Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Something About A Beach ...

There is something about the beach. The sand. The sound of the surf. The music of the gulls. I revel in the feel of the wind whipping through my hair. I absorb the warmth of the sun on my simply clad skin. I laugh and spin, jumping in the waves as they surge back and forth, swirling and dancing around my ankles. I am intoxicated by the rush of the water against my legs and the very ability of the azure of the sky to blend effortlessly into the deep shadowy blue of the sea. I am captivated by the easy way the sun sinks and dissolves into a blur … and the way the surf and seagulls drown out the sound of cars and the humdrum elements of daily life.

Doesn’t matter where this beach is … Michigan. Florida. Mexico. California. South Carolina. Maine. They share the same ability to quiet the spirit and empower my mind. That fresh air inspires and revitalizes. The sand on my toes heals whatever ails me. The sun and breeze caress me gently and give me new energy along with a sense of peace. I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. Whenever I’m near water, I’m in a better place emotionally and mentally. By the number of people I notice flocking to beaches, perhaps this a universal state.

When I’m near a beach, I have to walk on it. Morning. Noon. Night. Sunrise with coffee. Sunset with a Shock Top. I love walking on the beach. As I said, this beach doesn’t have to be anywhere in particular … just someplace where I can feel the warmth of the sun and enjoy the vastness around me. I prefer it to be warm, but I can enjoy the cooler temperatures as well.

I like to feel the sand on my feet. There’s something about the texture. I notice my footsteps … I truly experience my time on the beach. What I find remarkable as I take my often solitary (not always J) walks amidst sand, surf and sun are the shells. So many. So different.

My kids hunt for shells. Spend hours looking into the water, climbing rocks and canvassing the beaches for the perfect conk or a complete angel wing or scallop. On my recent vacation in Venice, Florida, I watched people use a dredging shovel to pull as many shells from the watery sand as they could … then bend down and sort thru this catch selectively. Throwing things out arbitrarily until they found exactly what they sought. That is their fun, I guess.

But I don’t seek the perfect shell. I’m weird that way. I watch for shells that draw my attention for various reasons, sure. I’m drawn to color and sparkle and unique shapes as I walk along. But the shells I collect and treasure … the ones I find most beautiful … are the broken ones. Colorful – and cracked. Resplendent in their design yet imperfect. A hole at the top. Grains of sand stuck to the outside. Torn at the edges. Those shells I can relate to and understand. The ones others might throw back now sit on my desk at the office. They inspire my creativity as I hold them. Run my fingers over their ridges and sharp edges.

These shells are often overlooked or thrown away. They aren’t perfect specimens. But I find them fascinating all the same. I embrace them for their nature … their imperfectness. I value them for what they are…and even what they are not. A shell with a hole already in it can easily become a necklace after all!

Broken shells are fragile examples of how everything has its place and purpose if you apply a wider vision. The beach is created with these shells … the soft sand I so enjoy walking on is actually crushed, broken, leftover shells that didn’t make the cut. That weren’t chosen. These shells have found a greater reason and an expanded role. Perhaps if you think existentially, these shells have a longer life too. Oh the pretty shells are collected, taken home in ziploc bags and placed in displays or jars -- often in a conglomeration of color and shapes and shells. One of many on display with perhaps only a small portion visible. But crushed, broken, pummeled and damaged shells -- the rejects -- remain by the surf, lining pathways along the sand and creating the velvety smooth beach I love so much...

When it comes down to it, I relate to these broken shells. In their simplicity, they don’t aspire to perfection. They may be neglected and passed over. But they have their own important role to play. Oh, they aren’t collected or put on display or shown off as a prized possession. But they retain their own beauty. Though their place may not be glamorous, they are still beautiful, colorful, unique, intriguing ...

For a long time, I sought perfection in myself. Tried to live up to others’ expectations or vision of who I was meant to be. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on your shoulders. Perfection demands and expects and is unrelenting. It’s exhausting too.

No, I’ve discovered a beauty exists in brokenness. A strength. That I embrace and accept my imperfection doesn’t mean I’m making excuses. It also doesn’t mean I have less of a purpose. That my spirit or character or face is any less beautiful. I have discovered that my own imperfection has a beauty all its own … it is real. Honest. Authentic. Comfortable with its own elegance and style. It smiles and laughs. It struggles and succeeds. It wins and loses. It reaches out without fear. It cries without feeling a need to make an excuse or apologize. It honors itself ... doesn't put on pretense or wear a facade. In embracing my own imperfection, I am more truly me than I ever before was. My energy is revitalized and focused. I'm passionate and exciting and flawed and fun. I don't get it right all the time. I don't have all the answers. I make mistakes. I dream and desire. I crave and struggle. I spin in the sunlight and giggle like a little girl over simple pleaures and kindness from strangers and friends. I rejoice in the imperfect creature that I am. In fact, I'm good with that.

I may not be a prize to be placed on a desk or display. But, I’d rather be crushed, pummeled, softened, tossed back and enjoyed for the role I play in creating a beautiful beach.

                                                                                                                                                                   -- Jenni