A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Mangrove Reflections (1)

Pā Piripi Cody sm 2

Fr Philip Cody sm

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived at The Haven beach were the patterns the crabs had made all over the beach.

After high tide, hundreds of crabs patiently dig out little balls of sand from their holes and neatly stack them in beautiful patterns. These sand balls must contain elements of food as they carefully pick at them. However, what struck me most was the utter patience they have in doing this twice a day, or night! In a moment all their hard work is levelled by the incoming tide. Then they wait till the tide goes out again.

The work of the crabs

The work of the crabs

What a lesson of patiently getting on with life. Not at all thrown by what seems to be uselessly repeating time and time over the same task.

Already I was sensing some centering peace – life has carried on like this for two years since I was last here. Tune into this pattern, Philip.

The incoming tide

The incoming tide

The other thing that struck me was how hot it was. About 30 degrees Celsius. This was autumn and close to winter. I was sweating just walking on the beach. When I went for a swim, the water was warm and, only in deeper water, getting cooler. Even the locals were commenting, this is hot for this time of year, in May! So my retreat was not just a personal time out. I was conscious of a global context of being close to nature, concern about how well we were caring for our world.

I saw the Mangrove, graced presence, across the sea. She was standing proud, clear green in the setting sun. It was a gentle meeting. I had to take time to get to her as the tide was half-in. It was a bit of a balancing act on the rocks and then carefully reaching out to greet her. Touching her brought a flow of peace and gratitude. What have you been up to these last two years? They had not been easy ones, a time of transition. I’m sure the Mangrove could have told me a thing or two about some storms too. However, here we are at peace and united once more. I wondered if getting to heaven was a bit like that – meeting loved ones again?

A lesson struck home for me. How important it is to touch base with those whom we love. Often we say, ‘I meant to ring; I meant to visit.’ Do it!

The Mangrove was still relatively small but it was covered in fruit buds. There was a lot of fruit and openness to spreading her life. I pondered that while I might have difficulties at times, fruit can still come. Even in so called liminal space, a time when nothing too much seems to be happening, there will be fruit in God’s time.

My supervisor cautioned me about saying ‘nothing seems to be happening.’ She referred to the Māori creation myth which sees all creation coming from Te Kore, The Nothingness! A wee bit like how we speak of God being IN-finite... not finite or measurable, coming from ‘nothing’. Similar to all that endless work by the crabs... boringly repetitive, same task, same task... doing ‘nothing’ much. Hold on, this may have deep meaning and be utterly life-giving. God works often in small and unseen, patient ways.

Mangrove at full tide

Mangrove at full tide

I sat for a while with the Mangrove. A quiet time, no great euphoria, but a deep appreciation of what really matters and lasts in life.

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