what my spirit sees.
And this one? It looks like a horseshoe.
What else does it look like?
A door knocker.
It’s the handle to your room on the ship.
I pick up the last artifact, similar to an old-fashioned candle extinguisher. Tongue-in-cheek he says, Oh, that’s your old pipe.
I’m at the edge of the water, watching the breaking and welding of glass.
Won’t you come into our home?
I feel funny. But I say okay, almost bashfully. Sitting on the rock-and-wood chair, he tells me this is where all the writing of my soul takes place. I want to take pictures of every event along the shoreline, afraid it isn’t real if it isn’t documented.
All of this exists inside you and is currently taking place.
It’s all so overwhelming and I can’t even cry, as if that’s the proof.
The impact will come for a long time.
So I just sit in our home looking out at our ocean.
You are no longer an orphan. I am your Father, this is your home.
And now I see that I am resurrected to venture further into my ocean and to sail home whenever I wish, however the wind will take my sails.
Later, when I retrace my steps back to the car with only the telescope end, I find that one of the boys has built, around the helm I left upright, a ship’s prow with driftwood.