They Call the Wind…

Calling Neptune

Calling Neptune

            Mariah or Mary is still the number one name bestowed upon newborn girls in the United States, and the wind is called Mariah according to an old ballad. It’s remained popular in western cultures since the Angel Gabriel brought astonishing news to the young virgin, Mary and her mom, Ann. People seem to fit with their names. Most friends would agree that my personality is more in sync with the name Jeri than it is with the name of Mary’s mother, even though it is my middle name. My identity changes with the company or tribe who count me as either one of them or one among them. I’ll answer to “Dr. Levesque”, “Dr. J”, “Jer”, “Mom”, and “Mimi”. In fact, one friend calls me Hugo, but being nicknamed after a hyperactive kid on a delayed flight to Orlando is a story that doesn’t fit here. Names are an integral part of each person’s unique identity and the internal compass that helps us to navigate the life journey.


May the Rulers of the 4 Winds Be Favorable

Every boat afloat, once it is properly named, is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep. This is far more serious than the description of the vessel by “birth year” and length that appears on personal property tax assessments. The Ledger is kept by Poseidon /Neptune, the “mighty and great ruler of the oceans and seas”, the ageless god of the Sea (small g but long known in legends and myths). When a boat is named, according to tradition, the owner asks for Neptune’s protection from the wrath of the sea and the whims of the four winds.

Yesterday we welcomed new sailors to our dock and took part in the de-naming and christening of their recently purchased older boat. The ceremonies involved a chieftain, a sailor’s ritual, many libations offered to Neptune and rulers of the four winds, and a general celebration of fresh members in the Sioux Harbor tribe.

Sailors are a superstitious lot. To change a boat’s name is said to bring about bad luck. Really bad, for instance, to skip the ceremony and have lightning seek out the Ex Libris’ mast in a crowded harbor. Only the foolish would change the name of a boat on Neptune’s Ledger without asking for him to erase it from memory and then reintroduce the same vessel with a new moniker to the Ledger.

At high noon, every sailor on our dock huddled around the newcomers’ boat and accepted a flute of champagne. We took part in the ritual of calling forth Neptune and the four winds and beseech each to protect the sailing vessel when it is at port or sea.

We solemnly asked for protection from the overwhelming scourge of the frigid breath of Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind. Turning to the west, we sought the grace of Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind to spare us the overwhelming scourge of its wild breath. To the east, we pursued the defense of Great Eurus to spare us from its mighty breath. And then perhaps a tad disoriented from the blazing noonday sun and champagne, we asked Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, for permission to use his mighty powers in the pursuit of lawful endeavors, to ever spare us from the overwhelming scourge of his scalding breath. When the high chief completed the ceremony, cheered and toasted, then tucked away our cameras, returned the plastic flutes, and went back to our own boats.  We felt comfortable with the new neighbors and were confident that the winds recently honored would be favorable. We set sail with our friends on the Sandpiper.

Lady J

Welcome Aboard the Lady J

One cannot be identified as a sailor without admitting to being somewhat superstitious – although until yesterday – I would not have listed superstition as one of my personal character traits. That changed when the memories of the moment we named our four children stood tall in my mind. Each name appears to have foreshadowed the distinct personality that evolved from birth as it was set on God’s ledger.

Perhaps it is the sailor in me who upon rising every morning whispers the name of each of my children and grandchildren while asking God to protect them from harm.  They are evermore central to the name that bears my identity as simply; “Mom” and “Mimi”. We are part of a very small tribe of kindred souls charting a lifeline and sailing together. We are a crew of twelve not bound by proximity. We are sealed together by name and love. Take a moment – say the names of yours – it’s almost impossible not to offer a humble prayer for protection and of gratitude for their lives. Mizpah.[1]

[1]The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Genesis 31:19

Two Ships Passed


Photo by TJC

Finn is bobbing on the outgoing tide, her docklines are taught and straining to be free. She is unaware that when the wish is granted – the lines will be coiled and hung from a hook, her hull cradled by a metal berth, the topsides shrouded beneath a royal blue tarp. She will be separated from the sea and her crew, tucked away in the backyard for three long seasons. It’s time to swallow the anchor and retire from our seaside hamlet for another year. We are returning to our home midway downstream of North America’s greatest drainage system and leaving behind a narrow estuary with a mere seven mile flow from source to sea. Should we enjoy the continued blessings of health and prosperity we will return in a year.

The rivers flowing today will be long gone when we return. The water between the banks will have found its place in the sea or have joined the clouds in the sky. New waters will bubble up through the ground and fall from the sky as Nature invests in the flow between the banks. It is a small tribute to the anxiety that rides lightly astride my aging process that a humble prayer runs through my soul – a petition for good health and sharp wits to remain with those I love during the upcoming circle around the sun.

