The first few days of spending time in the lovely waters of Salt Pond Bay here in St. John, I go through the motion of packing a large tarp like throw to lay in the sand along with the requisite water bottle, sunscreen, hat and book. By the end of my time here however, I arrive at the beach with an almost empty backpack carrying only the water bottle. Knowing by now that I won’t spend but a minute on the aqua blue cloth on the sand that would remain otherwise empty during the hours I remain one with the water.
I dive into the thick salty clear sparkling blue green within moments of arriving. Satiny lava like water in the way it gently envelops and parts for my gliding body as it moves through. There is a spot in the bay that my spirit gravitates to, treading water indefinitely, taking in the incredible energy of this place.
Then I move towards shore and begin my treasure hunt.
The way the water laps gently onto the sand, collecting just the perfect amount of small rocks and shell bits is so enticing.
Now thoroughly sea acclimated, I float in the shallow water toward the shore, propelling myself forward with crab like hands with body simultaneously undulating with the soft rolling waves, sun warm on my back. I could stay like this for hours. Watching for flashes of color, an enticing shape, anything that captures my attention and wants to be scooped up in hand and examined and loved. To be admired in that moment for its singular beauty. The treasure then gets enveloped in the safety of my fist until so full, burgeoning, no room for even the smallest bit, I reluctantly leave the water for just as long as it takes to deposit them into the safety of the net pocket on the side of my backpack.
I found a piece the other day that thrilled me more than anything I had found so far. Just the top portion of a shell, the kind the crabs like to inhabit here, except in had been in the ocean a long long time uninhibited and it’s edges were smooth and worn like sea glass, the muted colors on top swirling with flashes of the intense color that had once been there. Turning it over revealed the characteristic spiral, the primal form of life. It felt ancient. So beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at it, feeling reverence for this treasure. Like the question our meditation teacher shared with us this morning, the question that begs to be asked when caught in such a moment, “is attention the same as love?”
Into the net pocket it went with the others. It was the last I saw of it.
Emptying the contents of the day’s adventure in the dark that night revealed that it was gone. Frantically, I searched every crevice of the pack. Went to sleep with the hope that I would find it in the light the next morning. Obsessed about the loss of it all day when it was clear it was really gone. Finally began to reckon with why I seemed to be so attached to this particular piece. Why it was so important.
Like art can do, this simple time worn shell had evoked something archetypal in me. It held the kind of beauty that wanted to be possessed. Except it was just a moment that I was able to share this beauty. It would never be mine. It could never be mine. Nothing is every just mine.
I have every intention at this point of returning home with the rest of my treasure. It gives me such pleasure. The possible combinations of things that might become another kind of beauty to behold,
making juxtapositions that delight. No one piece in this collection is more important that any of the others.
They belong to each other now, a community. I am just the witness. This is the best part of finding treasure.
Sitting out on the deck in the light of a full moon
in the dark of this otherwise stormy morning, the wind whips around me in a frenzy. I wonder at the stillness of stars in the clear sky above, unchanging beauty that belongs to the whole universe. It is the day before returning home. Some flights have already been cancelled for those returning to places where the blizzard is reported to be the worst. Sitting in this intense wind is like getting caught in the tail of whatever is happening in that other part of the world that feels so far away right now.
What will be the treasure awaiting me there?