My Garden is Colorful
My garden is colorful and a little unruly
Not far from the sea
Not far from the river
Mums and ground orchids
Impatience…and colorful weeds!
The Easter lilies have dropped their white petals
Bees do what bees do
Birds call to each other
and attempt to impress
I am back home…again
Just like when I returned last week to
Stella Maris “Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel”
At the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to celebrate her 50th Birthday
Thank You Jesus!
for calling me on this journey
Sometimes the seas were calm
Many times they were quite rough
And on a few occasions we had to batten down the hatches!
As a cadet aboard the SS Doctor Lykes back in 1980, we were in the North Atlantic as the waves tossed about our huge ship like a bobbing apple attempting to avoid the proverbial bite! I was just 20 years old on my internship on merchant ships attempting to get my license.
Not thinking but seeking a thrill, the other cadet and I went close to the waterline as we rolled at 20 to 40 degree rolls. We opened the hatch door to the deck area used to tie up the ship on the starboard side. It was like a large balcony. We then closed ourselves off from the safety of the ship by securing the wheel of the door hatch. The sea coming within a yard of the deck mesmerized us. We took pictures of each other as the waves looked to be above our area. I flinched at the massive wave as my cadet buddy laughed at me. I was thinking that I wish I was more brave.
Then as I was taking his picture, my warning was heeded as if I was crying wolf. “Look out!” I am not sure he could hear my scream compared with the crash of the wave into our balcony.
As the sea and all its power flooded our deck area, we grabbed onto whatever would keep us connected to the ship. We quickly swam to the wheel of the door like monkeys swinging from tree to tree as the water rose to our chests. As the ship heaved to port she took the water with her. If we opened the hatch at this time, we would flood the ship. I don’t think I have ever felt so small and insignificant in my whole life. We were in a very dangerous, foolish and life threatening position. We were fish in a little fishbowl while the cat played with us and smiled.
After what seemed like eternity, the ship seemed to roll to starboard as the water poured out of our area like the rapids. My grip was releasing without my permission.
Then one of us screamed to open the hatch even though the water was still about a foot above the bottom of the door. We both with herculean (or desperate) strength spun the stubborn wheel of the hatch that had kept us from safety while keeping the ship from flooding.
Even though the ocean was still a few inches above the doorstep, we started to roll back to port…
So we opened the hatch and flowed into the ship with a few inches of ocean water. We slid onto the deck and simultaneously turned back to the hatch and slammed the door shut against the raging sea just as the next wave of water slammed up as high as the port hole in the door!
We spun the wheel and collapsed onto the bottom landing attempting to catch our breath as we watched in a trance as the few inches of water drained into the drains.
We knew something greater than ourselves could have opened and closed that hatch. It seemed even stronger than adrenalin. Now all we had to do was sneak up to our cabins unseen and get out of our slopping wet clothes. Hopefully, all evidence would evaporate. If we got caught, we might not get keelhauled, but are careers as Merchant Officers would be in serious jeopardy.
The next day, the Chief Mate had me tag along for his safety check of the ship to evaluate any damage from the storm. I had only been on board for about two weeks and I was still young and dumb. When we came to the door, He warned me to never go out on that deck while the ship is underway. It is even dangerous during calm waters. He told me how they almost lost an able bodied seaman overboard in fairly calm seas. He looked me in the eyes and he misinterpreted my fear as agreeing with his assessment and mentoring. I shook my head, pretending to be in disbelief. This is probably one of my greatest lies.
My pictures are a wash. I had to buy a new camera in the Netherlands. After all these years, I am still afraid I will get in trouble for my ill-advised thrill seeking. However, the story is part of me and I don’t want to let it go. Yes! Yes! God must have saved me that day. It was a miracle. I was raised up from the depths of the sea; even though unworthy I am.
**On the bridge of the ship, we seek and scan the horizon for the navigational lights. When we see it, we have great joy like the magi seeing the star over the house where the baby Jesus laid. But then we must keep going among the rocks, shoals and dangers until we reach a safe harbor.
Some sailed to the sea in ships
to trade on the mighty waters.
These men have seen the Lord’s deeds,
the wonders he does in the deep.
For he spoke; he summoned the gale,
raising up the waves of the sea.
Tossed up to heaven, then into the deep;
their soul melted away in their distress
They staggered, reeled like drunken men,
for all their skill was gone.
Then they cried to the Lord in their need
and he rescued them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper:
all the waves of the sea were hushed.
They rejoiced because of the calm
and he led them to the haven they desired.
Let them thank the Lord for his love,
the wonders he does for men and women.
Let them exalt him in the gathering of the people
and praise him in the meeting of the elders.
The Mariner’s Chapel was built for the Glory of God and in memoriam for the men and officers who lost their lives at sea. Over 7000 human beings and 142 midshipmen who died are remembered in this House of God. This is the place where I got my vocation and calling to navigate the ship of my soul and be a light to others. The chapel is a navigational light that is used to navigate the Long Island Sound. It also helps us to find the safe harbor of our souls.
Have a wonderful week and journey in the Garden of God!
Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +