Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
~Rachel Louise Carson, American writer and marine biologist
Morning has come again. The dawning sun, a brilliant yellow orb, is rising over the horizon of the ocean. Its clearly defined, outstretched rays of light streaking down from the sky reflect on the water’s surface and stream across the sand. As they widen in their outreach, glittering sunbeams dispel darkness and shadow, bringing a welcome sense of bright optimism. Look up! A fresh new day has begun.
Here on the beach, I’m reminded that with every dawn as long as we live, we’re given a fresh, new beginning, unblemished and full of possibilities. Another chance to awaken, to start over, to do better, to learn from our mistakes, and to build on our successes.
I bask in the comforting warmth of the sunshine as if I might bank its healing qualities deep within as insurance for the rainy days ahead. Any other extraneous noise is obliterated by the resounding roar of the waves. The billowing whitecaps, cascading onto the beach, lend a feeling of constancy and security. Each day, without fail, the breakers ebb and flow in their perpetual, unhurried, rhythmic way, washing the shore clean and clear. So they have done for centuries and will for centuries to come, long after we are just a memory.
How infinitesimal are our individual lives! Indeed, our time on this earth constitutes a mere blip on the screen, while life itself, like the ever-advancing rollers, continues inexorably on and on. My little personal challenges that seemed monumental as the vastness of the ocean to me yesterday now dwindle to the proportion of a single grain of sand. As I stand and study the breakers, the characteristic scent of the sea and the cool, salt spray splashing on my face refresh and invigorate me. Some days the water is rough and choppy, on others, smooth and glassy, just as our lives are an ever-changing mélange of turbulence and calm.
I shed my shoes and comb the beach for attractive seashells cast upon the shore, my toes kneading the soft, warm sand. Delightful treasures from the deep–whelks, periwinkles, moon snails, sundials, sand dollars, and conchs fill a cardboard box. Some will be added to my collection, others gifts for friends. Every shell is unique, just as no two people on earth are exactly alike. Each has rare, one-of-a-kind qualities to be discovered and celebrated.
Though the littoral appears empty, I am comforted to see I’m not alone. Someone has already passed this way, for there are human footprints in the sand. It’s unknown where this individual was headed or whence he came. I follow the path those footprints have laid before me as I wend my way along the water’s edge. “Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time…” wrote American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Will others know I was here? What sort of footprints will I leave behind when I have passed on? Will the trail I mark help smooth the way for those who follow me?
Sunrise on the beach and the eternal waves of the ocean—the grandeur of the vista promotes quiet reflection on life’s meaning. Although many questions remain unanswered, I leave this majestic waterscape just as author Rachel Carson (1907-1964) described above, with spirits restored, vision renewed, strengthened for the journey ahead.
The Sense of Wonder, by Rachel L. Carson, HarperCollins Publishers, 1998, p. 87.