Gentle waves, Rick Smotherman, photographer.
Long exposure on a beach in Destin, Florida. Find him on Flickr.
New Year is waxing towards full arrival. And I have an idea.
It’s not new. I tried it before. Well, an aspect of it.
About twenty years ago I rented a little house on the tip of Anna Maria Island (Florida) next to the beach. Newly divorced, I was beginning an ascent towards dreaming a new life. I had lots of feelings and I was addicted to covering them up.
I covered up feelings to forget.
There are a gazillion ways to do it. My two favorites: eating a bag of pretty much anything that is fluorescent orange (think Cheetos or cheese popcorn) and mindless working or being busy nonstop. Whoa! I yes'd and never no’d.
Not that cheese popcorn or work is bad.
It’s how I used these things to run away.
To not feel.
Well, that sweet little Anna Maria home about 100 steps from the beach was the setting for a small personal change. A step.
I decided I’d cross the street and walk the beach.
I wove a teeny basket of palm fronds, hung it on the wall next to the front door, and took my first walk.
I walked slowly, breathed in and out. I began to look skyward. I noticed things. Like the breeze on my face, vociferous gulls, and the changing moods of the sea. And I felt.
I cried, laughed, cursed. I unabashedly shared with the sea.
I told. Gentle and ferocious laps of waves nurtured and encouraged me.
I noticed the duality of the sea, its ebb and tide, its calm and rough. I saw myself in this and gained the courage to fully feel.
I picked up an anomiidae shell to mark that first walk. They’re flat, pearl-like, about the size of a nickel and nicknamed jingle. There's often a hole in it caused by growth around the byssus. I placed it in the basket I made upon my return.
I don’t have that basket anymore. Nor the hundreds of shells marking each of my walks.
However, I still have the peace and strength I gained.
Okay. It’s today. This is what I want to tell.
This morning I recalled one of those early morning beach walks from that Anna Maria house. Only, this one I took with a friend.
Somewhere along the walk, this came forth: “Let’s give the sea a gift!”
Near the tip of the island, we found a mighty sprawling almost driftwood tree branch. We planted its trunk in the sand safely away from the high tide line.
Like children in a seaside scamper, we each found a small shell with a hole (to string seaweed through for a hanging loop) and tied a wish onto our proclaimed peace tree.
We hugged, laughed, and skipped away, saying to someone we passed, “Hey, that’s a peace tree. Make a wish.”
But here is the part I want you to know.
The next day I took my usual walk. As I came upon our tree, I experienced a rainbow phosphene from rubbing my eyes. Mouth agape, I fell to my knees.
It was full. The tree was seafully adorned. Someone even circled its base with a mosaic mandala of shells and rocks. The tree leaned with a weight of wishes.
I cried joy.
And later thought about affectivity.
You know, we never really know the effect of what we say or do. Spiritual leaders say that our words and actions are our legacy. That day I got a peek into what it might look like.
In just a few minutes I’m heading out for a beach walk.
Again I’m planting a peace tree. I’ll find a shell, string a loop, hang it, make a wish, and step back and exclaim gratitude.