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Sea glass soothes. I love the hunt. I am at the Farmer’s Market and even my jewelry is a must-touch item. It wants to be held and it calls out to be picked out. My aunt was telling me how much she enjoys looking at a big pile of glass and sorting it by color. She admires the various shades of green and blue. There’s lime green and kelly green and citron. The blue is cobalt or corn flower. Even the whites aren’t always white but can hide hints of yellow or lavender or grey that isn’t immediately obvious unless you are looking at sea glass pieces all together. My neighbor says it’s calming to sort. And for me, to put my hand in a pile of sand or sea glass makes me feel the same as when I have my hands in dirt gardening.

Maybe it speaks to those of us who seek balance, who love nature but are also busy bees and can’t just sit in a hammock without a book or doze on a blanket. There are those of us who relax by being busy, who get lost in the seeking and sea of colors when playing with sea glass. It’s a timeless tradition this hunting of sea glass. I’ve met neighbors I didn’t know I had by talking about sea glass, sat across the table from boys about 10 and women about 80 who tell me what they have done or will do with their own collections. It’s a hobby many families share or something done alone.

Last week, while pondering a personal situation I wrote about how I always return to the sea which is a place where I can bring my “big” questions, the ones that can’t be answered by another person or are maybe so big they can’t yet be voiced. They are dreams or fears incubating or plans not ready for action and they need time to be mulled over.

At times of major transformation my fingers rake sand, stone and glass. I rub granules close to skin, thumb the inside of a frosted white piece of sea glass and marvel at the shape of a broken blue mussel. Leaning into the hot rocks I let the earth massage my shoulders and relax in the air. I stare up at the clouds and wonder what it would be like to be sea weed floating in open waters. Does it wriggle and swim and get set free once wet? Or, does it revel in the heat of the sun as it becomes dry on sand?

Nature is my manicurist as my soul is buffed by the sound of the water and my own rough shards are softened. Broken fragments of glass soak in embryonic waters to be soothed and made whole. Some pieces seem to hide, staying close to the shore line and I do not force them from hiding. One day they will be dry and ready, even if naked and bare as a newborn, to emerge on dry land and leave the familiar tub of Mother Nature’s belly. Ready for solo adventures, able to fly from the nest of their mother’s hip they will seek new lands and adventures, hop up and into hands and try their invisible feet on dry land.

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This writer, sea glass girl and seeker is happy to say my writing is on one of my favorite websites. Scroll down to the third piece, “Discarded” to read my work of memoir. It’s not sea glass related but it is another variety of my work.

http://www.literarymama.com/creativenonfiction

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Today, I came to the beach with a full spirit. I had been asked to light the chalice at church and as a new member didn’t really know what this entailed (don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into a religious discussion). I decided to speak what was on my mind and since it was between Memorial Day and Father’s Day I talked about my father. I was hesitant. I didn’t want to say something superficial but how much did I want to share in a congregation full of people who I know to varying degrees. For me, what moves me most are words from the heart, direct and honest and personal. I said that my father was in three battles: childhood, addiction and Vietnam and I don’t know which damaged him most. I said how he never returned to family or civilian life and as far as I know is still homeless. I said I have battled with my idea of how he should have lived his life and how I wish for quality care for children, addicts and veterans. I read a poem from a nurse who served in Vietnam. I wasn’t the least bit nervous while I was speaking as I was reading from a sheet of paper. But my heart was pounding. The minister, a kind man wearing comfortable shoes and a warm smile was a steadying presence. I lit the chalice for courage for battles not won or lost but experienced, for grief while bearing losses and for the peace that comes with accepting the way things are as opposed to wishing or willing them to be different.

When I lit the chalice my hand shook and it took me a long time to get the flame to light. I don’t know, in all that is in my life, what it is that precisely or exactly I chose to share. Maybe because I am realizing how much I’ve raged against the facts and realities in my life. Maybe because I am open to the peace that comes from saying, “this is what is” even if it is not the path I would have designed if life worked according to my plan.

What astounded me was the response which is one of the most affirming and compassionate reactions I have had to sharing something personal in my entire life. It is not the deepest, most recent or tender wound I have lived, but it is a story I’ve learned to sit with differently, to tell my own way and if and when I wish and to leave alone for long stretches of time in my heart and mind. Someone during the service thanked me for my words and the poem I shared. That made me tearful. In the aisles of the church people rubbed my shoulder, gave me thumbs up and one woman said, “there are no words” and gave me a hug. Many people told me they were moved my what I said. When I walked into the coffee house three women greeted me, all walking towards me with smiles and open arms and eyes that saw me. One said, “It took a lot of years for you to get to those words,” and I hadn’t thought of it that way but it was true.

