I grew up in California, walking on the beach, gazing out at the infinite ocean. My father walked me out to the deep water on his shoulders, taught me how to ride a wave and to carefully hold my breath when I was tumbled. On those Santa Monica shores in the tumltuous 1960s I learned to see the ocean as a sign of peace and power, eternity and return, outlasting all of us, with waves the challenges we dare to ride.
When I was a bit older my parents taught me about beach glass, those softened shards of cast-off broken bottles that wash up onshore as twinking bits of art. At first beach glass was simply something pretty, free, to look for everywhere, save and collect. I went on throughout my life to fill up jars and bowls and sandy baskets, always walking on the beaches of the world with my eyes down for beach glass treasure. This meditative pastime is a soothing stroll, and I’ve gone beachcombing in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, found rare red seaglass fused amid the port garbage of Busan, South Korea.
When did I decide that beach glass was also a symbol of redemotion? Perhaps when I studied Hasidic thought, where Kabbala mysticism teaches that during creation, the world imploded and sharp shards scattered amongst us along with loving sparks of light. Beach glass is sharpness and light combined; something broken, ruined, sharp, painful in its edges, a mere pop bottle, is launched into a wave and comes back art. The mother ocean smooths its edges; heals, reforms.
I can see the shards and sparks of my 1960s childhood as beach glass, now. It was a time of psychadelic brightness, bits and pieces treasured and collected by so many memory-combers today. And some memories, like beach glass, are still too sharp to hold; so throw them back and let time sand the pain. As people, in all our flawed humanity, we wash up on one another’s beach towels, as bits of art not perfect, far from finished. We hope to get more polish as we ride the tumbling waves. And when we land as beauty with our broken edges shining, curved and smooth, the Goddess rubs her thumb over us all.
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