I want to age like sea glass

By Bernadette Noll

sea glass stack

I want to age like sea glass

I want to age like sea glass. Smoothed by tides, not broken. I want the currents of life to toss me around, shake me up and leave me feeling washed clean. I want my hard edges to soften as the years pass—made not weak but supple. I want to ride the waves, go with the flow, feel the impact of the surging tides rolling in and out.

When I am thrown against the shore and caught between the rocks and a hard place, I want to rest there until I can find the strength to do what is next. Not stuck—just waiting, pondering, feeling what it feels like to pause. And when I am ready, I will catch a wave and let it carry me along to the next place that I am supposed to be.

I want to be picked up on occasion by an unsuspected soul and carried along—just for the connection, just for the sake of appreciation and wonder. And with each encounter, new possibilities of collaboration are presented, and new ideas are born.

I want to age like sea glass so that when people see the old woman I’ll become, they’ll embrace all that I am. They’ll marvel at my exquisite nature, hold me gently in their hands and be awed by my well-earned patina. Neither flashy nor dull, just a perfect luster. And they’ll wonder, if just for a second, what it is exactly I am made of and how I got to this very here and now. And we’ll both feel lucky to be in that perfectly right place at that profoundly right time.

I want to age like sea glass. I want to enjoy the journey and let my preciousness be, not in spite of the impacts of life, but because of them.

 

The Story Behind the Poem

Growing up in New Jersey, the shore was a regular part of summer for Bernadette Noll and her family. They’d often go for day trips to Island Beach State Park and then head to Seaside Heights Boardwalk in the evening. For weeklong trips with her many cousins, they’d go to Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

“My sister, Alma, collected all kinds of nature’s treasures,” says Bernadette. Alma was the second of nine children, and Bernadette was the eighth. “Alma made little magic wands out of sticks and string and rocks, she collected little bits on every walk or hike as if each time she went outside it was a treasure hunt. And a trip to the shore always included long walks on the beach either one on one or with little kids in tow.”

Bernadette’s sister died suddenly in 2010. “Her last day of life was 10/10/10,” Bernadette recalls. She had spoken with her that night and life for Alma was good. She was happy and healthy and had a beautiful family and a satisfying job as the head of the Waldorf school in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. “That morning I got a call at 4:30 am that she was dead,” continues Bernadette. “We don’t know whether she fell down the stairs or whether she had an aneurism that burst which made her fall. At that point, it didn’t really matter which it was because she was dead.”

They gathered instantly as a family in Wisconsin and spent a full week celebrating Alma and being surrounded by love. “In life she taught me so much about everything! She was 12 years older and was my godmother,” Bernadette says. “She was a feminist and a human rights advocate and a gay woman and an adoptive mom and an all around voice for what is right. In death, there is a glory that is achieved, and she achieved that glory in her life, too. She was just a beautiful person. Since birth, because she was my godmother, she was my teacher, my friend, my other mother, and my advocate. Lucky, lucky me.” 

Bernadette Noll Age Like Sea Glass Poet

One day in 2014, Bernadette was walking on the beach, remembering her sister. She looked down and found a piece of blue sea glass. “The glass was light blue and somewhat clear. Beautiful. Soft. Tiny. With a slight curve,” says Bernadette. “I carried it in my pocket for a long time and whenever I touched it I thought of her. She loved sea glass.”

Slowly a poem emerged as Bernadette pondered the meaning of life. “Alma died at 57, suddenly. What I learned from her death was that life is precious and meant to be joyful, full of beauty, and satisfying. Sea glass is kind of like that. Precious. Joyful. Beautiful. And satisfying.” 

The poem was originally published on Bernadette’s website and then on Huffington Post in 2014. At some point, a shop owner posted an edited version inside a fitting room door in a shop on Sanibel Island. 

“The photo went wildly around the internet,” laughs Bernadette. “So many people were sending it to me and asking, ‘Isn’t this your poem??’ There was no author credit. At first I was like What the heck?? Someone stole it!”

But then Bernadette started getting notes from all around the world telling her how the poem had affected them in times of grief, loss, illness, or solitude. “So many beautiful and heartfelt messages!” adds Bernadette. “And, of course, mostly from women age 50 or over since the poem speaks of aging gracefully.” 

Bernadette has actually been to Sanibel quite a bit as her parents used to have a little trailer right near the entrance to the island. “So, that fact really made me kind of happy,” she says. 

i want to age like seaglass

Bernadette keeps herself more than busy, in the meantime. “I wear so many hats!” she exclaims. “I am a mom of four first and foremost, and still have two kiddos at home. I am a writer. I have three books out: Slow Family Living: 75 ways to slow down, connect and create more joy; Make Stuff Together, and Look At Us Now: a creative family journal. Most of my work now is teaching people to consume less, share more, and create more.” Bernadette does reduce and reuse education through Austin Creative Reuse and also on her own at Reduce Reuse Remake. 

