An Unstructured Birthday
I wake early, as my body gives in to the relentless tugging of my busy mind. The sunrise brings with it another birthday, some quiet reflection, and perhaps a bit of angst. I grab a mug of coffee and walk down the hill to the beach, where sand hugs my toes like an old friend.
The grains are cool and slightly damp, as this part of the earth is just waking up to enjoy its hours in the sun. As the tide retreats, it litters the strand line with slipper shells and oysters and clumps of bright green seaweed. Small flies buzz about with delight. A large branch of driftwood adorns the beach, a treasure washed up by the tide. This is a perfect place to smooth my tangled thoughts, breathe the salt air, and watch the darting and flitting of the shore birds.
The surface of the sea is bent into subtle folds of steel-blue satin, as it yields to the 30-foot-long, stone groin built to keep the sand from eroding. As humans, we spend significant time and energy to keep things as they are, even when we are unhappy, because the unknown seems more frightening. Several groins are lined up in succession on this stretch of the shoreline; great stone arms of quarried granite reaching toward the sea, trying to capture the beach, announcing our resolve.
Yet the sand moves regardless of our plans, our engineering, or our determination; caught up in the longshore drift, a flow that has existed billions of years before the Anthropocene. I wonder about blockades I’ve placed in my life, driven by a decades-old fear of the unknown or a need to latch onto some stable ground. I wonder if there will ever be a time when we will accept the movement of the sand; when I welcome the changing conditions in my life and begin to see them as potential. That would take courage, trust, and resolve. That would involve the willingness to accept and adapt to unintended consequences.
I can’t speak for the engineers, but perhaps this will be the year I raise the hammer and chisel and begin to dismantle the blockades and impoundments. Perhaps this will be the year I return to the fresh, oxygenated, intuitive flow of life. So I roll up my sleeves as I make my wish because I know without action, wishes vanish like clouds absorbed into the bright blue sky on a dry summer day. On this birthday, I wish for the strength and trust to welcome the unknown as an unexpected guest, investigating with curiosity rather than fear, that which she may have brought with her.
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