A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Mangrove Reflections (4)

Pā Piripi Cody sm 2

Pā Piripi Cody sm


Vulnerability: the crabs’ work destroyed by the tide

Talking of aging, a couple of times I had to get the Mangrove’s help. Once, when I went to get up after sitting for a while next to her, I had to get hold of her trunk to pull myself up! Another time, I almost slipped on the rocks and saved myself from a nasty fall by grabbing hold of the Mangrove. She smiled at me each time. ‘We’ll help each other,’ she simply said.

Another theme that came through clearly was vulnerability. This realisation of ‘surrendering’ or ‘weathering’ is an invitation to become fully human. ‘Vulnerability is the underlying, ever-present and abiding current of our natural state... (If we refuse) to accept our vulnerability, we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundation of our identity.’ 1

In other words, vulnerability, surrendering, tenderness are all aspects of being fully human.

No wonder mangrove was trying to teach me inside myself the lessons of the currents and tides. Here before me was the pattern of my existence and I could choose to embrace it or not. No wonder my spiritual direction couple keep saying, ‘surrender’ to the call of each day, even though it is painful, unsure and vulnerable.

Craig Larkin describes how vital it is to ‘make friends with’ the feminine principle in us, to let the inner woman accompany us through the desert moments of life, if we want to be wise and fully men. 2

In a balmy breeze I went to farewell Mangrove. The tide was well out, so it was an easy walk across the sand and rocks to sit down. However, my wet jandals slipped on the rocks and once again I grabbed Mangrove to prevent a fall. ‘For heaven’s sake, go gently,’ she reprimanded me! ‘Or you will be going nowhere at all!’ Nothing like some last minute advice.

I sat in touch with her trunk and her foliage higher above me. I wanted to impress on my hands the ‘feel’ of strength and grounded-ness of the Mangrove so I could recall her lessons back in the thick of life. An interesting Scripture came to mind. It was from John, when Mary took a pretty strong grip on the risen Jesus, such was her delight to see that it was her beloved! You remember what Jesus said. ‘Do not cling to me, but go and tell the brothers and sisters  ... I am risen’ (John 20:17f).

The farewell photo

The farewell photo

As if to emphasise the point that the time had come to say goodbye and each of us had to move into the next stage of the journey or ‘tide’ of life, there was a distinct ‘plop!’ The Mangrove had released one of its many fruitful pods. It fell on the sand between the rocks. Nature was providing a potential new life depending on the incoming tide and where the pod was delivered to. Time to tune in to the on-going invitation to ‘let go’ and see what adventure unfolds. ‘Go and tell the brothers and sisters ...’ Do that by living fully, humanly and vulnerably in their presence.

Mangrove emphasized this by seemingly indicating with her practical wisdom: ‘Go home now before you get cold and the sun sets!’

Nō reira e te Mangrove, me pupuri tāua i te Mana o Te Atua.  Ā tōnā wā ka tūtaki tāua.

So, dear Mangrove, let’s draw firmly from the wholeness of God. Till the destined time we meet again.

1 WHYTE, David, Consolations. Many Rivers Press, Washington, 2015, p. 233f

2 LARKIN, Craig, An Inner Music. Living a Life in God. Fitzbeck Publishers, Wellington, 2016, p. 81

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