This shell dish houses shells (mixed with Claire Burke potpourri) gathered from past trips to the sea. It sits on my dresser and reminds me of times I've shed the shell of everyday to seek solitude and simplicity. To stroll a stretch of beach in the early morning and gather treasures in my spirit as well as my sack. To float in a salt spa and let the waves massage my tired back. To bake clean in an oven of sand. To contemplate my smallness at sunset. To let the water wash my feet.
I have a need to go back to the sea, but it won't happen this year. And so I touch my shells and starfish and pieces of coral, these and others, and try to slip my shell for a moment. For a short season. To find an island of solitude in a sea of distractions, simplicity in an ocean of multiplicity. To touch a singleness of focus, a soul center. Serenity.
I've been re-reading Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. As she contemplates a channelled whelk, she's struck by the fact that it is simple, bare, and beautiful. And that the frame of her life--and my life--does not foster simplicity.
Its hard to remain whole when fragmented by distractions. Even those things and objects meant to simplify life, like dishwashers and vacuums and microwaves and cars and computers, often make life more complicated.
"One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much."
One doesn't need many clothes at the beach--swimsuit, sandals, sweatshirt. And as far as shelter, we've stayed in a tent, a tiny trailer, and a simple beach cottage that required very little upkeep. We ate simply.
In beach living, she says, one sheds vanity and pride and Martha-like anxiety and hypocrisy and finds spiritual freedom and peace.
"Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside."
But it's a place to start.
"One is free, like the hermit crab, to change one's shell."
"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" Psalm 8:9 ()
What have you learned from the beach?
Copyright © 2010 by Sandra King