Archive for May, 2010

Sea Glass Young and Old

If you have come to my site when it is so infrequently updated I thank you. I tried to write as an inanimate object – an exercise from the book Writing as a Spiritual Practice and came back to sea glass.

I. A Young Sliver of Glass

I am stuck in the sand, half buried and what I hear is the tide moving away. I am lodged  behind a rock for how many more hours? Will a dog kick me loose if she digs? Will a parent lift me up to protect their toddlers bare feet? These are my freedom fantasies and they never happen. No humans are wading in the water or walking by.

            Immobilized in a spot not of my choosing. The sky, the sand and the water are all I have to look at whether I am wet in the water or dry in the sand. I am so tired of making shapes out of the clouds that float by. I yearn to join the seagulls over head who can sit on the water, walk on the land or fly through the air. I am stranded.

            Why aren’t I a sea gull? Why aren’t I a human who can choose to come here but can also leave? Why am I a broken piece of glass without a home where I can rest? The endless pull of the ocean waves yanks me down to the sea floor and shoots me up near the surface. I am in an endless cycle which ends with me being abandoned, wet, sharp and alone on another unfamiliar strip of land.

            The glass that surrounded me is gone. Mother, the elegant opening who kept us all in shape is still in my memory. My father was the base of the pitcher, thick and solid and holding us up for years. My siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents were severed from one another in less time than it takes to scream. We slipped and cracked on a ceramic floor before we had time to know we would be broken.

            We were swept up, at first with care, and I thought, maybe we would be put back together. Some of my cousins were placed in the palm of a hand with what looked like love. I was confused when they were tossed into the tall black garbage can. I heard them scream as they fell beside coffee grinds and paper and wet paper towels. I know what they slid past because moments later I followed them.

            In the blackness I could at least hear the voices of my parents trying to call each of our names, trying to collect and gather us back up again at least with words. They tried not to sound afraid but I could tell that they did not know what was happening. For two weeks, we stayed in total darkness, sobbing most of the time, and sometimes plotting and planning as though we could escape. We tried to imagine scenarios in which we would end up together or resume the shape we had once been.

            No one wanted to talk about how our eldest aunt, the one we all adored, the handle, had broken into so many tiny pieces we had not heard her voice and were certain we never would. No one wanted to acknowledge that the tiny flecks of glass, miniscule pieces in infant form would never develop. Each and every fragment was needed and essential to holding the pitcher together and even as we struggled we knew what we had been was gone.

            But it made no sense. We had worked so well sitting all together on table tops, filled with water from which we were poured. We were carried out onto porch tables in the late day sun, used in the morning to deliver orange juice at tables filled with people. We were used repeatedly. We had purpose and function. We weren’t disposable and yet there we were in the trash.

            Why weren’t we worth keeping and keeping together? Didn’t we matter any more once we had broken? Hadn’t our time, in service, meant anything to our human host? I thought she cared about us. She held us carefully, cleaned us by hand and never put us in a noisy machine. She displayed us when we weren’t in use as though she needed to keep us in reach. But it was she, this same woman who delivered us to our final fate, a pit in the ground where we finally had a moment of sun, air and hope only to be emptied in rotting trash with flies and ants and maggots.

            What had I done that was so bad to cause this? Why was I ending up alone?

I could think of little else for years. At first, I tried to stay as close to any family member as possible but each and every time another bag of trash emptied one of us was pushed deeper in the ground or pulled down, deeper into the hole in the earth. We scattered so far that eventually we could not even hear each other’s voices.

            Many days I could not cry. I let the sun burn down on me as though a personal punishment for breaking. I tried to convince myself I didn’t need parents or family. Hadn’t I wanted to break loose, be free and end the suffocating confinement of being surrounded on all sides?

            It’s hard to even admit that. Did I cause this with my own dissatisfaction, unvoiced? Was I because I had not appreciated the ways in which we held each other together? And why was I thrust, eventually, into the ocean with the trash where the chances of ever being back together with my family ended? Who decided I must be sentenced to the open sea where I am dragged through sand, where I must dodge shells and rocks and coral if I am to not be broken even more?

            I say I want rest and I do but then I am lodged into some new and strange place every 12 hours. I do not want to notice the trees or the birds or the view or get too attached to any one place which will only be stolen away by a large wave. The waves beat and spin and dump and abandon me but then they taunt me by always reappearing to claim me once more. I hate this existence. Why am I stuck in this agonizing hell?

2. Sea Glass in Old Age

I feel as ancient as the ocean floor, as timeless as the wind and yet each sunset makes me young. Every night no matter the weather, no matter how bland or electric, whether visible or impossible to see the sun goes to bed. Every night, from under water or perched high in a sand pile, I give the sun my full attention and respect and know, even if I can’t see her, she is setting and settling into her night. She is my mother now and I adore her. She is my lover and my north star. No matter where I travel and how many times I spin in circles she is what is reliable.

            The moon also keeps me company and is my evening companion. He doesn’t even pretend to hold the same shape and I realize that was the mistake of my youth. I had assumed I was meant to always stay the same when even the moon loses most of himself twelve times a year. Despite the constant rebuilding he returns just as vibrant, at full power, no matter how dark the nights gets and how much he loses.

            I do not welcome the cold air or the violent waves. But I no longer rage against the tides. I am not the same. The salt air, the star fish, the snails and the fish are my new family. I am as much a part of the wet sea and crisp air as any being that was born to this particular ocean. What is a cousin or a sister? If I can play hide and seek with the seaweed itself who is to say I am doomed? I was not destroyed by the cracks and breaks, and yes, the ultimate shattering.

            I will become a part of the soil and sand and I will be the ocean floor itself some day. Even if another human being picks me up and puts me in their pocket and I am joined again next to and inside of other pieces of glass, I will miss this endless bounty and I will return to it again. Nothing, not in nature or in me, lasts forever. Only the sun and the moon and the air and the ocean are forever so why wouldn’t I learn to be gracious to my new and glorious home?

            It has taken a long time to understand I cannot be broken apart from life. It has taken me decades to let my sadness all of way in as just as long to let it go. I miss my family but the bitterness and rage at life has subsided. I am not only the stab of pain I once was. I can recall without guilt, when I hated my father’s heavy strict voice booming below me, when I tired of my mother’s open mouth always pursed. I envied my aunt’s place on the outside of the pitcher because she had the freedom I craved.

            I imagine I see them now but with so much time passing would they recognize me? Would I know them? Surely they have changed at least as much as I. I am now thicker in the center, my texture is less sharp but heavy and grainy and the point’s edges have been worn down by the sea. I have chipped and flaked and there are scars covered up with a gentle white coating.

            Some day I will be the sea floor, disintegrated, not in brokenness but because I am bound by the rules of time. I will become the sand. I will be the womb, the ocean floor holding another broken fragment discarded. From that place, though she may feel bullied by tides and waves, I will love her. She will not be able to hear me but I will watch, cheer and love her anyhow. I will watch every sunset, feel the sun’s heat and witness the moon’s metamorphism.


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