My worries concerning as yet unknown events that will transpire during Finn’s hibernation blossom from a seed planted a exactly a year ago when two ships passed in the night. Longfellow would explain that time laid its hand upon our dear friend’s heart, “gently, not smiting it”. It was as a “harper placing his hand upon his harp, to deaden it’s vibrations.” And so it was. The music ended yet the deafening quiet that followed his finale blares loud in my memory. While Peter’s heart was stilled, over the following two days his spirit briefly soared close to shore. We are certain that it heard the first cries of his newborn grandchild.  And so it was, that a mere year ago, “on the oceans of life” a grandfather and a newborn passed and  spoke to one another, then sailed into the night. Today the child’s heart vibrates with youthful zeal. She laughs to the beat of clapping hands as the family sings to her loudly and off key in celebration of her first birthday.

Today our family is reminded, by Longfellow’s verse, that, “God sent his singers upon the earth, With songs of sadness and of mirth, That they might touch the hearts of men, and bring them back to heaven again.” We are charged, as God’s earthly singers, to be in tune with the angels by sharing our grief and joy, fear and hope whenever we mourn a loss and celebrate a new life. “So on the oceans of life – we pass and speak to one another.”

On these tender days of August, for the rest of my earthly tenure, “My soul (will be) full of longing, 
For the secret of the Sea, 
And the heart of the great ocean
, Sends a thrilling pulse through me.”  Sail on through the heavens, dear Peter. Oh! What grand adventures lie before your bow, dear Maggie, as you captain your own vessel upon the stream for many, many circumnavigations around the sun.


Upstream or downstream? Depends on from where you look


Quotations from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poems, Ships the Pass in the Night, The Golden Legend, The Singers, and Secrets of the Sea.

Starring: Swift Turtle and St. Lawrence’s Tears, Part II

St Lawrence

Lawrence of Rome, became a saint, according to one legend, as a result of his family being entrusted to safe guard Church treasures, including the sacred holy chalice of the Last Supper. Lawrence protected the Holy Grail and other treasures until corrupt authorities commanded that the sacred riches be turned over to the them. Lawrence defied the illicit mandate by secretly giving the Grail to his cousin in Spain for safekeeping.

Rather than give the other valuables he was guarding to the disreputable Roman prefect, Lawrence gave it all to the poor. Lawrence defended his defiance stating that the true riches of the Church were the weak, the poor, and the sick. Lawrence believed that the Church was ultimately responsible for protecting the welfare of its human treasures. Lawrence’s conviction that the strong should protect the weak gave him due cause for tears. The Roman officials caught on to his rebellion and became enraged. They literally fried Lawrence’s arse and roasted his head on a spit. His last words, shouted with great passion were, “I’m done on this side! Turn me over and eat!” Lawrence’s head never melted down or lost its form. This miracle proved that he was, in deed and in death, a saint. Not surprisingly, Lawrence is the patron saint of tanners.

The gridiron that roasted St. Lawrence is on display in a Roman chapel. The martyr’s charred skull is venerated by the faithful on his Holy Day, August 10th, which is of course when the Comet Swift Turtle shoots forth the Perseids Meteor Shower. Or, as it is known in many parts of the world, the heavens are ablaze with the Tears of St. Lawrence.


Standing on the shore the other night, I searched inky skies for signs of tears from a man who died to preserve a wine glass and protect the poor.  I don’t believe that outer space is showered with tears of grief or fear. Rather, it seems that St. Lawrence laughs so hard that once a year his tears splash across the Milky Way.

Fire Up the Coals

Fire Up the Coals

The joke is on us – we too can laugh until tears flow -somewhere the Holy Grail is safe. St. Lawrence did his job well. Whether in faith or for real, the Grail is protected from harm, safe within Swift Turtle’s shells. It lies somewhere between pieces of legends and lands where stars and people fit into a puzzle of life experiences. So, fire up the grill, light a bonfire, lie down on Swift Turtle’s back, sail through a comet’s tail and witness the tears of a saint streaking across the heavens.

Skeptics may simply conclude that the magic of summer nights is just that – creative imagination. That should not keep us from appreciating the lessons of legends about the power that one turtle, one spirit, and one person can have in shaping our ways of knowing the world. Stella Luce.


