Where do you go when you want to feel life and alive, grounded and connected?
I go to the beach. It’s special to me because it’s where I grew up. It where memories live.
If there was ever a time that I needed to feel peace it was then.
So many hats that I wore every day were piling on top of my head and I couldn’t think or feel any more. I felt like I was failing at everything and I didn’t feel comfortable living in that discomfort because there was the nagging thought that there was some truth to it-
That I was failing (or so it felt with so many things) and I had to come to terms with that and let it go.
No better place to let things go than at the beach.
Two weeks earlier I’d thrown a message in a bottle off the rail of the lighthouse and into the ocean. It was symbolic to me.
The waves carry things and toss them ashore randomly. Randomly to us probably, but never truly random I think.
It was an ordinary walk this time, no different from any other. I collected the sand glass that was “done” and threw a few back that needed more weathering in the waves.
I stared at the blue piece of glass in my hand for a few minutes, trying to justify why I could keep it even though it had jagged edges.
I threw it back and pulled my sweater sleeves over my hands, covering my ears to keep them warm as I searched for more.
I was a quarter-mile down the beach when a wave of emotion came over me. It was the spot that my dad had moored our boat so many times, allowing us time to jump off and swim for hours.
I wasn’t sad. Don’t misunderstand. I was overwhelmed with the truth that I’d walked into the waves of another world – my past. It was as if I was supposed to be paying attention to something, but it wasn’t clear to me what that was.
Why, of all times, when I was struggling and needed to focus on my present, was my dad who’d been dead for a few weeks, floating off shore and staring in my direction with a cigarette dangling from his mouth?
Tears came and froze on my cheeks. I wiped them off and pulled myself away from the spot.
And I kept walking.
Two dogs, minutes apart, separated themselves from their masters and ran towards me barking. They took my wrist in their mouths and pulled me in the opposite direction from where I was walking as if they wanted to play.
This happened twice, not at the same time.
I laughed and shook them off after giving them each a pet and a hug and they ran back to their owners who waved an apology.
After reaching the jetty I turned around and headed down the beach with the sun now warming my back.
Reaching the same spot where I’d felt my dad, the water was now a blue-green, just like the waters on the beaches of St. Thomas where I visited my grandparents for years,
New emotions flooded in and I walked away from them, too, admitting privately to how strange it was to be bombarded by the dead among the living when I hadn’t consciously tried to think about them at all.
My walk was over. I knew it. There wasn’t anything left in me. I still had forty minutes before meeting my mom, so I climbed into my car and looked for something to do after emptying the twenty-five pieces of sand glass from my pocket.
I marvelled at the loot the ocean had generously deposited at my feet and wondered about the rest of my free time. Why had I felt drawn to come back to the car?
I hadn’t brought a book. That was unusual. It was too peaceful to listen to music. So I waited and looked around.
Lying on the floor a green folder peeked out of my bag, begging me to pick it up. I’d decided last week to put together some administrative paperwork that I could review periodically just in case I had the urge to become a better director for the Family History Center where I live and breathe.
Hate is a strong word. I use it sparingly.
I hate sour cream, blue cheese, and administrative paperwork.
I read as slowly as I could and bored myself to tears.
Without a thought I pulled out a paper from the pile tucked into the pocket on the right. I’d never seen it before. If I’d never seen it, how did it get there? I’m not a keeper of papers. I throw a lot away all the time so that I can stay semi-organized and feel uncluttered.
I read the paper. It was an oral history of 35 of my relatives that my grandfather’s brother had given to one of his children. It was neatly typed and full of names and dates and random facts that I hadn’t known.
The most powerful thought I’ve had in a long time settled itself in my mind and attached itself to my heart:
No matter how messed up I feel, no matter how much of a failure I think I am, or how confused I might be, I have a work to do that is separate from all that.
They knew I needed to know that I’m not all of my dashed hopes and dreams, mistakes and wonderings.
That in this thing called life there are things that matter – things that remind us of who we are and why we’re here, and how easy it is to only see and experience the waves and forget that it is the waves that carry the treasures…
…treasures that will randomly appear if we’ll keep living and allowing them to surface.
I read the paper four times and cried. Most of these people I’d never heard of. I could add them to my collection of names on my dad’s side of the family and start researching their lives and getting to know them.
They’d drawn me to them because they knew we could and would serve each other. They’d be a part of the treasure that I always turned to to find peace, strength,wisdom, and my place to serve.
There is wisdom that reminds each of us of our unique mission – the one that feeds our soul as it serves others, and whose fulfillment isn’t dependent on our ability or lack therof to make sense or order out of the rest of our lives.
It is dependent on our willingness to stay in the game, regardless. There’s that word again.
How random is that?!!