Saturday, November 01, 2008

Time and Tide

I spent last weekend with my family at the Nausett lightkeeper's house at Nauset Beach in Cape Cod. A friend of ours who owns the house was very generous in letting us stay at that special home.

I could hardly believe the wind and waves. Nature is having its way with Nauset Beach. The original five acre plot the light was on is now down to only three and a half acres. The sea is washing away three feet of land a year on average. Evidently Cape Cod as a whole is literally falling into the sea.

In the mid-nineties, after ten feet of beach was lost in three successive years, both the lighthouse and the lighkeepers house were moved to higher ground for what must have been an altogether mind-boggling price.

All of this makes the home we stayed at an especially powerful place to stay. Generations of people have fought to keep the light and the lightkeeper's house alive. And it still stands, a beacon in the night.

On the morning we left for the coast I went and visited the oldest member of our congregation. He is nearly 96. "You can live to be a 100," he said as we sat together at his breakfast table, "but even if you do life is still too short." The whole time I was on the Cape I couldn't help but think that those words and the whole story of the Nausett Beach Light were somehow interlinked. We are alive today and perhaps tomorrow but as the psalms say, "Man's life is but a puff." In the end time and tide will have there way.

Yet somehow the effort is worth it. To be alive today is worth it. To be a light in the midst of the darkness right here and right now is enough.

There is a lightkeeper's inn log, less romantically known as a guest book, in the house. Entries date back for decades. In my entry I included my favorite poem, of unknown authorship but first passed on to me by that great African American mystic and churchman Howard Thurman. I thought the words were apt.

The Struggle
You say the little efforts I make
Will do no good
They never will prevail
To tip the hovering scale
Justice keeps in balance
I didn't say I ever thought they would
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
In favor of my right to choose
Which side shall feel
The stubborn ounces of my weight