Those who watch us pursue our passions often don’t understand what they see us do, or why we do it.
This past summer I was on the hunt again for beach glass in an area frequented by boaters and folks playing with their dogs. A couple was sitting on an old picnic table as I approached, head down, scanning the sand.
The man called out. “What are you lookin’ for?”
I played a little coy. I’ve met other searchers on the beach and we’ve compared our finds. But just then I didn’t want to divulge that location as a rich source of glass. But there was also no reason not to be honest.
I looked up. “Oh, just some pieces of glass, maybe some cool rocks, and I pick up garbage too.” (All true.)
The man chuckled and ribbed me in a friendly way. “From the looks of it you haven’t found much.”
All he could see was me walking with my hands in my pockets. I smiled.
“Yeah, some days are better than others.”
In my pocket my right hand jiggled two dozen pieces of glass from just that day, a “better” one. The man didn’t understand what he was seeing. But I knew what I was looking for.
Could be you are pursuing your passion and loved ones don’t understand what you’re doing or why. They don’t know you’ve found it, or that you’re simply content in the process until you do. All they can see is you don’t seem to be what they consider “successful.”
But still you go on, until you find what you’re looking for.
I spend time looking for what has been “lost,” for what is left from milk, beer, and pop bottles that were tossed into a lake. Over the years that glass has been broken and churned in the sand to wash up on shores as beloved beach glass.
I’ve blogged about beach glass and forgiveness. Since then I’ve found hundreds more pieces. I get home from kayaking and empty my pockets. It’s scattered all over the house: in boxes, plastic cups, jelly jars and shallow bowls, or just lying loosely on tables, shelves and my bay window. I had to empty it from my car’s cup holders because I needed the space for coffee.
All this “lost” glass is now found and ready for other purposes. I’ve made earrings and wrapped pieces for necklaces to wear or give away as gifts. I could add glass stain to the clear pieces for some nifty color. Stained glass or wrapping them for a “wind chime” effect would be lovely.
The old hymn, “Amazing Grace” says, “I once was lost, but now am found.” These “lost” but now “found objects” have given me the chance to think imaginatively (How can I use these? What would that look like?) and hopefully create some beautiful work. All that time, sometimes decades, all that churning in the sand, tossing by the wind and waves, to finally come to frothy rest on the shore. Now dropped into my pockets to be reimagined and recreated into something new.
Sounds like a spiritual lesson here, doesn’t it, describing God’s work in our lives? I keep learning it over and over.
I have assembled quite a collection of beach glass. A recent search yielded more pieces for my trove: white, light turquoise, and brown. The more prized colors are green, blue, and the rare red.
I have some of those too. A friend dropped them into my hands as we searched one summer day. I didn’t know how to recognize beach glass. She teased me — “Here’s one. Here’s another one”– as I looked in vain.
I remember that day: the sunshine, her lessons on finding it, my pocket growing heavier with each piece, and how she had to ask me to hold her hand while she navigated a drop off. We didn’t know if we’d ever make it back.
We never did, but not for the reason we feared. By the next year the friendship was over. Abandoned and betrayed, I could not forgive her or myself for something I must have done. I knew the Lord’s Prayer; God forgives us by the measure of how we forgive others. Wise friends counseled me to let it go. But I kicked myself for being such a fool. Again.
As I wrestled with these feelings, I would return to the beach and always leave empty handed. I wondered how she found so many pieces. Soon I gave up.
Then God sent a poem to my inbox:“Gather” by Rose McLarney. Read the poem, it’s not very long. I don’t know if the author intended a spiritual truth through her art, but I received one. The connection between apple trees and taking risks helped me take a fresh look at loss…and hope. It allowed me to be human. Maybe I wasn’t so foolish after all. I gained some distance, smiled a bit yes, yes, that’s me, and was freed to forgive.