Our feet leave imprints in the sand, and the air smells of salt and potential. I think about breathing, how I need to get in better shape, and about how good the sun feels on my chest.
In this moment, life is smiling with the makings of a perfect day. We set up a beach umbrella, chairs, and flip our flip-flops from our feet.
We walk to the water, and it is healing, vast, and I am grounded and present.
By the time we walk the path again, to get sandwiches and fruit for lunch, the sand has been rebuilt. Our footprints have been replaced by tiny sand-waves. We see new footprints, probably left by a bird. They, too, will disappear within moments.
The sand rebuilds itself.
When I was in my early 20’s, I house-sat at my boyfriend’s father’s home. It was a difficult year in the way that all years are difficult at 22 or 24 years old. I didn’t know what I wanted from life, and often felt paralyzed by decision.
As if choosing one thing would mean I’d never be anything else.
As if I weren’t capable of rebuilding myself.
On a fresh afternoon, with the air smelling like salt and around-the-corner dreams, I walked to the ocean, flipped my flip-flops off, and waded into the surf. The riptide was strong, but so was I. I knew how to bend and fold over and beneath the waves until I asked the ocean and God to help me rebuild myself.
“Give me a sign,” I said. I felt lost, and the possibility of rebuilding myself felt foreign.
A wave came, turned me over and over until I was disoriented, and then right again, catching a breath just in time for another wave to do the same. And another. Another. Over and over.
I don’t know how many there were, or how long it lasted, but remember the fear, and my fight.
“I didn’t mean I’m ready to die!” I thought. My knees and shoulders were bleeding. My cheek had been rubbed raw by the sand. My bravery was broken.
I wouldn’t be thankful for the sign until I’d broken free, returned to my towel and my flip-flops, and could breathe again.
What did it mean?
To this day, I’m not sure. Perhaps the message was simply that I am not in control, as much as I strive to be.
Perhaps it was to remind me that sometimes, on a sun and salt-filled day, people take a final breath and are no more than photographs, memories, or a butterfly who has broken from a cocoon.
Perhaps, I was meant to rebuild myself.
Sometimes, I walk toward the ocean and find a piece of sea glass. I pick it up, and marvel at its beauty.
The dark part of me thinks about the bodies the ocean has done the same to. Smoothed the ragged edges of our lives until they are beautiful.
The even darker part of me says “The ocean has eaten all of the human parts of us until they’re dissolved completely.”
How many bodies does the ocean hold?
What about the bodies that the ocean doesn’t claim, but calls them to her home?
Natural disaster comes as rain and tornados. Flooding. Surges. It takes randomly and without apology. It washes us clean while destroying us. Natural disaster rips walls from our homes, and leaves people-shaped holes in our lives.
It floods us and kills us, and then is calm, inviting us to put an umbrella on a beach, once again.
Because we rebuild.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “When it comes to natural disasters…” thought up by the fabulous April of April Noelle. Please visit her. She’s amazing and knows much more about natural disaster than I do.