I asked for a gift from the sea.
The thought of taking home a green chunk of sea glass excited me. So I made this request out loud as I strolled along the seaside. I was still in my pajamas. I had pulled on my big hooded sweater, sandals, made myself a cuppa and was beach combing before dawn. It was the first morning of Serendipity Retreat. I was full of hope and expectations for the weekend.
It wasn't long before I had collected a pocket full of treasures.
I mused over the fact so many of my treasures were just pieces, shards of something larger that didn't exist any more. I thought about that as I gathered. .. they were beautiful, even if they were only broken bits. I felt like I was a collection of broken bits. Nothingness, that somehow, stacked together, made sense.
My heart skipped a beat, when a flash of yellow-green caught my eye. Could my wished-for piece of sea glass have shown up so soon?
When I looked closer, I realized it was a lifeless butterfly. My mood sank, as I knelt down to snap a photo. When I got closer, I realized it wasn't yet dead. It's delicate leg extended and retracted in jerky movements. I was heartsick. Grains of sand on its motionless wings sparkled in the early morning sun. I gently scooped it up and carried it to the water's edge. The sun no longer felt warm at all, the October breeze was colder than a moment before.
I was teary-eyed, thinking about all the little pieces of us that die along the way, the dreams that never take flight, the hopes that never make it, the whispers of longing that aren't even acknowledged. How different I was from the girl I had been ten years ago. I laid the lovely yellow-green butterfly in the water's edge and watched the waves carry her away.
I was deflated as I headed back to the main house. The sand felt deeper and I curled myself tighter against the encroaching cold. Everything about this trip had fallen together serendipitously, and I had gotten my hopes up. But I was still me. Dinner was delicious however, and the company of beautiful, soulful women lifted my spirits and I soon forgot my butterfly funeral.
The next day, during a beach assignment, I wrote a wish in the sand, at the edge of the tide, and let the waves wash it away. I didn't really put much into it. While some of the exercises in the class moved me, this one felt empty and left me melancholy. I scratched out my wish and moved away from the group. I wandered far enough that the waves muffled the happy voices behind me. I took a few deep breaths and said hello to the sadness that was a cold weight in my stomach. I embraced it and sank into it. My eyes were stinging with tears when something caught my attention. It was yellow-green.
I circled around the little dune that sheltered the spot of color. It was the yellow sulfur. But it couldn't be the same butterfly, could it? My eyes darted around the beach as I wondered if Nags Head was a sacred place for butterflies to come to die. But, no. I had been on the island two days and not seen any other butterflies. This was the same butterfly. I had photos of it from the day before and it was unmistakable.
I had to remind myself to breath. My hands shook as I remembered the things I contemplated and consciously let go of the day before, when I watched as the ocean swept her away... the dreams, the little pieces of my heart, un-jaded innocence, and the belief in magic.
It had all come back. Specifically to me. With stilled wings, she had flown back into my life. Hope and excitement rippled and bubbled through me as I floated back to the house. I was no longer cold.
As I joined my class, the story spilled out along with tears. There was a collective gasp when I finally opened my cupped hands and revealed the perfectly intact insect in the most stunning shade of my favorite color- lime green.
I realized, in awe, what an elaborate gift the sea had given me. It was much greater than what I had the courage to ask for. It mirrored my life. What initially looks like heartbreak and devastation is just
a path to pure and certain magic.