A Day On The Dock On Clary Lake

By Margaret Fergusson

If I step into the day early enough, sunrise over the tree line is my gift; a glorious beginning! More often, I’m catching up with the recently risen sun. I make my way down to the lake, walking along a grassy incline, strewn with colorful patches of violets and bluets and hop clover, all saved from the mower, little triumphs! Lauds – the “Coming of the Light”! Prime – “Deliberate Beginning”. These are periods of time in the monastic day, marking hours with particular rituals and significance – ways of holding moments as we enter into them. I’ve come to understand these rhythms in my days on the dock.

Cup of coffee in hand, tote full of my books, I navigate over the shoreline rocks onto the dock stretching out 30 feet upon the waters of Clary Lake. I sit on one of the few chairs arranged for small gatherings and greet this special space. I close my eyes to the sky, pause, then open them to take in the shoreline, gazing at the mirror-like water with morning mist rising… such ethereal perfection. I feel a oneness, and remember the human struggle to transcend our conditioned ‘dominion doctrine’. All we need do is be… the oneness. Never alone, nor in charge, the many creatures sharing this world with me begin to make themselves heard… a loon, trilling with melancholy, a crow cawing willfully, a chipmunk scurrying in the underbrush, all sharing these early hours with me, the sun still low; the air, cool. Prime! “Deliberate Beginning”. Created before me, the music, the silence… all one.

Each day spent on this dock, on this beloved Clary Lake, I know is a prayer, uttered or answered. Clothed in layers, I’m ready for mercurial weather. My daily reading ritual begins. I read snippets from books I have accumulated over the years on my journey – all manner of inspiration – spiritual, philosophical, psychological. Somehow a Daily Reflections message, a bit of Buddhist wisdom, or a poetic self help verse always seems to resonate more deeply for me ‘on the dock’! My distance from the road is enough so that I can imagine I’m far off in Nature. Then I might hear a clip clop up on the pavement; one of my Amish neighbors is trotting by on his way to work. The sounds of his ‘commuting method’ seem to fit finely in this moment. Even a loud rush of a passing motor is hardly a reason to diminish my gratitude in the moment.

What is it about being near a body of water… the sounds of the early morning, the air upon me, the amplification of any wisdom message I might receive? Of this I try to write. I did not partake of many wilderness adventures as a child and so in my aging I feel a special fullness and wealth to my days on the dock. Minutes pass and the sun rises higher in the sky; the air warms and more wildlife awakens. I shed my shawl and feel the increasing heat of the sun as it bakes into the day. Coffee consumed, readings complete, gratitude ringing in my ears for such privilege, I enter the mid morning hours. ..Terce in the monastic day – “The Blessing”!

In summer, the dock is drenched in full sun til about 11 o’clock when it starts to travel behind the tree branches. The light breaks the shade on the dock again in early afternoon, shafting through an opening in the canopy. Depending upon my mood, I might re-position my chair to catch more of the sun’s rays, or bask in the refreshing coolness of the shade, or perhaps engage in more reading or some writing. I have, truly, a wealth of choice in these ‘halcyon days’. Sometimes thoughts of ‘productivity’ enter my consciousness. “What should I be doing?” Mercifully, I return to the moment, humbly accepting my wealth, knowing that my time here, on this dock, relaxing, rejuvenating, re-charging, better prepares me than most anything else to open my heart. This works for a while, for my mind can wander to all the ways in which my physical world could be more orderly. My spiritual life has long fed me well, given me a center to return to, yet I must also live in the physical world. So often I might find myself, having to reconcile with the fact that for me, this basking, this indulgence in the elements of nature and sacred words and connection, this love of the sun, almost pagan, even with its possible health hazards, all of it… continues to draw me in. I surrender. I accept it as passion, a gift of being, rather than doing. I find the blessing of Terce.

The sacred clock of hours moves to Sext – “Fervor and Commitment”… ”the hour of the noonday devil as well as the angel of intensity.” I might take a break and scoot up to the house to check on ‘things’, see what George is doing or perhaps make him a fresh cup of coffee if he is up at his computer or expected back from a boat ride out on the lake or an errand in town. This time of day, this time of year, we both take on another way of living, these lake days, these dock days. It seems to me a natural phenomena… the draw of Clary Lake, like a constant answering to the sirens, the call incessant… ‘come out’. Afternoons are so different in energy from the mornings… there can be a lot of back and forth, the ‘fervor and commitment’; maybe visitors stop by or phone calls are made, gardens are tended, lunch or snacks are served, errands make take me away.

I may return to float in the water alone or with George; we might sit together unwinding from the mid-day ‘fervor’, with some sunlight, though not so direct as the morning call; almost a beckoning of what day’s end promises… None – “Shadows Grow Longer”. Two of the remaining natural rhythms of the monastic day are Vespers, “Lighting the Lamps” and Compline, “Completing the Circle”. These hours might find me alone on the dock or with George, venturing out for a sunset cruise. We might just sit together in our front row seats to the dance of declining light upon the lake. These times hold not so much a solitude but a quiet communion as the day descends to the final hours, the Vigils or “Night Watch”, where star-gazing, meteor or satellite tracking hold us in awe, midnight blue sky sparkling as if with diamonds. Faithfully in the order of the given day, the hours continue forward… moving on… running out… returning back… to the beginning of the circle.

My ‘being’ on the dock, filtering meaning and purpose through the lens of monastic natural daily rhythms, shows me such grace and acceptance when I adjust my energy to them. Attuned in this way, with mindfulness, I let the day come to me… all of it… the ‘being’ and the ‘doing’. This dock, made of aluminum and wood, has allowed me a closer connection to the water, to this place in which I live; and ultimately closer insight into how I operate in the larger world, my purest self, letting go, diving in, surfacing and basking… all part of a daily devotion to being.