What the Sea Takes
I remember her as she was then, hunting for shells and sand dollars in the coastal shallows, incongruous and beautiful in a sun dress and galoshes. She lacked my childhood experiences around water and was not a strong swimmer; an inland girl to my island boy. In our first weeks together she confessed a profound fear of the unending expanse of the ocean, at the mere prospect of being surround by the dark empty depths.
“It isn’t empty,” I told her, “it’s just full of discoveries yet to be made. Like the rest of life.” And she faced her fear, hunting in the sandy sea water for hidden delights, and I tell you there is no one you will ever love harder than a person finding joy within that which terrifies them the most.
Change is the only constant in this life, and there is no better symbol of that change than that boundary where sea and land meet. Each change of the tide alters the shape of the beach, sculpting it into something different than what came before, destroying and renewing in equal measure.
There is a phrase spoken amongst those of my grandfather’s generation: “The sea gives plenty, but it always takes back that which belongs to it.”
There is a sea inside us all as well, a tide of iron-rich salt water that ebbs and flows with each beat of the heart. Driftwood cells borne away on currents to places far from their point of origin. Sometimes these take root where they shouldn’t, colony clusters accreting around them like coral reefs, growing unchecked as long as the sea provides. Sometimes they become healthy, thriving.
Sometimes, they just cause shipwrecks.
I made the trip out again alone, after, bearing her galoshes with me. The tide was low, the shorebirds hunting mollusks, crabs searching out whatever bits of edible detritus they could scavenge. I placed her boots down at the waters edge, toes facing the horizon, amongst the seashells and sand dollars she prized so highly. Then I sat myself next to them in the soft, damp sand.
There I waited, for the rising tide to come and change the sea inside of me.