If you have ever sat in silence on a beach and did nothing but contemplate the ocean waves rolling ashore across the sand, you will notice many things.
First, every wave is unique. Each one is like a fingerprint and the ocean has millions upon millions of unique fingerprints. No two are alike. Some are gentle and have very little break, while others break quickly and come ashore full of noise, froth and movement. In specific spots on the planet, there are waves that are giant sea monsters, taking on a life of its own, growing taller than some multi-story buildings, and curling back in on itself to form a pipeline. Personally, I prefer the gentle, quiet ones that cause little disruption and are beautiful in their simplicity.
The next thing you might notice about the ocean is that it is a moving force. If you look further than the breaking waves on shore, out in the distance, you will notice swells, peaks and valleys that never quite fully form into the waves their counterparts eventually become. It’s like a pan of liquid coming to a “rolling boil.” While not much happens on the surface, it is obvious that much is happening below. It is awe-some and not a little terrifying.
Lastly, the most obvious part of the ocean waves are the aftermath. The receding water comes sweeping in with majestic and powerful force, after building up for perhaps several miles, then just as suddenly as it breaks into a wave, it is gone, taking most of what it covered back out to sea: shells, trash, toys, jewelry, clothing, and the occasional sea life. Sometimes, too, the waves leave gifts upon the shore, gifts from other parts of the sea that have been swept out, taken from one place and deposited in a different location altogether.
Mostly, waves sweep landward, destroying sand castles and erasing words written in the sand by playful beach-goers. There is nothing left. Nothing, that is, but the sand.
The sand has a magical quality about it of just swallowing up the water, reforming into a flat surface and never giving up any of the secrets formerly imprinted there.
So many times I wish my life were like the sand: constantly wiped clean and rid of all the detritus that clutters my days (and my house!). I could start with a fresh slate with every single wave. But what would I lose?
I would lose the memory of happier times, the joy of current moments and the lessons learned along the way: essentially, I’d be trapped in a “Groundhog Day” web, never able to escape and move on. The more I would struggle to free myself from the strands of repetition, the tighter their grasp would become. I would wither from lack of sustenance–experiences that would help me grow–and eventually cease to exist. How altogether unpleasant.
The other day I walked along the beach at sunset. The sand was almost not visible for all the shells covering its surface. The waves washed over those shells leaving them sparkling in the waning sunlight and making them appear new and fresh.
I stopped, mesmerized by the picture at my feet. The sand was literally buried beneath a layer of shells. Imagine each one of those shells as a different life experience. Some of them are perfect and whole, without blemish, chip or discoloration. But look closely at the picture. Most are damaged with holes, cracks, divots, stains, and missing pieces. Many are simply fragments of what once was beautiful. I found many pieces of what I knew were once stunning displays of sea life. And diving head first into cliche-land, I identified absolutely with those shattered pieces more than with the beautiful, whole and perfect shells.
I am such a broken creature, with chips, cracks, missing pieces, and edges worn down by repeated bashing of the waves. And yet, like those shells, I am beautiful. I don’t always believe it and often times I see the exact opposite of beauty when I look at myself. But the truth is undeniable.
There is beauty in brokenness. The web that entangles my life also creates something so ethereal and so precious.
It creates me.