I make my way to the tide line on the beach, that line of crushed shells, rocks and sea grass left behind by the rhythmic pounding of the waves. I am looking for sea glass, my first time out to the island since last summer. I had originally planned to walk with Bear, but the wind is too much for him, and I don’t think he likes the sound of the waves. Maybe it’s too much for his tiny ears to take in.
A Kelly Clarkson song has been playing in my head since I woke up. The same line playing over and over – “My life would suck without you” – and I can’t focus, or get rid of it. So I gaze at the sand and wait for bits of glass, once whole bottles tossed out, broken, formed, polished by the ocean to catch my eye. I’m looking for special pieces, red or blue, which are particularly difficult to find. I see only brown, white and a few green. I pick them up and pocket them, thanking the ocean for these treasures.
She calls to me. In the crashing of the waves I can hear her words.
“Do you have time for a story?”
I do. I have time for anything today. It’s my day-cation.
“Listen for a while. But first, you need to stop that song from playing, so you can really hear my words.”
I concentrate on the surf, and the wind, and the sea glass already in my pocket. And the song recedes.
“It’s a story about a girl.”
Is it a story about me? Because I already know my own story, all too well.
“Are you going to ask questions? Or are you going to listen?”
“It’s a story about a girl. I heard the story from different travelers. It happened in the Pacific Ocean, not here.”
And I want to interrupt, because I already know this story. I know what happened in the Pacific Ocean. But I wait, listening to the waves, and the wind, and try to keep my hair out of my face.
“She was sad. Or maybe lost is a better word.”
Lost is a good word, but without hope or help is probably a better way to put it. She had given up.
“True. Not alone, but so lonely. Drinking wasn’t doing her any good, either, but she kept at it.”
Don’t forget the promiscuity. That wasn’t doing her any good, either. She didn’t even know what she was looking for.
“Purpose. She was looking for her purpose. She was just confusing it with a search for love, happiness, or maybe she just wanted to fit in too badly.”
“She wasn’t meant to fit in. She never was.”
I walked along slowly, the shells and rocks crunching under my feet, crouching down every few minutes to pick up another piece of glass. I ran my fingers along the edges, to make sure it was smooth all around. If not, it wasn’t ready yet, and I tossed it back to the ocean to finish it.
“I heard there was a full moon that night. No clouds, a little wind. And she walked right into the Pacific Ocean, fully clothed.”
It was so quiet that night. Much like this morning. Only the sound of the wind and the waves crashing on the beach. Had she taken her shoes off, or walked right in with them on?
“She cried. Her tears fell, adding to the ocean, and she prayed, out loud. She called out to God, saying that she didn’t care anymore, that she was done, and she begged the ocean to take her.”
She didn’t, though. And neither did God.
“What made her turn around? That part of the story was never clear to me.”
She hadn’t turned around. The waves had literally pushed her back to the beach. She had sat down in the sand, and listened to the waves crashing, and looked up to the stars and the moon, and she had heard God.
She had asked why. Not for anything in particular, but for everything in general. Why?
And His answer was simply, “I’m not ready for you yet. It’s not your time, and you haven’t finished what you are here to do.”
And she had turned around and walked back to the barracks.
“What was she there to do?”
She hadn’t asked. Do you think He would have answered if she had?
“What did she do when she left the Pacific Ocean?
Nothing much really changed, if I recall. She kept making the same mistakes. Or maybe she made new ones. I’m not really sure.
“Why did you go there that night?”
“But you’re still here…”
And that’s the million dollar question – why?
“Why did you come to see me today?”
Because you have always been able to calm me. Because I don’t need answers when I hear you and feel you. The questions fade to silence, and I can hear my own heartbeat again. I can hear the whispers of my faith come back to me, and I don’t care about fitting in. Because this is where I feel at home.