“Saying the Names”

I ask you today to recall those memories of walking round a harbor or marina. Naming a boat allows for all sorts of creativity and imagination. Perhaps you have seen these names on your harbor walks – Old Buoy, Seas the Day, Go with the Flow, Lady of the Lake, Fin and Tonic, Reel Love. What might you name your sailing boat or your kayak or even your paddle board? Malcolm Guite in his book of collected poems – The Singing Bowl writes “that faith is as much, if not more, at the roots of the poetry than in its branches and blossom.” Today’s poem is found in a section entitled Local Habitations and he comments that “these earthly places are, in their own ways, gates of Heaven.” This poem takes us some 40 miles north of Newcastle, into Northumberland and settles on the north east coastal town of Amble and to the Warkworth harbor with Warkworth Castle in the background. The castle had its origin in the late 12th century. Guite imagines the names of boats being in themselves a poem, saying their names becomes an incantation – “their names are numinous,”. Pause and ponder these lines and enjoy your walk round Warkworth Harbor or your favorite harbor, and recall and recite the names of boats.

Saying the Names, Warkworth Harbour
Dawn over Amble, and along the coast
light on the tide flows to Northumberland,
silvers the scales of fishes freshly caught
and glowing in their boxes on the dock,
shivers the rainbow sheen on drops of diesel,
and lights, at last, the North Sea fishing fleet.
Tucked into harbour here their buoyant lines
lift to the light on plated prows their names,
the ancient names picked out in this year’s paint:
Providence, Bold Venture, Star Divine
are first along the quay-side. Fruitful Bough
has stemmed the tides to bring her harvest in,
Orcadian Mist and Sacred Heart, Aspire,
their names are numinous, a found poem.
Those Bible-burnished phrases live and lift
into the brightening tide of morning light
and beg to be recited, chanted out,
for names are incantations, mysteries
made manifest like ships on the horizon.
Eastward their long line tapers towards dawn
and ends at last with Freedom, Radiant Morn. Malcolm Guite: The Singing Bowl

Holy and Eternal God,
You formed the seas and the dry land,
you created the night and the day.
To you we turn to offer our prayer.
With joy and thanksgiving
let us rejoice in the invitation of the horizon
which beckons us to move forward, onward, beyond.
We are thankful for harbors, those safe places that welcome
us “home” and allow us to find a firm footing before
we venture beyond once again.
Lord God come close and journey with us, be our
rising and our setting sun. Assure us that you are
before and behind and always beside us.
In you we live and breathe and in you we hope for life now
and for tomorrow. Amen.

One thought on ““Saying the Names”

  1. Having spent many autumns of my lifetime in a harbor town, I can attest to the pleasure of wandering the docks and marveling at the variety of boat names. Among my favorites are Windsome, Holy Mackerel, Sea Note, Second Wind, Rubicon and Mama Tried.

    While growing up, my mother used to say, “I want you to see this.” One of first photos I ever saw of my mom as a 21 year old was of her standing next to a historic whaling vessel, one which she made sure I saw as well. Traveling to coastal towns we would stroll the harbor and she would find a boat name she thought was particularly clever. We would speculate on the reasons for the choice of names. I eventually learned that each time my mother used that brief sentence, it would lead to something lasting, meaningful and often instructive.

    Our first sailboat was a small unsteady thing our children named Gull Do. I won’t comment further on that choice. After a few years we got our second boat, Prairie Schooner. Days and nights spent on her were some of our best, calmest, wildest and pleasurable times for us and our kids. But then it happened. It was time to devote our weekends to the care of our precious aging mothers, and that ended our sailing days.

    I am so grateful for the “invitation of the horizon”, another way of saying, “I want you to see this.” And I am especially grateful for your post and the memories it is giving me on this day which would have been my mother’s 103rd birthday.


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