Lessons from a Walk by the Sea
In 2012 I traveled to Pemba Mozambique and wrote these reflections on getting unstuck in life.
I’ve only been able to walk a couple of times on the beach, but just 5 minutes in each direction. I have had to stop because jagged rocks replace the sand, and I’m worried about cutting my feet. Today, however, I wore my flip flops, a thin tool to keep my feet a little more safe. I was able to walk quite far and saw so many beautiful things. Whole mini ecosystems created by the ponds left in the rocks during low tide. Women hunting for mussels to feed their families draped in beautiful, colorful garments. The flip flops, a thin tool, allowed me to go on to new worlds without getting hurt. When things are impassible, I need help. One small tool, can change what I can achieve.
However the flip-flops didn’t totally protect my feet. Sea urchins peppered the rocks I was walking on due to low tide. Stepping on these small porcupine like creatures would cause severe pain and send me to the doctor’s office. The rocks as well were sharp and uneven and I had to watch where I walked not to cut my feet]or fall. I needed to look down quite a bit while walking to calculate my next step. While looking down, sometimes things were quite dull; I’d see only rock and sand, maybe some seaweed. But then I’d come upon a small pool in the rocks. Small ecosystems in these pools swirled with the color of bright fish swimming. I found beautiful shells as I walked and sea cucumbers. Even the sea urchins had a beauty to them. Looking down, taking the next right step, and going one step at a time let me see so much beauty.
At some points on the walk I would stop or get a sandy part of the beach. There where the pathway was easier or when I had stopped, I could look out at the beauty of the ocean. A myriad of colors, beautiful boats fishing, brightly clothed women working. This balance is what is needed in life. There can be joy and beauty in the next right step, in writing a good report or cleaning the house. And sometimes I need to look at the beauty of the community I’m part of, and how far I’ve come. Sometimes I need to see the big picture and dream, and sometimes I have to do the admin work. It is balance. I can’t only look to the larger beauty and where I want to be, or I might step on a sea urchin. Nor should I only look at my next step, or I might not know where I’m going. BALANCE. Using small tools and balance, whole other worlds become available to me.
Finally on the way back, I found a beautiful shell. I picked it up from a drying sandy spot and looked to see if it was inhabited. It was, so I couldn’t keep it. I carried the snail in the shell a step or two to throw it into a pool of water so it wouldn’t die. I thought a bit about what the snail might think about this. He might have no idea he was at risk for being eaten by a bird, or suffocating without water before I picked him up. He might have crawled slowly for days to get there, just to be thrown somewhere else, and he might feel cheated. But maybe this move saved his life, no matter how counterproductive it seemed to him. So it is with my major setbacks, maybe they are moving me out of harm’s way, or thrusting me towards something better.
It might also be that I threw that poor little guy right into the arms of a predator. But this is also; my little shelled friend is needed food to continue the “circle of life.” Sometimes, I’m just the snail that needs to be eaten, a tool for god’s work and plan. If I let go of my will, I might see the beauty in it. Sometimes when I feel punished unjustly it’s actually for my good. When I trust, everything will be as it should. If I let go of my will I can look for lessons, new paths, and ways to grow.