Starring: Swift Turtle and St. Lawrence’s Tears


Part One

Our swiftly spinning planet is tilting North America’s summer perch away from the sun. A celestial thief is purloining daylight hours to the delight of the miserly night sky. It is during these longer, cooler nights that a spectacular display transforms the night sky into a celestial light show. This weekend soaking rains are predicted to yield the sky to the brilliant Perseid meteor shower as our hemisphere passes through remnants of the Comet Swift Turtle. Actually, it’s Swift-Tuttle, but this is my version of an old story, and it’s my miscue, so Swift Turtle it shall remain.

Turtle Tatt

Swift Turtle

There are many legends about turtles. One tells the tale of  a Spirit who accidently hurt a sea turtle lounging in the sun on an ocean beach. This was long before turtles look like they do now. Back then, according to folklore, turtles were almost always female, shell-less, with soft supple skin, and strong bones. They were able to travel swiftly on land and in the sea.

According to my memory of lore, the clumsy Spirit was mortified that he had injured a delicate creature. To make amends he presented the swift turtle with the gift of protection. It consisted of two large shells picked from the shore. They matched size-wise and fit nicely together. The Spirit gently slid one shell  beneath her stomach and lightly placed the second upon her back. The Spirit proclaimed that she would never fear injury for whenever threatened she could pull her arms, legs, and head safely into the secure shells that would protect her from harm.

Time moved as swiftly as turtles during that mystical era. Eventually the shells hardened into mountains and hills. Swift Turtle’s carriage became an interlocking system of platelets all fitting together. Her limbs became the four compass points. Her head was filled with wisdom and led the way. Her tail was happy to follow. She moved with grace and peace. Swift Turtle became ancient and wise – a totem – the symbol of eternal earth. She carries the weight of the world on her back and reminds us that the universe is our home.

Totem Turtle

Photo by

Astronomers predict that one day the remaining embers of Comet Swift-Tuttle will crash into either the moon or Earth. I imagine that such a collision would have catastrophic repercussions and bring much sadness. Then again, Swift Turtle was granted the gift of protection. We know the children of the Comet Swift Turtle as the Perseid Meteor Shower, but medieval clerics referred to the blazing annual nocturnal visitors as the “Tears of St. Lawrence.”

Tears of St Lawrence

Tears of St. Lawrence

Next: Swift Turtle Honors a Tearful Saint

Great Whites


3,000 teeth behind 1 smile

The eighth month of the calendar year brings forth the quintessential American television phenomenon, Shark Week. Every evening the Discovery Channel treats its viewers to vivid footages of sharks doing what they do best – thrive. They are the direct descendants of predators who fed during the time of dinosaurs 60 million years ago. Sharks spend their lifetime swimming, breeding, hunting, and eating.

The star of a typical episode of the series is a lean, mean eating machine. The thirty-something year old great white female debuting the other evening was about 14 feet long and weighed a couple of tons. The film was shot a year ago, but last weekend she was cited back in her summer playground, about 15 feet off Chatham Beach, Cape Cod. Chatham boasts an abundance of overweight beach goers and plump seals. It’s a favorite feeding ground for carcharodon carcharias – great white sharks.


Don’t go into the water

Humans are winning the predator versus prey game with sharks. About a hundred million sharks are caught a year compared to less than ten shark attacks on humans. Fortunately for sharks, Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams gave us a killer sound track that put the fear of being eaten should just a single toe set foot in salt water.  This relieved sharks of the temptation to nosh on people who feared sharks and stayed clear of the water while at the same time deciding to protect a declining population of seals. This is how Chatham became the preferred dining spot for great whites.

Go Into the Water

2 healthy eaters

Looking at photos of the beach goers splayed on sandy towels and the whiskered, doe eyed seals basking in the shoals – it’s pretty obvious that sharks thrive because they are discriminate eaters. The beach crowd is filled with artificial preservatives, cholesterol, toxins, and who knows what kind of germs. The seals eat the catch of the day – fish and mollusks. It’s a healthy diet. People aren’t such a healthy menu choice.

Depending how you look at it – eating fresh and free wins. Sharks and seals thrive. Lots of people are afraid to go into the water. After a day of excessive sun exposure people pack up their towels and become scavengers. Unlike sharks, people prefer to eat dead stuff. If we are what we eat – including seafood – it’s no wonder that many people feel drawn to the water. Whether fried, grilled, steamed or blackened a little bit of the sea is digested which becomes part of our blood. Just remember, if you eat too much of anything, you’re going to need a bigger boat. So, contrary to the tag line of a Jaws movie, “don’t go into the water”, go ahead – jump right in -splash, swim and enjoy the waves. No worries, mates – sharks prefer to eat fresh and healthy rather than baked and fried. Bon Appetite!


Amity means friendship