I went for a walk on the beach today after work. We are now in full summer mode, here in my little beach town. The fog of June Gloom has burned off and the beaches are full of eager sun bathers, castle builders, shell seekers, book readers sitting in the shade of their umbrellas, and toddlers experiencing the thrill and the terror of the mighty Pacific Ocean for the very first time under brilliant blue skies and soft, warm sand, stretching from one horizon to the other.
As I put my headphones in and walked down toward the water to walk my favorite stretch of beach, I noticed a few large seagulls circling together, just up ahead by the water’s edge. Their wingspan was magnificent and they glided, easily and gracefully, in perfect unison, around and around, in a perfectly choreographed dance that beckoned me to come closer. As I approached the site where they were circling, I noticed a few more seagulls, congregating on the sand just below them, at the point where the waves stopped their landward journey and turned back again to the sea. And as I got even closer, I noticed that those on the ground were feasting on the rotted-out carcass of a stingray, that had been even more majestic than they when it had been alive. It was easily the size of twenty seagulls, washed up on the shore, guts spilling onto the beach, right there in the midst of the summer break families seeking peace and relaxation. The seagulls had no grace in tearing apart whatever flesh they could claim as their own from the body of the newly dead sting ray.
Lately I’ve been facing my fears. I am a fearful person, and I have spent much of my life working hard to avoid circumstances that provoke anxiety. Most of these circumstances for me involve social norms and expectations in relationships and culture. But this last year of my life has found me approaching my fears, and not only have I not been turning away, many times I’ve actually stood there, facing them down and then even barging right on through. It may have started unconsciously but I am now trying to consciously notice my discomfort when something makes me uncomfortable. Then I’ve been looking at it, and trying to be curious about it. I do my best to ask myself honest questions about why I am uncomfortable and once I am able to assess most things as not as dangerous as I once thought, I step right on into it and try to make it through to the other side.
It’s exhausting. Sometimes there are dead and rotting carcasses that I have to walk past.
It’s also freeing. Sometimes I find breath-taking beauty just on the other side of the unknown.
The other day, I pulled into my driveway and noticed my front yard, which looked like this as I walked through it into the house:
Kinda normal, right? Pretty, yes, but nothing special. Some dead grass mixed in with some surviving greenery. But then something caught my eye as I walked up the walkway… maybe it was a slight rustle from the breeze, or maybe it was a lizard skittering by. Whatever it was, it made me stop and lean in a little closer. And that’s when I noticed that this is what that same ground looked like when I got very, very close:
There, in between every single blade of grass (both the green grass and the dead grass) were hundreds upon hundreds of perfectly formed, almost microscopic, orange and purple flowers, beckoning me closer.
And to think, I almost missed it.