i am on a field trip, peregrinating to the mainland to visit new babies and new wives and new boyfriends and new dogs, as well as old friends, and relatives. it is a mixed blessing. i am very happy to see the people, and i look forward to meeting the dog, but i'm also an old curmudgeon, set in my ways, accustomed to the habits of my little camper. although i have lived there less than two months, it already seems 'home', and i am particularly happy at how close it is to creeks where i can sit and listen to the noise of the waves and billows as the water goes over the rocks. i've already become accustomed to look out my window and see either a fir trunk or a thicket; now i'm looking out a window to see a row of commercial buildings opposite the coffee shop where i'm sitting.
so i was delighted when my niece asked me to show her and her new husband (my nephew-in-law?--whatever, he's a dear boy) the waterfalls on whatcom creek. i so easily forget the wonders that are right around me as i wax nostalagic for the wonders that i left behind me. all over again i fell in love with bellingham and the creek that is why it's here. but more importantly it reminded me of something i think henry thoreau said: 'what is heaven but the outside of the earth everywhere?' of as jesus i'm sure said, 'the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' it is easy for me to think of being other places, when where i am is full of angels.
s. kevin of glendalough is probably most famous for letting a blackbird which began to build her nest in his hand, outstretched in prayer, finish the nest and lay her eggs, hatch them and raise her chicks. but there are other stories about kevin and animals as well. one about him and an otter seems particularly helpful to me in my new home by the ocean and the many little creeks and river that join her.
kevin was known for meditating while standing in the water. i'm not quite so studly as he, so i tend to sit just at the edge of the water. one of his favourite books was a collection of writings of holy men. i have a few of those myself. one day he dropped his book in the water. an otter is said to have recovered it for him, and when he opened it, he found that not one word was blurred.
often this story is read (or dismissed) as a pious legend. either one thinks it true and wondrous, or impossible and credulous. but i believe there is another way to read the story, one which gives us deeper insight perhaps into the relationship kevin enjoyed with the rest of the animated world. it is a way that reminds me also of a story about s. anthony of the desert. most of the desert monks had scrolls of holy writings, which they kept on the shelves of their windows. a visitor to anthony noticed no scrolls, and asked the old man where his scrolls were. anthony replied that to the one who has eyes to see, all creation is a holy scroll.
perhaps what kevin found in the gift of the otter was not literally the book he had dropped, but the spirit of the holy, in the sense that the letter kills and the spirit gives life. it encourages me to spend more time listening to the water and her creatures and less time looking at books.