Last Saturday was the quintessential spring into summer beach day. Our spring in the Northeast has been less than stellar, weatherwise, but without any intervention, human or otherwise, it lands and somehow, the pain of rain, not only on the plain, fades into the brightest greens and blues. The ground bursts with flowers, almost as though they have been waiting behind doors, like the impatient young women at a Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides. We breathe a satisfied collective sigh, that we have not been forgotten, just a bit delayed and we forgive because we just do.
We tend to be loyal to certain local beaches, for the quiet and convenience this time of year. The usual crowds have not yet ventured there, so we park and walk between the tall grasses over the wooden walkway until we see the water. Buzzards Bay is spectacular, alive and so very blue. My FHB and I like to walk along the shore setting a goal to an area less familiar just to say we have. It’s like our own passport to stamp with just our footprints. We pass the occasional fellow beachcomber with the nod of a head and a smile behind our sunglasses. We feel rich inside.
A woman a bit older than me smiled as she approached and hailed me with a hearty hello. She reminded me of one of my mother’s older sisters, lean and tan, with a soft buttery leather tone, smile lines around her mouth and an energy that comes with being comfortable in her own skin. As she got closer she asked, “are you looking for beach glass?” and I was awkward and said “always!” and she stopped and told me to wait, as she reached into her pockets and the folds of her blue denim pouch, and poured a handful of tawny gold, green and blue pieces of glass into my hands. I immediately felt as though she was giving me some precious jewels, and I felt a bit shy and had a childlike thought of whether one accepts a gift from a stranger. I looked at her face, her eyes hidden by sunglasses, and felt the warmth and genuine kindness and desire to share. I thought, I have nothing to give her in exchange and that felt strange. I asked if she was sure that she wanted to give the glass to me because it seemed as though I should not just presume what I felt was all right. She laughed and assured me that there was more to be found and picked up her bag from the sand and we exchanged good wishes and we went our separate ways.
My FHB stood at a distance from this exchange, more curious than protective and then walked along, waiting for me to catch up. We seldom talk as we walk, as we each have our internal conversations with ourselves. It is a time of quiet reverie. My thoughts reviewed the moments before of a stranger encounter and my initial inner doubts. I thought that she reminded me of someone I knew and had always felt safe with, my aunt, who has been gone for almost sixteen years who walked the beaches of Maine.She shared her love of animals, and the beach and had the quiet resilient demeanor I just had seen. I settled down to a calm that mirrored the in and out of the pull of the tides.
My father studied economics and financial trends. It was not in the context of money, but more the thought behind the value of what we acquire over time. This translated for me into awareness of the subtle differences in the concept of wealth, riches, value and sustainable states of being. He would often remark that something’s value was identified merely by someone’s else’s need for that “thing” and that is what made it worth negotiating for.
Sea glass as currency. The enchange of something tangible that both parties recognize as making us richer, not in the bank account sense of accumulated funds, but in the wealth of all our connections, even in the briefest of moments. My aunt never had human children, but many dogs, cats and as a “baby nurse” she cared for and nurtured many people. The sea glass lady made me remember my aunt, and the glass exchanged enhanced my memories.
RecentIy, found among my writing notes (which are on small pieces of paper, hidden in drawers, pockets, robes, and other unexplained and wonderfully disorganized locations), a thought that had occurred to me as I walked another beach, not that long ago.
“My pockets are lined with shells, not dimes. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, am I in trouble?”
I am rich.