Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Beachcomber

This being combs beaches. Flotsam from the sea and objects left alone on land provide livelihood if not existence. Lean frame, moderate height, medium fair complexion showing effect of long exposure to sun and wind, of a not unhealthy but not entirely benign sort. Brownish hair, thinning some, a beard mostly brown, a sprinkle of red, invading white. Leather sandals, evidence of long wear. Blue Jeans and a Sears work shirt of the old fashioned kind-- bleached more happily by the wind and solar rays than his own biological hide. Green blue eyes, like the sea.

Walking the evening walk, in the middle of the dry sandy beach, a ways up from the true shoreline. Occasionally eyes turn toward the wet sand, the place where waves roll up, stretch and then fall and die. Now and then skimming the moving water itself. Sometimes, even at the end of a day when the beach teems with people, there is treasure perhaps overlooked by all those mostly looking at each other, or perhaps appearing late after they were already off the beach.

But these late afternoons eyes mostly wander lightly over the dryer sand, recently the home of beach chairs, blankets, coolers, even open sided tents, balloon tired baby strollers. And people-- with objects, equipment, possessions. The evening treasures aren’t hard to recognize, just hard to see. They are human made and human lost—coins, pocket knives, toys, cell phones, cans, and bottles, key chains, bracelets, knives and forks,

Not focusing very intently, keeping in touch with present time and space, aware of the significance and importance of this moment, this place-- the meeting of the land and the ocean, wind and clouds, the unceasing moving energy of the sea, the relative inertness of the land, the beauty of space, the stretching out of time not too filled or clock divided. The comber has no watch.

Tonight’s gleaning about average. 3 quarters, two dimes, a nickel, and 5 pennies. Also a paper back book— The Dispossed-- a Frisbee, and a small pair of scissors perhaps from a manicure set. A small can of tuna fish, unopened. The book to read. Tossing the Frisbee up toward the path out of the dunes so that some child might find or refind it tomorrow. The scissors, good quality German go to the notions store where they’ll likely fetch a dollar. The coins enough for a cup of coffee to go with the tuna fish for supper. Not bounteous, but enough.

Real money makers are rare. A diamond ring once, a few gold wedding bands over the years-- perhaps jetsam rather than merely lost-- a charm bracelet (gold rabbit’s foot, horseshoe, four leaf clover—certainly good luck for the comber) , a $50 bill, s gold cigarette lighter. These bonanzas, bring in enough cash make the rainy days, the winter, the days with nothing found survivable. Occasional other delights. A whole bottle of wine, a Cuban cigar in a mental tube, a small flashlight with lithium battery that works for two years.

Sitting in the sand as the stars appear. Can opener on Swiss army knife opens the tuna fish. Coffee still warm, two bags of little oyster crackers left on the counter by someone who’s had clam chowder and hadn’t wanted the crackers. The tuna delicious tasting like the sea, the crackers sea salty and crunchy. Sleep in the still warm sand, stars overhead, the gentle sound of the waves,

Walking the morning walk, pale yellow softly glowing on the far horizon. Moving with dignity and meaning, but without purpose. Eyes alert, but without expectation. Mind sometimes aware of body sensations, pleasure of picking up and putting down feet, feeling the wet solidness of the sand, enjoying the rhythm of movements, the power of muscles to propel body and mind along the shore. Body pain, too. Aching knees, sore shoulder, cramped belly. Mind sometimes aware of itself—memories, projections into the future, creating problems and sometimes solving them. Sometimes just worrying them along. Mind sometimes breath-ing and soaring on the spirit of the wind.

Three treasures almost at once. Small flotsam crystal vial, tightly stoppered and still half full of expensive perfume. From the sea itself, some mussel shells, shiny black, very similar to one another and yet each distinctly if subtly different. Finally, not tangibly harvestable, a small area just above the horizon, become increasing light and bright, rays of anticipation and energy. Then suddenly a tiny intensely red spot, almost too hot to look at. Growing steadily moment by moment and then violently, gracefully boiling up out of the sea. Sunrise.

Joyful surging of the heart. A pause, arranging the five shells in a circle, thinner ends pointing inward at each other and toward the center. Balance for a moment, then a wave, overreaching all recent ones, splashing over mandala, fragmenting the arrangement and tumbling the shells back into the sea.


For background material on this short story and a guide to understanding it as a suppot for personal change, growth, development and healing, visit my Website:  and use the link to Website Contents, then the link Writing Narratives as Support of Change and then the link The Beachcomber: How This Personal Narrative Has Been of Support (and Hinderance to Change)