It is the power of writing, of witnessing, of truth telling and of being seen and heard. It is not always the difficulties we bear that pain us, but the feeling of being judged or condemned, silenced or not seen in the particular way we experience some aspect of our lives that hurts. We are all so different, and when the same person, like a family member hurts many people, everyone clings to their own reactions and it is hard to see and accept and validate each other. In this space, I felt held, held by maternal and ancestral wisdom, not because people were older or even all women, but because people were accepting and listening and attentive. I felt attended to at the deepest level and I had not expected this at all. People shared some of their own individual struggles and issues, the parts of life that are confusing, painful and unreconciled, the parts of life where battles can’t be won or lost, where things aren’t defined.

One woman said, “There are ten people I’d like to share your words with,” and that almost made me cry. She hugged me though she’s not a hugger and I got teary though I’m not a person who cries easily. We live in a culture wher epeople carry deep sorrows or old sorrows or difficulties with shame or stignma so privately we can still believe we are alone even as we know, from books and movies, from reading the newspaper and hearing about our friends and loved ones, everyone faces life challenges.

I mentioned how I thought aging meant “aging out” of desires, confusion, life’s complexity and everyone smiled that, “yeah, that doesn’t happen does it?” but also celebrated that we have a space and a place to share deeply. And that is the ultimate gift. But it can’t be done unless one feels safe and there is an environment that is safe. And, unless we each risk some truth telling. I was tempted to quote Thomas Merton, maybe sound smart but not personal, maybe go with the less personal ligthing. But I don’t know that I’ll ever light another chalice in a sacred space and I wanted my words to matter to me. My spouse was teary and proud and held my hand. I was glad to have his hand holding my own after I spoke.

And then, in the play ground to watch my daughter twist in circles on the swing, tumble around and hang upside down from a jungle gym, drink apple juice and get me the pretzel remains as I was so hungry. She sang on the car ride home and I felt full. Grateful. Seen. Heard. Accepted. I didn’t tell anything close to my life story but I shared from the heart and was seen and heard and affirmed. I was reminded, as any group gathering where deep sharing happens, how funny and tragic and wonderful and painful every single person’s life is.

So, with a full heart I stepped onto the sand ready to walk and look for those lost soul sea glass fragments, the pieces that are the baby teeth of life’s mystery, the shards that make me wonder what was broken, the chunks that make me wonder about the larger whole, the colors that glisten on sand. I kept thinking, “Who owns the ocean? no one. no one. no one” and I was glad for that and public beach and access. I let my mind wander to points in the church service, to words that resonated about peace, questions raised about Quakerism and my own thoughts on what parts of will-fullness are a way of fighting with what is… A perfect day.

Next, I’ll write about the actual hunt.

Catch of the Day: Being present and grateful for the gift of others being present to me.

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Does the ocean play?It was the first thought on my mind when I woke up. I had dreams of whales and dolphins and sharks. They were swimming and some were jumping. I was thinking of how much life there is IN the ocean, even the birds that don’t live in it but find food or just swim.

Tides change. The water moves in relation to storms and currents. Is it always bending to the will of nature or industry? Does a wave ever say, I’m going to go that way? Does the water ever say in protest, I will not move when it is so fluid?

Does the water itself have emotion?Really, funny morning first thoughts. The ocean holds so much life but does the water itself have function only or freedom as well?

Curious first morning thoughts.

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Dancing with the Beach 

This piece is also posted on the www.writingfromtheheart.wordpress.com site as the new topic is feet.

 Cissy White – Dancing with the Beach

 

Size 10 and triple E. Substantial. That’s me. Large as my feet are they still manage, in parts, to be bony. Though bony, they are bulbous and fleshy and easy to bruise. My pinky toe is an unwanted child squished into family photos. She plays half size just to belong but is damaged with broken nails and misshapen with the effort of trying to fit in.

 

Still, since age 40, I adore my feet.  At the ocean, they are exquisite dance partners. I can follow without lead. The rocks and sand underneath hold me as gingerly as a little girl with a loving Daddy who lets me step on him and then carries.

 

I hunt sea glass not with my hands or my eyes but my feet. My back is to the water. I feel the wind on my back and let the moisture sneak up and over my shoulders. My feet track the tide, tell me where we will hunt and I follow.

 

In soft soled sneakers I can feel the rocks underneath. I tend to stand still and move backwards. I look towards the shore instead of the water. I am with the salty sandy earth. Only occasionally do I let a strong wave cut in, turning my attention to the stunning sky line, the clouds hovering above in animal shapes. I try not to get distracted with the commuter boat, wondering where people are going, try not to think of wind energy with the turbine turning in Hulll. I breathe up the smell, the sea weed and fish and turn toward the ground, and walk happy with eyes cast down.

 

When I hunt alone I stretch and dance. I am unselfconscious of eyes in homes or people in boats. I can’t see them and am engrossed, like a practitioner doing Tai Chi. I have my own ritual. First, I stand tall and stretch up to the sun and sky. Then, I put hair in pony tail; stick Ziploc baggies in back pockets. I am an athlete in warm up.

