I took some time off this week and spend a few days at the beach. I realize that not everyone may think this is a great thing. To paraphrase Bob Wiley, (Bill Murray’s character in the movie “What About Bob?”) “…there are two kinds of people in this world: those who like the beach, and those who don’t”. For some, it’s too hot, too crowded, too breezy, with way too much grit and not nearly enough shade.
I happen to adore it.
The rhythmic sounds of the surf, the way sunlight dances on the water, the kaleidoscope of shells that pave the sand are pure joy to me. I did write while I was there but working doesn’t feel nearly as much like “work” when I can do it with an ocean view. At the beach, even laundry can be fabulous (or at least not completely horrible). And to be at the beach and be in the company of friends was nothing short of heavenly.
I love to go shelling, and as I walked the beach every day (several times a day, actually, but who’s counting?) I was struck by parallels between what I was doing and where I am in my life by now. Anne Morrow Lindbergh titled her exquisite volume of reflections Gift from the Sea so I can’t use that, but I experienced much the same thing she described so beautifully. Each of these could be an entire blog post (or book) on their own, (and I reserve the right to do that later!) so I’m not going into exhaustive detail on each one – but I thought they were worth sharing.
I was reminded that you have to pay attention. If you’re unprepared, random waves can grab you by the ankle and pull you under. Life events can do the same if you don’t have a firm foundation.
You also have to focus. Take your eyes off that shell, and the surf can wash it away. In addition to being mindful of how you live in general, some things require more intense consideration and involvement to navigate.
You have to be patient. The best shelling is at low tide, which only happens a couple of times a day, and not always when we human creatures find it “convenient”. You have to be willing to wait for it.
Things are not always what they seem. That beautiful swirl that caught your eye can wind up being just a shard from the crown of a conch. And that misshapen lump in the sand, once you start digging, turns out to be a lightning whelk, intact and perfect. What may have seemed to be a setback may just be preparation for what is to come.
The most important one for me right now is this one: you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and your feet wet. In the physical act of wading out into the water and sifting through the sand I was reminded of the fact that The Divine is ever and always at work and at play in our world with one thing in mind: a relationship with the creatures God has so artfully formed and breathed life into. Which means participation by we the creatures is a necessary part of that equation as well. Life is not a spectator sport; it is a cosmic and mysterious mix of both being and doing. If we want to live authentic lives, we have to do more than just show up. We have to do things.
I’ve been dabbling – ‘getting my feet wet’ so to speak – with writing and my experience on the beach this week affirmed for me that I need to keep going with that. To not just show up, but to participate and engage, as deeply as I can, in that endeavor in all its forms. After feeling, since Bill’s death, that much of my life has been “on hold”, that realization brought a breath of healing and hope to my heart. (And I bought quilt fabric too, just for good measure!)
Have I mentioned that I love the beach?
What about you? What do you need to do today? Where and with whom do you need to engage deeply? What things have been “on hold” in your life that you need to address?
Think back over the past week. Where and what were the gifts you experienced? What brought you joy, grace, peace, hope, love?
Were you gifted with particular moments of clarity or confirmation? If so, celebrate that!