I swam in a sea of words today.

I wanted to go to the beach, to sit and look at the ocean and feel myself come back to life.

Alas…I went to work, and then to the library, and floated among the stacks in the basement looking for a book that would be as wide open as the ocean. I left with G.K. Chesterton‘s Everlasting Man, Madeleine L’Engle‘s Penguins and Golden Calves (a discussion of icons with the backdrop of a trip she made to Antarctica…at the age of 74) and The Ordering of Love, an exhaustive collection of her poetry.

I went to Panera Bread and sat out on the patio with some iced tea, letting my winter-in-the-library skin bake in the sun like I was on a boat deck, and I loosed the moorings.

Didn’t even touch Chesterton, because I became lost in L’Engle’s poetry. Brilliant. She says, “Poetry, at least the kind I write, is written out of immediate need; it is written out of pain, joy, and experience too great to be borne until it is ordered into words. And then it is written to be shared.” I share the former reason with her…I’ve found poetry to be a portal leading out of myself when the weight is too much to bear. I don’t share mine often, but I probably would if it was like hers.

She’s my new hero, Madeleine L’Engle. She seems like she’s embraced life and her own humanity in all its heartbreaking, sensual, victorious glory. I’ve never read much of her, but she’s written over 50 books and I can’t wait to get to know her more.

My favorite from the day, The Samaritan Woman at the Well, paints the Incarnation in imagery I’ve never seen before.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Madeleine L’Engle

The waters are wild, are wild.

Billows batter with unchannelled might.

A turmoil of waves foams on the ocean’s face

wind-whipped the waters hurl

the rivers rush

fountains burst from the rocks

the rapids break huge boulders into dust

the skies split with torrential rains

waters meet waters

the wind and waves are too tumultuous

no one can meet them and survive

In this wilderness of water

we shall all be drowned

the ocean cannot be compassed

I weep, I die

Put my tears in your bottle


I thirst


the water is in a cup

(O Lord open thou our lips)

I thirst

Is it any less water

because you have contained it for us

in a vessel we can touch?


One thought on “Swimming

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  1. Love. As always.

    I wholeheartedly agree with L’Engle’s view of poetry. When I was younger, I’d sit down to write it for fun and see what I could rhyme. Now it comes out of necessity. Out of emotions so strong and thoughts so loud that I literally must spontaneously stop what I’m doing to spill them onto a page. And I just go in freeform, often rhyming without focusing on it too much, aiming to release what an average journal entry cannot convey since it lacks a poem’s brevity and emphasis.

    Her Incarnation imagery in that poem rocked my mind. She so beautifully conveys something that can sadly become rote to us, as can the usual metaphors for needing Jesus to reach God. That last stanza kills me. SO good. I would love to professionally print this poem and a photo of the ocean, frame them together, and hang it on my wall. Seriously.


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