“These things may seem unconnected, but really as I was writing so much about family life, I realized that kids and families were advertised to at a crazy rate and that consumerism was a big issue in family life,” she explains. “We live in such a throw-away society and I offer an antidote to this through my workshops and talks. Recently, I created Swag Lab which is a reuse, experiential swag experience for conferences and meetings.”

In her workshops and events, Bernadette tries to make sure that there are no barriers to anyone and that everyone feels welcome. “What I know now, since my sister’s death, is that we are all one,” she says. “I saw a meme recently that asked, ‘How do we treat others? Answer: There are no others.’ I love this and I try to live it every day. At many of my events, I cry tears of joy seeing the cross section of humanity represented across race, age, gender, socio-economic class, and more!”

Bernadette believes that doors should be open to all. “Y’all means all!” she affirms. “And if anything we do makes people feel victimized or unwelcome, we should take a look and see where they’re coming from and how we can ease their experience.”

Bernadette’s beautiful poem echoes these same messages of wonder, possibility, and acceptance.

i want to age like sea glass poem

Great news!

We worked with Bernadette to create posters of her poem. They are available as 18" x 24" and 11" x 17" posters

"I want to age like sea glass" is copyrighted by Bernadette Noll. The sea glass stack photograph is copyrighted by Tide Charmers. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2020 issue.

41 comments

Your poem angs in my kitchen and is read every day ,it inspires me to live my life to the fullest and surround myself with people I love and things I treasure.Thank you so much for your lovely words, by them I can tell how much you loved your sister. Nancy

Nancy lynch September 06, 2021

I too lost my sister. She was 29 years old and had four babies under the age of five when she passed. It was lung cancer. They are all grown now with children and grandchildren but when I read your back story I was so touched. Thank you for sharing.

Teri Osborn August 19, 2021

Hi, Paula! The beautiful photo was taken by Alicia Cockrum at Tide Charmers. You can find her at http://tidecharmers.com/ and ask her about getting a print. Thanks!

Kirsti Scott August 15, 2021

Can this picture be purchased without the poem?? It is my favorite picture of sea glass ever!!

Paula Nellans August 15, 2021

Dear Bernadette,

What a lovely sentiment. It touched my heart and continues to do so every time I read it. It sums up a beautiful insight into how to handle what life brings our way with a heart full of cheer and positivity.

I am myself currently under treatment for breast cancer and like millions of women in the world, my life changed overnight, it made me appreciate every single day and value my own well earned patina. And as so aptly written “when caught between the rocks “ I rest, wait and appreciate the pause, to gain strength till the next wave takes me once more on the joyful ride called life.

Yes, I want to age like a sea glass, my hard edges softened and washed clean, enjoying the journey

Age like the sea glass, Thank you.

Geetha Suzanna Jacob August 04, 2021

This poem touched my soul, thank you! My happy place is the ocean, it is where I go in times of stress for clarity and in times of joy. It’s where I play with my grandsons or escape from the world.

Laurie Miller July 14, 2021

Someone shared on Facebook. First I saw the picture of it sea glass instead of rocks like I’ve always seen. Then loved it. Then I read the poem and really connected with it.

I normally don’t click links or read more but for some reason I did. Now this two things even me more to know the back side of the story. Plus from being from NJ and now retired in Florida.

Where can I purchase this made in sea glass. Was hoping I could purchase from you. Unless I am missed the link to do so.

I would love display seaglass pile in each of my guest rooms in Florida.

I have a welcome/things you might have forgotten etc basket in each of the rooms for my guest and would love to also include the poem and also some of the back story in the basket of why I chose to display that on their end table.

Donna July 14, 2021

I want to age like seaglass. Priceless image forever etched in our hearts and minds. A gift.

Annie Callaway July 13, 2021

Love this poem and the story behind it. Family is Life’s Greatest Blessing. I’m one of six…from the days of large families at St. Mary’s in Denville. I will share this poem with my siblings.

Lori Loewen June 23, 2021

Truly there are no coincidences. I came across this beautiful poem today as I remember my dear sister who passed on almost three years ago. We shared a love of the sea and cried each time we had to leave it. She was the most beautiful creature, a wild child, completely at home in the sea.

Christine Costello May 31, 2021

Friend of the family’s father passed and the sea glass the family found together was put together as a lamp….renew repurpose….a new life….as the poem stated how new ideas will happen…..and instead of a jar of seaglass sitting on a shelf….beautiful in the light…..but to at will turn a switch and see your sea glass…..all gathered in concert for yours and all who sees it will in theier own way live the beautiful poem…..thank you….

