Friday, September 21, 2007

Broken Shells

We are away this week, enjoying the kind of vacation that I never dreamed of as a child. I am typing here in a resort condo, with soft ocean breezes wafting past and a gorgeous view of the blue Pacific sparkling under the southern California sun.

It has been a restful week. We've spent hours at the pool, swimming and laughing, teasing each other, and generally enjoying something we don't usually do (we don't have a pool at home). We've been to the beach several times, sinking our toes into warm sand and watching the boys dance with the waves. We've had lazy mornings and relaxed evenings. Papa and I had dinner out alone (we are grateful for grandparents), and have had many nice talks sitting snuggled on the couch or side-by-side gazing at the ocean. We went to a baseball game, and rode our bikes from pier to pier, played games, and did a puzzle.

It has been exactly what we needed ~ time to reconnect. Reconnecting as a family, as a couple; reconnecting with ourselves.

Yesterday we were at the beach; a beach with many small shells and well as many shell fragments. J-Baby was jumping up and down with excitement as soon as we hit the sand. My first words regarding the shells were, "No broken shells, and nothing smaller than a half-dollar."

Ooops! Right away I had set loose my inner perfectionist. She isn't very fun, you know. Oh yes, she's handy to have around when polishing silver or folding napkins, but really, she is a dull, dull girl. She doesn't look beneath the surface; she doesn't see gems in the rough. Seeking perfection she is very rarely happy with life the way it is.

Luckily, J-Baby pretty much ignores her. Oh, he set out to find big, unbroken shells, but the lure of the unbroken tiny shells and the broken big shells were too great. He sifted through the sand, looking for big shells, but exulting in everything, delighted in finding them, shouting in glee at each one. He sent perfectionist girl packing, because his enthusiasm was infectious, and soon I was picking up tiny perfect shells (except none of them is perfectly perfect, which I noted upon close inspection). Soon I was picking up bigger fragments, broken shells, just for J-Baby. A little boy's interest wanes quickly at times, so he was dancing with the ocean and I was picking up shells. T-Guy joined me in my pursuit, noting how much they looked like gemstones, these little shells.

Broken shells. I am sure that at some point in my childhood I was admonished not to bring home broken shells. To adults they can seem worthless; cast-off exoskeletons waiting to be ground into sand. But to those who look with the eyes of children they can be treasures. The fact that the ocean has rubbed away the sharp edges makes them soothing to rub between your fingers. You can look at the piece and imagine the whole. You can put pieces together like puzzles, creating new shell shapes that never before existed. Instead of just looking, looking at a perfect shell, you interact with the brokenness and find that the chips, the breaks, the erosion...they change the shell, they make it different, but it is no less than the perfect, unbroken shell.

On the beach, a chance to reconnect with the wisdom, vitality, and yes, compassion that is our birthright.

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