Strangers at the Water
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
The people assembled as if the ocean called them.
I was wordless and transfixed in my humble beach chair. The rain and wind of the past several days had subsided and what was left of us came out in our trusty raincoats and boots in case the sky and clouds turned on us again. After so much rain and wind it is hard to trust the return of the sun. We can become rugged to the storms of life. Some of us have grown to be hardy, but with our eyes constant on the horizon - expecting the next cold wind. We have become accustomed to weather, winter, pandemic, sickness and dare I mention, fear.
But that is not the theme of the day.
Not at all.
Miraculously the sea called to the people and they turned out in impressive number. Some families, some friends, some people in their Easter best and the kids asking their moms if they could take off their shoes to feel the sand with their toes. It was enough to be considered a procession, even if it was unplanned. The sun shone down in glory and the people basked in the full warmth of that gorgeous star. The first splashy steps into the coastal timewash were waiting for us all, just off shore.
I recognized the sound of laughter around me as one of the small miracles washing up like shells on the shoreline. Joy was here to be noticed - If I wanted to notice.
The children were running. Splashing water and sprays of sand and footballs and kites soaring in color and wind. The people were unhurried. the adults relaxed their shoulders. There were puppies learning about sand. I even saw a dog wearing a bowtie.
I sipped my coffee and as the sun's rays pulled on the pigment of my skin I felt myself coming alive. Oh God, how I wanted to feel alive again. I think that is what we all wanted - the collected strangers on the beach.
I told myself the story like a fable. That we all felt the magnetism of the great deep beyond. That the lot of us wanted to gaze at the vastness and feel the sunshine. We were called here so that the sound of the waves could wash through our dusty, tired thoughts. The ocean called us here so we could put it all down. I dug my feet into the sand and opened my body upwards towards the sun. More towards the warmth. More to the heart space that had shielded away from the fear and isolation and the hardship we have seen. How is it that so many of us can have the shared experience of being so alone?
There must be something we can do about that.
I decided that the only thing that could possibly make such a shimmering moment better would be to see a dolphin. I've always loved the way they can splash and click and embody joy. It was a childish wish that rose in my heart, but I gave it words and then I let the expectation sail out like a message in a bottle. I decided my secret hope was allowed to go where the current took it. And for some reason, I trusted that I would see what I wanted.
That it would appear in front of me.
And it did.
with a flash of movement just off the water a school of dolphins surfaced and I ran to them without thought of myself. Mask off, feet in sand, sun blazing awake, heart strong and pumping.
So this is it.
This is living.
And on the edge of time.
I watched them move in gentle arches towards the horizon and then I returned to my post.
In the final moments on the beach, I watched a woman and a young girl approach the waves. They were silent as they passed and then they stood, both facing the water. There was a reverent pause and then they reached out to hold hands. I felt like I was at church. Or maybe something better than church.
from 100 feet back I could tell they were brave. It was in their shoulders. It was in their straight stare to the ocean. They were beautiful. I wonder if they were saying goodbye. Or if they were letting go. I wondered if they were called here just like me. To witness what we needed to before we were on our way.
Back to our homes. Back to our lives. Inland, but very much changed.
I took their picture. Because I was compelled. Because I was captivated. Because it was the closest thing to real beauty that I've seen in a while. Because the young girl might be a daughter on the edge of being too old to reach instinctively for her mother’s hand anymore. Because we are all changing and we are all changed. Because I hope you can look at this and feel it too. The warmth on your face. The pull of the ocean. The assurance that the sun will shine on you again. I hope you have a hand to hold when you are standing at the edge of the water. I hope you have what you need. I hope you know that you belong.