Salt, Life and Light is a reflection on the wonder of life unfolding in young lives on a cold March day along the seashore.
Salt, Life and light
March winds blew characteristically cold and strong, sweeping dune grass and longer shafts of late-day shadows in a symphony of sight and wind-song there near the ocean’s edge. They came trudging, noisily, over one dune and up the next, a pack of life and confidence, nineteen in number and headed straight for the water’s edge. For years I’ve led groups of young people to the seaside, most especially to Horseneck Beach and each and every time my heart leaps with wonder, watching and feeling as the wind and water pulls us home again.
Twelve year-olds pick up all sorts of seaborne treasures and junk, especially when they live inland beyond the salt air and moans of foghorns, gulls and rising tide lines. One girl spots her treasure and breaks rank from all the rest to claim it, good or bad. It’s an old lobster trap. dented from rolling in the pounding surf and gift wrapped in a tangled layer of seaweed, barnacles and pebbles.
“I want this for my room!”, she says. “Can I have it?” By the time I can even respond she’s already grabbed hold of the frayed, rotted rope and pulls it out of the heap of rotting kelp, broken shells and piles of smooth round stones. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s trying to take it away from you,” I replied.
Treasure finds treasure
“Cool!” And with a mile-wide smile she turns and tugs with new-found energy and heads for the long walk back to our cars. I figured she’d haul the smelly thing just so far and then get tired, abandon it and that would be the end of it. I was wrong. Instead it became her mission and the entire focus of a smaller band of cohorts who would keep her company… not help her pull it mind you… as she hauled her treasure homeward. The sun was setting quickly now and the wind was picking up speed.
I slipped back and watched this girl, an energetic, bright five foot wonder make her way up and over the dunes, dragging her new-found treasure through the sand, her loyal scouting party on either side all chatting madly as they walked. They kept their pace and I deliberately slowed mine, until the wind and ocean’s roar behind me made it difficult to hear them. They rounded up, over and down another dune, and for a brief time all I saw were sneaker prints in the sand and the steady skid marks of one old lobster trap headed for a brand new home.
It was then that it struck me clearly. I knew this mission. I understood the quest and why it was important. Besides, who am I to say anything? I could fill a dump truck with all the stuff I’ve hauled off of the beach over the years. I felt pretty good too that I was helping her in my small way to collect her own lifetime of seaside treasures.
I paused to wait for stragglers who had scrambled up a dune and stood there saying “goodbye,” by leaning into the wind. Their shadows stretched out beyond them and faded into the beach grass below. In a few short minutes we left the dunes and sand and circled around the cars. With juice and snacks in hand, gulls overhead and one old lobster pot in the trunk we piled in and made our exit. The moment seemed right and the day well lived.