A couple of years ago, I posted some pictures that I took in the Cypress Swamp that lies along the Natchez Trace. It's impossible to tell from the pictures how very beautiful it was because the reflection of the light off the water filled the entire swamp and it was like walking underwater. It was (that overused word) magical; more than that, it was numinous.
I very much wanted to share this place with my husband, so on our way to the shore this weekend, I made plans to stop there along the way. I was excited as we walked down the (very difficult) steps to the bridge which leads into the swamp, and then we got there and it was--nice. I couldn't figure out what was wrong until I realized that it was almost completely dry. There was only a small stream trickling down the middle. The living water was gone, taking the light with it. I told Bill and a friend later that it just goes to show that you can't get into Narnia twice the same way.
The next morning at 4:00 AM, I walked on the porch of the beach house that we had rented and saw the enormous, bright, orange moon beginning to set into the bay. I sat and watched as it fell below a cloud on the horizon and then appeared suddenly below the cloud, looking for all the world like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. This was just the beginning.
I went down to the little covered area on the end of the pier (don't know what this is called) and spent the next three hours in a state of wonder. Although there were no stars visible in the north, where the moon had been, I turned around and saw that the sky in the south was filled with stars and I watched as they moved across the sky, and then at twilight the water turned to silver, moving gently up the bay and lapping quietly on the shore. It reminded me forcibly of a line from Elizabeth's Goudge's The Scent of Water where a dying woman says that she is sailing out on living water.
And then with the light came the birds, hundreds of them skimming the water or circling in the air, gliding and swooping and sometimes diving for a fish. They were the living embodiment of the scripture which talks about the glorious freedom of the sons of God. On and on they came, sometimes settling for a while on the piers, and then rising again to the light.
As I sat there immersed in all this glory, and glory it truly was, I knew that I was being changed forever in some way that I don't even yet understand. It was some kind of Transfiguration, an illumination that would stay with me and carry me through the rest of my life. It was like light from Light.
As I looked at the piers, I was thinking about how ephemeral they were. They look permanent, but could disappear in a moment in the midst of a hurricane. And I thought about how suitable this is. How it teaches us not to hold fast to anything in this world. And then I remembered this conversation about Robert Frost's poem "Out, Out--". We talked about the sad truth that when someone we love dies, we grieve, but then pick up our lives and go on as before, although some part of us has been forever changed by the loss.
And then, I realized that in a way it's the same thing. Whether we are transfigured by grief or by glory, we go on. In our hearts and souls a momentous change has occurred, but on the surface, there is barely a ripple. We get up and do our accustomed chores. We eat and drink, and rejoice and mourn as before, but in an unseen reality, nothing is the same.