For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to the ocean.
I spent the first 28 years of my life, wandering the beaches with my beautiful mother, in search of the “holy grail” – aka agates. I loved watching her big brown eyes light up and the full body smile that overtook her when she reached down to pluck one from amongst the seemingly endless array of barnacles, sea glass and every day equally beautiful stones that did not go unnoticed by her, but it was the agate she treasured most.
We would drive around for hours, walk for miles, scale cliffs, walk live train tracks and put our lives in danger more often than I realized back then, simply to find a new beach where no one else dared to go. It was like she was hoping for the off chance that somehow, we would find “agate paradise” and could simply plop down in the damp sand and have as many sweet little creamy stones as we could ever want, within arms reach.
Every year for her birthday, no matter the weather….all she wanted to do was go to the beach and look for rocks, have a bonfire and enjoy a picnic. Here in Bellingham WA, March 11th is very rarely anything but windy, stormy and often times, downright miserable as far as the weather goes. Being the only fools to spend half a day at the beach in the middle of a windstorm, having to chase our potato chip bags across the sand before the seagulls stole them away, bundled up in our big poofy coats like poor “little brother Randy” from “A Christmas Story” who couldn’t put his arms down and laughing through chattering teeth… just so we could find the “Mother of all agates” for Momma for her birthday, brings nothing but warm memories for me.
She passed away in 2002 when I was just 28 years old, after a long fought battle with her fourth round of cancer and it wasn’t until after she left us that I started to really think about how much time she spent at the beach and how it seemed to be the one place where I could go after she passed away, where I felt the closest to her…even if I was just sitting in an emotional heap, sifting rocks through my fingers for an hour.
Boulevard Park, at “home” in Bellingham WA, became my “Momma” spot where I would walk the beach for a bit and then go find my way under the boardwalk where no one could see me cry and the waves crashing on the boulders around me, muffled my sobs.
Over the years, I started noticing that I was not the only person wandering the beaches alone with their head hanging low, hoping to hide tears that left salt streaks on their cheeks. I passed too many faces filled with worry, anxiety, fear and grief. I noticed the people sitting on the edge of the water, appearing to watch the sunsets along side of me – but knowing that familiar glassy eyed look, meant they were no where near me, but were off in a memory of another time and place, wishing they could go back.
I watched the single parents struggling to keep up with a tiny explorer while trying to hold themselves together and hide their pain and envy at watching all of the two parent families who oozed love all over the playground.
I noticed the elderly that walked alone… slowly, painfully…sometimes with tiny dogs in tow, sometimes being towed by a snorting, equally gray-haired mass of fluff…just to feel alive for a while and to hear someone else’s voice besides their own.
Discovering that “My” place to “ponder and wander” was home to so many others who went there to emote, think and sometimes to forget…gave me a new way to honor my mother in a way that would have made her eyes light up the way they used to when I would come running back toward her on the beach, oblivious to my skinned and bloodied knees – holding out the “Mother of all agates” that I had risked my life to get, just for her.
Now, instead of wandering my “Momma spot” to hide myself away to have a good cry – I walk along the path, pulling painted stones from my pockets with little messages I have written on them. I leave them along the way for those that are hanging their heads to hide their tears that are falling… for whatever reasons, the ones that are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders and just need a little “something” to remind them that they are stronger than they think they are and for the people who just needed to know that there are others out there in the world, who really do care…and they aren’t as alone as they feel.
I don’t cry when I go to the beach anymore.
I smile and I remember that a single beautiful stone, found in a sea chaos, relentless winds that threaten to knock you down and days that chill you to the bone – can bring warmth and joy to the person that finds it.
Follow my treasure leaving adventures on instagram and see where I have left little bits of love along the way. – PocketSizedPhilanthropy