Grief in winter is not like beachcombing. It is beachcombing, and eternity is your ocean.
The best times to go beachcombing are early in the morning, after a storm, or at low tide. Any combination of these conditions improves results. And under any conditions, you find more when you go to beaches others don’t normally visit.
Grief, as relentless as the tides, is far less predictable. Yet like tides, grief has a certain untidy order. Shorelines change constantly, and everything from the sea is not a gift.
A bleak winter beach gives no clue that a thing called summer ever existed or will exist again. Sun and heat exist only as memory, like the juice inside an unpeeled, uncut orange.
All is motionless except the surf’s lifeless roar. The invisible savage wind shrieks into every crevice of clothes and exposed flesh.
Our eyes, our ears, our hands tell us everything on this broken landscape is dead.
If we try to speak, the cold air scrapes our nostrils and freezes our teeth. The flesh on our fingers flattens on their bones.
You’ve faced the water; now turn away. Put your back to the wind. Tuck your hands inside your pockets like baby birds in small nests.
Walk slowly, head down. Look patiently. Let your eyes scan a small arc in the sand. Seek nothing. No digging today; you’ve done enough self-questioning and self-questing.
What’s there? Bits of broken pottery or glass maybe, or rounded pebbles, sharp rocks, trash. Soda cans, shells, an earring, or a bottle. Driftwood. Artifacts of other people’s lives. Manmade or natural, all are seaswept.
Find a quarter? There is no teller. A polished stone? No jeweler in sight. No manufacturers, no recyclers, no wholesalers, no middleman. No retailer. Here, everything manufactures, recycles, creates, and destroys itself.
Yet, expect nothing and invest your own meaning, and these trinkets become treasures.
The sand, sky, and sea converge. They’ll own you if you let them. Maybe that’s what you need, at least for a while—to meld into all those nameless browns and grays.
Even the bleak wild birds cawing to each other yell in tones of brown and gray.
Can any other colors possibly exist? In memory and hope, perhaps. Go home and eat a warm orange with your fingers. Let its juice drip down your arms.
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