Hello to my readers, and welcome back to the Book of Works. It has been a long, sometimes relaxing and sometime productive summer. In July, I went to the ASA annual meeting near Boston, where I gave a talk and moderated two sessions, but of course the best part (as it is with all conferences) was getting to spend some time with so many friends and colleagues in the science and Christian faith community. The highest point was hearing the talk by Francis Collins and then attending the informal sing-along he led. He is a remarkable man in so many ways.
The rest of the summer was busy with writing, teaching, and sending the last kid off to college. Finally, two weeks ago, my wife and I took off for our first-ever duo vacation. It was a somewhat unusual agenda I had planned. One of our goals was to carry clothes and other essentials to my stepson in Cambridge, so we drove. Along the way we stayed at places I had lived in or had once had family from. Nyack, NY and Winthrop, Mass were two of these places. Then from the Boston area we drove up to the mid-coast of Maine, where I used to spend the entire month of August during my first marriage in the 1980s.
I don’t usually post personal stuff on this blog, but I am going to make an exception and talk about a year that was pivotal in my life story. It was 1992, I was about to turn 45, and at a crossroads both in my marriage and in my professional scientific career. I considered myself an agnostic – I wasn’t sure about God, but I did think that there might be something beyond the materialistic view I used to have of the world. Something spiritual, something not quite explainable. But I wasn’t sure.
Near the end of our family sojourn in a cabin on the coast, I took my small (12 ft) outboard-powered boat out for a solo ride. For some reason, and for the first time, I ventured pretty far out from shore, past the islands that usually marked my limit of exploration and into a broad channel in the open Atlantic Ocean. All of a sudden I saw a dark and ominous shadow in the water right next to the boat. It was bigger than the boat and moving fast. I was terrified when, a few seconds later, I saw another one on the other side of the boat. Then one of the shadows rose and broke the surface. It was a dolphin. I slowed the boat down and began to relax. The pair of dolphins were not just playing – they were swimming next to me, then crossing in front of the boat, and soon I realized they were guiding me. They were aware I was too far out for such a small boat and were leading me back toward the shore. I followed them. Heading back in, with my wonderful escort, I began to feel not only calm but a sense of gratitude and love for these creatures of nature. After a short while, when I was back where I belonged, they disappeared, and I returned to shore in a state of wonder.
The spiritual sense that I felt from that experience on the sea stayed with me. My life changed, radically, in every way. I left my terrible marriage, moved to Italy, changed my research direction, started attending church, and so on.
A week ago, my wife and I were in Camden, Maine, not far from where I used to vacation two and a half decades ago. We signed on for a two-hour scenic cruise on a schooner. As we sailed out into the ocean, the day was gorgeous and the views spectacular. And then somebody pointed sternward. The captain turned and announced, “We are very lucky. folks. We have company.” I looked out just past the stern and there they were: two dolphins, breaking the water in plain view and putting on a small show for the passengers. But I know better. They were there for me. I had been gone for 26 years, and now I was back, a different man, and they were there once again, to give me a sign. I took it as a sign of encouragement and of affirmation.
I am still a spiritual person, but now I know that God is the source of that spiritual power. And I know that God has shown me signs of mercy and hope my whole life, even when I scorned His existence. I don’t know if I have made the right choices or lived according to His will, but I am hopeful that this sign of His favor might mean my path has not been in vain.
Thanks to all for your patience in reading this very personal account, and for your continued support of this blog. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.