 

When it is time, the music of waves, in random rhythms move me. I hinge at the waist and bend. My flat back parallel to the ground, my hands could but do not reach down. They rest on my back as my gaze floats over the ground. In this posture, I am half in meditation and half a speed skater. I never “touch down” without intention. When the sand offers up a gem that says “Rescue me,” I palm it. I rub and remove sand and holding it as if to say, “There. There,” before homing her in a bag, a guppy waiting to join the other fish in the tank.

 

My feet slide to the left, hop to the back, take me diagonal over rocks. I follow wherever they track. Sometimes, I go in a circle marking a boundary around a scared space knowing something waits. It is not always sea glass, a heart-shaped rock, or even pottery but an insight or a feeling. I know when I have found it as my feet will move me along.

 

It is not a private place. People, mostly men walk with dogs and binoculars and fishing poles come too. I do not rise to meet them. I wave, pet the dogs curious enough to bound over. I am loyal to the song and the ground. The beach, though rocky, is always solid thanks to my triple E width, size 10 feet who have helped me learn to move into stillness.

 

I think the ocean is also happy to see me. A less delicate looking polished set of bare foot would not hold the sturdy ocean in her toes. I, when the beach is tired, can lift her up and let her rest. When she is dirty, I pick up the litter and debris of others. I am graced with gems but will return favors. I am loving and loyal and grateful for these feet.

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If you are interested in my post on the Writing from the Heart website click here. It’s under “Cissy – My Last Day on Earth” and I wrote it before realizing the prompt was if TOMORROW were my last day on earth. But, I’m sticking with what came out in the writing today.

http://writingfromtheheart.wordpress.com/

Sea Glass Girl

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Inaugural Snow and Hunt

Last week on Tuesday I had to go get some inaugural sea glass. I went to hunt on the historic day. There was no path to the stairs or the sea wall. Both were thigh high in snow piles from plows. No one had walked the wall yet so there weren’t even any foot holes to follow. I climbed in, boots on and looked for my way to shore. Should I hop the wall? Try the icy stairs? Be the first to make a path on the sea wall and make my prints the first in the fresh snow? This was exciting and easy but how does one literally carve out a new path to the Presidency or break a glass ceiling? It is dangerous and difficult and most turn back, wait for someone else to go first, and then look for the way to follow.

If we had the first woman president I think we would be equally impressed because anyone who shatters the heavy load of history, who makes a freighter turn from one direction to another has accomplished something as close to a cartoon action figure with magical powers. Our president faced obstacles that confuse or crush others – an absent father, a single mother, moves and re locations and the loss of his mother to cancer. He has had to define for himself what it means to be Black, African American, American, presidential and not let the monumental occasion of his presidency distract him from the work to be done on our economy, in foreign affairs and in so many areas.

O.k., so, what does this have to do with sea glass. I wanted to be near the ocean before watching him take the Oath of Office, to have sea glass that is my little piece of history, what grounds me, glass I found on the day that changed our history. Because I am the mother of a daughter who is a person of color who has parents who are Caucasian, and parents (birth) from another country, I feel a sense of hope of what might be possible for her one day (not the presidency as she wasn’t born in the U.S.) but the way one change can make more change possible. So, I was feeling, as a parent, better about the world and our acceptance of families who have a complicated story that can’t be told in a short sentence. I am happy to see people of color in the white house, an entire family in fact, and to have my daughter see the same.

When she celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day at school they talked about how schools were segregated. She wanted to know where she would go to school as an Asian if there were schools for Whites and schools for Blacks. She was concrete, if it were today, she wondered which of her classmates she would be with and she named her classmates. When we had to look online and see there were schools, at least in CA for the Chinese, she was sad. Who in her school would she go to school with? The one girl in her class who is half Chinese and half Caucasian or would that girl be allowed to go to the white school? It was hard for her to imagine and I’m glad she only has to imagine. The world isn’t perfect but things have changed.

So, those were my thoughts last week as I hunted the beach early in the morning before getting a ringside set with my husband (home with his back out) in front of the t.v. Here are some pictures of the glass I found and the thoughts I was having.

 

Icy Stairs

This photo reminds me of a “Where’s Waldo?” but it’s a “Where’s the Sea Glass?”
The following struck me as strange because of the contrast of snow and sea weed, of sand and ice. We think of beaches as one-dimensional warm weather places as though they don’t exist in winter. But they do. And how often do we ingore, deny and minimize our own winter times because the coldness or harshness or incongruity of what we feel and experience is something we think we “shouldn’t” be feeling or experiencing… as though we can just pretend sand doesn’t get frozen over and have to thaw. We are all complicated and layered and nothing exists in only one emotional season.
I love this next one because so many times I bent over to pick up glass and it was snow or ice. I had once piece I had to squeeze tight between my fingers to see if it would melt and give under the heat of touch or stay solid. This piece is sea glass on rocks.
This is a sliver of purple on snow.
Finally, the snow on sand and in between it, here and there, gems of sea glass, shells, old milk bottles.
Catch of the Day: History and the ordinary are both worthy of attention.

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