When this new year began, we went to our favorite beach on Kodiak Island. It was a rare calm day after a series of massive storms and deluges (3 inches of rain in a single day last week, followed by more and more, and an unrelenting wind . . . )
This gorgeous beach, an hour out of town, always has surf, always has something to say even when the wind is silent. And this day it did. Small waves of argument, enough to ride two surfing women.
And it offered as well a beach full of wreckage. I had not seen this beach both so beautified and so littered before.
Sea sponges, pulled from their habitat in astonishing numbers . ...
An alphabet of colors and shapes and sizes of once living things . . .
Beautiful, haunting, even devastating. Much of it no longer living, some still dying, marooned on the sand. In all ways, though, living, dying or dead, the colors still steal the sun's light . ..
And not all is beauty . ..
Among it all, the sea cast up questions. Creatures I do not know, that I have not seen often, and never this many before . ..
(Alert readers have tentatively identified these as species of tunicates.)
The year is new and young. I am full of hope and plans and there is so much to celebrate. But, this week I have also felt like that beach.
The past so often intrudes upon us. In a moment, something flashes and we're back. We're back among the slights and meanness and persecutions we've known in one form or another. Some for many years. Some live in the midst of sexism and prejudice. Some have come through poverty and racism. Some of you have lived in houses of addiction, in other places where the mentally ill controlled your life.
There it is. The injustices and inequities we all have borne litter our beach. The year is new, but storms have ripped the past from their root and washed it all ashore again.
How do we rejoice in a new year when the past is still with us? What do we do with all that detritus? If we are the surviving kind, we find a way to gather up all that junk and we just keep moving. But the weight encumbers. We feel as though we are dragging the wreckage of a whole beach behind us.
It takes a whole book to say all I want to say on this (and some of you have read it here already )
And there's nothing I can tell you that will make it all disappear. But I know how to make the load lighter.
You know that everyone's beach has at least one wreck on it, yes? We don't get to live through a life, let alone a year without some waves, some uprooting, some wash-ups, a cluttered line marking the high tides. Yes you are utterly special and unique and your pain is unique but we all carry the pains of our shared humanness and selfishness.
But you know that.
Just two more things---and we already do them when we walk a beach: Look at what you find and name it. This is our beach walking habit already. But it's not always a life habit. I know some who will not look at the flotsam in their life, who will deny it, erase it, pretend their beach is clean.
Who wants to walk an empty beach?
No one's beach is clean. You'll waste what's come ashore without looking, holding, listening, naming . ..
(fin whale skeleton)
(Giant acorn barnacle)
One more. Do not pity this scavenging woman. I am her. All of us who live out on distant beaches collecting all we find are her. (The foundation of our house at Harvester Island is built from logs that drifted to shore.) She is collecting what has drifted to shore to strengthen and beautify her own door. She will build and rebuild with what has come to her beach. As we do. As we all must do.
Listen. What looks like wreckage in your life still has value. Don't discard it. Use it. Find the good in it. Build your house and life stronger with it. That's why it's been delivered to you.
"We wear memories in our faces, in the whorls and folds of our brains; we bear scars and burns on our bodies. Even when we desire to give up the memories that have formed us and even haunt us – we cannot. Nor should we. Patricia Hampl urges us to remember because, “we do not … simply have experience; we are entrusted with it. We must do something – make something – with them . . ." (Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers)
How do we do this? Start toward forgiveness.
If you don't know how (and who does?), consider the book, which walks us through forgiveness of anyone who has hurt us.
(I cannot tell you how many have written to share the freedom and joy they've found through forgiveness . . ..)
I'm giving 5 of these away in the next few days. (I'd like to give you ALL a book---but until my ship comes in--and doesn't wreck on the beach!---I can only do 5!)
If you'll share this post on Facebook and anywhere else you can, let me know, and I'll enter your name in the drawing.
I'm hoping and praying MANY can start the new year---bringing beauty out of wreckage.