Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/15/2009

…”like a mammy bending over her baby…”

It’s Sunday, and I’m supposed to be doing one of two things other than writing this nonsense. Getting ready to go to work (church) or,  more importantly, grading student essays. And here I am, stuck writing madly away and trying not to 1. hate myself for it, or 2. cry. I told myself falling asleep that grading papers would be the activity of the two hours I have before I have to leave for church. And here I am. Writing. Writing. Writing.

Re: what I wrote here and elsewhere yesterday: the last time I had a “religious experience” worth talking or thinking or writing about was this past summer alone on the Oregon coast. I cannot not write this now, but I hate having to do it.

Any TLEptic will understand without explanation what I am trying to say. I doubt that anyone else will. (If God were not missing in action, I could stop writing this and get to work doing what I need to be doing. H/she, however, has gone away somewhere, and I am left to my own devices here. The greatest gift I could receive would be an end to this hyper-writing.)

I was walking on Paradise Point beach at Port Orford. I walked from the parking lot to the end of the beach at the promontory of the end of Cape Blanco where the lighthouse is. The day was overcast (see the picture on the heading of this blog) and cold for August (cold by Texas standards, not unusual for the coast of Oregon). Three other people were on the beach, and I quickly left them behind.aoregon046M

As I walked toward the end of the beach (I don’t know for sure how far it is), I was drawn to the water’s edge, took off my shoes, rolled up my pants legs, and walked in the absurdly cold water. I had no thought of translating my experience into words.

I was not aware of having a seizure. In fact, I was rejoicing in the clarity of my mind, in the absence of the electronic firestorm that sometime takes place, I’m told, in my left Temporal Lobe. I was headed for the end of the beach behind the huge upright rock twenty or thirty yards out in the water (the tide was out). I couldn’t tell exactly how far it was because fog shrouded the Cape. I could see the flash of the lighthouse light, but I could not see the lighthouse, and I knew the lighthouse is not at the end of the promontory. I walked alone, absorbing cold air, salt air, clean air, breathing in and out, becoming more and more aware of every cell of my body, and reveling in gratitude (gratitude directed to whom or what I wasn’t sure) that I was alone in this unspoiled place.aoregon047maila

As I walked in the edge of the ocean, the ocean began to extend itself out to the horizon. I know, I know, you will say that it already did. That’s what oceans do. But the ocean unfolded itself, rolled itself back as I watched. The undulation of the surf was exactly the necessary disruption of the view. The motion was not, as surf had always seemed before, an unending series of discreet waves crashing offshore a few yards and the foamy edges washing up around my ankles. The ocean was all one. I could sense the molecules splashing at my feet: H2O. Everyone knows hydrogen and helium are the basic molecular building blocks of the universe. That doesn’t matter. Calcium—Ca, magnesium—Mg, sodium—Na, and dozens more.H2O, Ca, Mg, Na sliding over the sand (silicon dioxide—SiO2  here?), and foaming up around my feet. It was all one. I felt the hardened molecules under my feet and the molecules of and suspended in water. And out to the horizon, shrouded in fog. I knew the same molecules were pulsating together to make the waves, and the waves were conjoined with every other undulation of H2O, Ca, Mg, Na on the earth in one unbroken moving, life-filled, mass that seemed to my mind to be an enormity, but is in reality a speck in the eye of the universe. All one, including the H2O, Ca, Mg, Na of my own body, and my mind somehow made up of the elemental universe undulating as far as I could see. And I was the focal point of the entire experience and at the same time unconditionally insignificant standing as an elemental part of the reality of the one water covering the face of the deep. And whatever God is, God was. And wherever God was, God was there. And I weep this morning again for the joy I knew then and in the sorrow to know that one day I will simply be a part of the reality—not with a consciousness to love it and be sustained by it, but part only of the elemental structure. And all I could think of was “like a Mammy bending over her baby,”** and I knew whatever the force the idea the entity the reality that was heaving, surging swelling through the oneness I could see through to the mystery of the fog, itself part of the oneness, the reality was like a Mammy bending over me and I was at peace with myself and with the ocean.

That clarity of thought and senses comes seldom, too seldom, unexpectedly. I almost always have a preparation, an aura, a warning for such events which disrupts my certain knowledge of what happens. When it comes unexpectedly, I know I have “Put out my hand and touched the Face of God” *** (pardon me, John Magee for theft and anyone else for demeaning his words and turning them to sentimentality). 

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas —
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed —
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled —
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down….

….Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in his own image.

** Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938). “The Creation.” God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Electronic Version.
*** Magee, John Gillespie, Jr. (June 9, 1922 – December 11, 1941). “High Flight.” Library of Congress, 1942.


"...from the lighthouse evermore..."


  1. Your experience was beautiful; that is reason enough for writing it and sharing it with us unknowns out here in cyberspace.


  2. […] have written before in greater detail than I intend to here about my experience of (shall I go all the way and say it?) […]


  3. […] have written before in greater detail than I intend to here about my experience of (shall I go all the way and say it?) […]


  4. […] November 15, 2009, I wrote about a day alone on the beach at Port Orford, Oregon. I must stop writing about Port Orford, or everyone […]


  5. […] in my other  blog on November 15, 2009, when I wrote about some sort of mystical or religious or some such experience on the beach at Port Orford, […]


  6. […] I waver about believing in God. Most days I don’t. And then I experience something that makes me wonder. And wonder about the wonder. I’ve written about these experiences before: […]


  7. […] never been able to bring together in my mind those words and the experience I had on the beach near Port Orford, Oregon, a few years […]


  8. […] have written about this heightened sense of reality many times. My personal favorite—the one that comes closest to saying what I think and feel—is […]



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