Walter Barnes April 25, 2021

Hey Bernadette!
How could you possibly do this to my heart? What is your magical word source? I’m shocked. Happy. Relaxed. And oddly satisfied.
I want to age like a sea glass. Yes. That’s specifically what I want. That’s specifically what I’ve been looking for. And that’s how my life is going.
I’ve always been scared to lose myself in the journey of the waves crushing me into the shores. Throwing me carelessly and violently. However I have always deeply known that these problems have made me stronger so I felt like even my thoughts are mixed up.
I want to learn to pause. To relax and wait till I’m ready to go back again. I need that more than water and air.
Bernadette, I felt every single word deeply to my bones I can write a book just to describe how you summed it all up in your poem.
I want to find other words for you.
And your sister, you’re definitely both angels. Your sister definitely is in a better place rn. A place where her soul shines even more than it was on our Earth.
Allah bless you. ❤️

Aya April 18, 2021

What a magnificent poem Bernadette, it keeps your late sister alive.
Memories!! we have forever🙏 Beautiful!!!
I would love a copy too, to frame for my wall. Much love Anna Maria.

Anna Maria Brown March 04, 2021

I live your poem-it’s just beautiful. It speaks to me. I lost my mom in August to cancer. She died in her favorite place-a beach cottage on the bay of the Cape. She spent hours strolling the beach & collecting sea glass. We will carry the tradition on. I would love to hang this at my moms cottage. Thank you for sharing.❤️🌊

Aimee January 18, 2021

This past May the love of my life passed unexpectedly. We had spent many days strolling along the shoreline. Your sister sounds like she and Dan shared a common soul. Collecting pockets full of trinkets to bring home and cherish for their complex simplicity. I found your poem shortly after his death and it spoke to my heart. Now that I’ve read the story of you and your dear sister the significance to my heart is even clearer. Thank you for sharing your story and your sister. I too want to age like seaglass. 💙

Rita Wallace December 16, 2020

Hi There Bernadette, We’d love to share you poem in a post.. It is beautiful and calming, much of what people really need these days… May we share it and tag you? Thank you!

Amerifund Inc. October 15, 2020

You’re poem is so beautiful written and for its purpose is beyond words
My passion is collecting Seaglass pottery shells and driftwood from the beach
They are all treasures to me
The well tumbled Seaglass I find I call them HolySpirit pieces that are frosted with love!

Karen Watkins October 15, 2020

What a tribute to your sister. Your are so gifted to write the sea glass . I would love to have a copy to frame and share it who ever enters my home
Thank you !💕🙏🏻

Alba Cordasco October 06, 2020

lovely peom
keep me informed as to the poster version

nan September 22, 2020

lovely peom
keep me informed as to the poster version

nan September 22, 2020

Today is my 77th birthday. I have always lived by the water and have a fairly large collection of glass, pottery and shells. My granddaughter, now nearly 9, shares my passion and wanders the beach with me-eyes always cast down. So my gift request this year is your poem made into a wall hanging that will passed on to her along with my collections when I am tumbling in the sea for eternity. Your poem speaks to my heart.

Joan Samuelson September 22, 2020
I definitely want to be notified when a printed copy hopefully with a beautiful sea glass with sunlight shining through it it ready for purchase. Thank you!!!!
Anna September 22, 2020

Thank you for your beautiful prose. I lost my wonderful husband and my kids their devoted dad on 10/10/31. I am a sunrise beach wanderer and photographer and i never leave the shoreline with empty pockets…they are always brimming with treasures. What a beautiful way to treasure your sister and your memories. Thank you

Anna September 22, 2020

Thankyou for sharing this beautiful poem and also sharing the passing of your sister and meaning behind the poem. I lost my beautiful 30 year old daughter suddenly last year…our favorite place, the place we found peace, relaxation, strength, was the ocean. I have so many glorious memories of our beach days together, but one I treasure is all the pieces of beach glass, seashells that we collected. My grandmother, Louise` started these memories when I was a little girl and we had many walks on the beach with her too…the beach glass sits in my grandmother’s house in a special jar…she also passed away 8 years ago, but my grandfather is still with us and we keep adding to the jar. While walking on the beach now, I feel my grandmother and daughter walking with me….it gives me peace and strength to carry on.

Kerry LaCafta August 30, 2020

Thankyou for sharing this beautiful poem and also sharing the passing of your sister and meaning behind the poem. I lost my beautiful 30 year old daughter suddenly last year…our favorite place, the place we found peace, relaxation, strength, was the ocean. I have so many glorious memories of our beach days together, but one I treasure is all the pieces of beach glass, seashells that we collected. My grandmother, Louise` started these memories when I was a little girl and we had many walks on the beach with her too…the beach glass sits in my grandmother’s house in a special jar…she also passed away 8 years ago, but my grandfather is still with us and we keep adding to the jar. While walking on the beach now, I feel my grandmother and daughter walking with me….it gives me peace and strength to carry on.

Kerry LaCafta August 30, 2020

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