How to Make Sea Glass
I feel annoyed and discouraged, perhaps in equal measure. Having spent so long looking forward to this summer's beach trip, and raising money to take the neighborhood boys who have been faithfully involved all year for a week at the seashore. Here now, though, I am realizing I have somehow flipped pages from hopes to expectations, quiet faithfulness to a desperate striving for fruit. I have decided we haven't had enough important conversations yet this week, and all our attitudes tilt towards grouchy. Alone on the beach, I cough not-discretely as the lady next to me lights cigarettes in endless succession. Back at the house, the boys don't know how to put down their phones. They quit any games we play together as soon as the score turns against them, and prefer video games to the salty waves we have spent so much time and energy bringing them to visit. One boy swims endlessly under my watchful eye, but the rest lounge inside, eating foolish numbers of the snacks we bought and stuffing their wrappers into the cracks of the couch instead of the trash can.
Deep gray clouds roll in on the wind, and rain falls over the horizon, past the impossibly blue patch of water over the sandbar. I wonder how long I should wait to gather my stuff, ready to run for safety if the rain moves overhead. Our lone boy swimming notices the sky and heads back into the house. My optimism holds, but just barely: sometimes the wind will change, clouds and lightning skimming the depths of the ocean rather than reaching the shore. Still, it feels ominous, and I am inclined to dwell on my own inability to change the direction of things: clouds, storms, adolescence, lives.
The rain starts in fat drops, sporadic then insistent. I struggle to fold my chair before giving up and hoisting it overhead and trekking irritably back to the beach house, where the boys are too engrossed in their electronics to notice when I struggle inside, dripping.
I eat a sandwich and open a Diet Coke, playing a round of Monopoly Deal. Before I am even completely dried off, I notice the wind has blown the clouds away and the sun now bathes the shore, dancing on rhythmic waves. A helicopter passes low overhead, carrying tourists and not police like the one in our neighborhood. Still, all looking for something over the vast wide unpredictable expanse of waves and streets.
I head back down to the beach, and sit again in the sun, listening to the music of waves crashing on the shore. Two of the boys come to join me and together we gaze quietly out over the water. One asks me why the sky is blue. I don’t know, I tell him. I have so few answers and so many questions. But sometimes, maybe, it is enough to sit together with our eyes and hearts open.
This, apparently, is the lesson we will just keep learning and forgetting: success is measured differently than we imagine. Hopes and expectations get tangled together and we will be disappointed if we confuse the two. There are days when the sun shines, and times when the rain falls in heavy drops. But our worth isn't in dramatic transformation as much as it is the faithfulness of loving relentlessly. Waves lap the shore and broken pieces of glass tumble for years until jagged edges wear smooth. Soon, someone will comb the shore and pocket pieces of beautiful sea glass.