beach grass on sand dunes

By Pamela Davis

Strolling along the shores, I’ve often wondered what has kept me returning for all these years. Surely the mystery, the possibility, and the history have served as intrigue for me. After all, it is thrilling to find a beautiful piece of glass and to subsequently research its origins. Over time, I’ve learned about tides, glass manufacturing, and bottle dating. I’m a seeker, always have been, but my connection to the sea has always seemed psychological, even somewhat gravitational. I ‘ve often thought there must be some reason why I, along with so many other people, flock to the beach. One day, it occurred to me--- the journeys of people and sea glass run along parallel lines.

It makes so much sense to me now. The ebb and flow of the tides symbolize the ups and downs of our lives. Each time the tides pull back and surge forth new opportunities arise for beachcombers and that is conceptionally analogous to life itself. The sea glass that I hold so dear for its color and form did not become so refined overnight. It endured years of tumbling and sand blasting before metamorphizing into a well-polished object of beauty.

People endure similar trials. Whether it is a life change such as death or divorce, or a career move, or a financial hardship, or an addiction, people often have to endure a tumble or two before they can emerge changed. The pieces of glass with rough edges share striking similarities to those around us who are still developing, transitioning, or overcoming. Like the glass, maybe we just need to afford people more time to smoothen so that they too can hone their inner and outer beauty.

Beaches have no racial, religious, or gender divides. I believe that is why we see such diversity on the sands. Whether pale or tan or whole or broken or big or small, they all make their way to the water’s edge. So too is the journey of sea glass. Some days, we may find a tiny mermaid’s tear while other days we may find a big daddy of a piece. At times clear glass seems to abound while other times, we may find lavender pieces kissed by the sun. And broken… well sea glass and people have all been fractured at one time or another.  

The irony that sea glass washes ashore to rest on the sand from which it was made does not escape me. After all, so many of us enjoy coming back “home.” Likewise, I believe that some beachcombers come to the oceanfront for the inherent reason of finding something, whether it be a piece of glass or a piece of themselves. The sea can be turbulent or calm. The same can be said of our souls. Sea glass can be viewed as a metaphor of our existence. We travel, hit rocks along the way, become scarred. We endure and heal and though somewhat fragmented, we gain a luster. 

Whether it is lines etched on a face or a pattern of tiny ‘C’s” etched on glass, humans long for evidence of authenticity. No one wants to find faux sea glass. No one wants to encounter fake people. Transfiguration, character, and legitimacy are equally important for sea glass and people.  I have a one-liner that I often recite, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see the beauty that lies before me.” This prayer is not only my plea to locate a piece of glass amongst the pebbles but also to find the charm in the people who cross my path.

People and sea glass are both assessed for their development.  They are evaluated for their uniqueness while simultaneously being compared against others.  When we happen upon glass, we examine it to determine its state---rough, somewhat refined, or journey complete. Aren’t the people we encounter in profoundly similar states---recently broken, somewhat polished, or fully evolved? 

Aware that glass and people can become stuck in a crevice or in a rut, our odysseys are quite symbiotic.  At times, we may be discarded. As we try to navigate our way, we become altered.  We make it back to shore to display our amazing resilience. “Frosting” is not just good on cake, but on glass and people as well. It serves as a reminder that both survived whatever obstacles were in their way only to surface more polished. Calcium, sodium, and silica are found in humans and in glass. The similarities don’t end there, though. We both roll with the literal and metaphorical tides. When we pick up a piece of sea glass we are reunited with a little bit of ourselves. It seems as though we are all just shards along life’s transformative beaches.

This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine July/August 2018 issue.

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