Monday, August 24, 2009

The Little Shell on the Mantel

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Very few sounds are as calming as the rhythmic rumble of the ocean – a primal call able to steal the mind from daily clutter and gently deliver it on an uncharted island of inner stillness.

It was to that sound that I awoke my first morning at the beach; I listened intently to the natural melody filtering through the open window and aligned my breathing pattern with the rhythm of the waves until my mind began to wander off. It was a perfect moment of peace – a vague recollection of life in the womb, of warmth, of complete comfort and safety; an awareness of nothing needed beyond the now.

I finally arose and went to sit on the deck overlooking the ocean to drink my first cup of coffee. The scenery surrounding me was nothing short of stunning – a cobalt sky sharply highlighted by puffy white clouds in the west, and the sun splashing the horizon with hues of rose and yellow dripping in the water below; in the distance, seagulls flew in perfect formation, followed by a lone sandpiper madly flapping its wings to keep up with the group of larger birds.

As I stared in awe, my attention was piqued by the glistening shells deposited by the nocturnal high tide and now temporarily exposed as sparkling jewels in a store window; since everyone was still asleep, I dressed quickly and walked down to the shore.

I mindlessly picked up a few of the shells on my path – although many were only broken pieces of the originals, I managed to find a few that were intact. Suddenly I saw one that I found quite interesting; the shell itself was pierced in several places but still whole, and attached to it were all sorts of marine goodies – a small piece of metal, an equally tiny piece of old wood, other smaller shells, and some hard matter I couldn’t identify which glued everything together.

That shell had been around for a while. It had been battered and thrown around several times, holes and scars being proof of its rollercoaster ride; foreign objects had attached themselves to its body, probably weighing it down and ruining some of its original beauty, yet the shell was sturdier and stronger because of their presence.

Even things that we consider damaging or hindering do serve a purpose at times – they might teach us a lesson, slow down our mad rush to nowhere so that we can appreciate what we have at that particular moment, or they might just be there to oddly support us and make us stronger for the next time we get caught in an unfriendly wave.

I took the shell home, washed it and placed it on a well-visible place on my mantel, so that I may remember – next time I feel weighed down by external demands – that if it wasn’t for the extra shield provided by the clutter and the unexpected, the little shell would have been but a broken piece washed in and out by the waves, never to be appreciated and cherished as the magnificent and resilient centerpiece it is.

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