If I had my druthers, I would become a certified beachcomber. Beachcombing is a noble occupation which offers fresh air, time for contemplation, and a robust appreciation for what is important in life. It’s no wonder, then, that on my beach-walk this morning I have begun to think of shells, stones and friendship.
Perhaps (so goes my thought) my friends could be represented by unusual or beautiful or unique findings along the ocean’s edge? For instance, here is a smooth, almost opaque stone which the waves have tumbled, smoothed and rounded. See how it glows with inner beauty when I hold it against the sun?
Pale pink, translucent,
Rounded by incessant waves,
This very old soul.
Some friends are like that. Others will never be smooth or round. These friends are all corners and angles and crevices, uncomfortable juts everywhere. Such people are scarcely restful to be with, but they carry with them energy and an honesty that is sometimes uncomfortable but unassailable and true, and if those of us who know them can understand this, we can appreciate their finer qualities. So, too, can we all admire the strong, stalwart but uninteresting block of granite that stands by the edge of the sea. There it is, uncomplaining, standing its ground and meeting storm and sea without fanfare or complaint. Strong, we think. Indestructible! Yet, if we put our hands on that rock, we can feel the chips and pits and scars that life has made. And we see that this rock, too, grows warm with the sun and icy cold under the winter wind.
There are some friends, too, who are as transparent and as colorful as this piece of beach glass. What would we do without them? They bring a light touch to grave situations. They make us smile. Humor makes the world go round, doesn’t it? And the ability to laugh at ourselves is a most profound wisdom.
Through the years, some thought of as lifelong pals have gone. The lumps of coal masquerading as onyx have left. The bits of coral, which at first blush seemed to be so precious have departed for different company.
And, wait— here is a broken whelk. Once a beautiful shell full of life and color, it is scarred and chipped. It reminds me of mutual friends snatched away by death. These friends we keep so clear and vivid in our memory that they cannot really be lost to us. We speak of them often. We laugh as we recount some funny incident involving them. Then we share the tears that loves lost always brings, tears that bind our remaining circle closer than before.
At the end of my walk I set the damaged shell down near the sea and arrange the shells and the coral and the beach glass around it. Then I walk home, thinking that life is precious, that friends are invaluable, and that a good a cup of hot tea will taste wonderful with a large piece of home made coffee cake.
You see? Beach combing always gives an appreciation for the paramount things in life.
When the tide comes in
Our most important footsteps
Will be wished away.