Preserving Our Past For The Future

I recently returned from my annual trip to the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The weather was beautiful the full ten days, and rest and relaxation was the storyline. Good times with friends, much time for reflection alone, reading on my Kindle…all made for a perfect trip. Plans to go on this trip were made far ahead of time, deposits paid, my directives for staff in readiness and I was so looking forward to this trip. Then the news of an impending hurricane…Isaac…threatened to thwart all my wonderful plans.

The week before my departure, it was looking more and more like I may have to cancel my trip. I was watching a friend’s Facebook page. He lived right in the area where I was to stay, and the pictures he was posting looked fierce. When I expressed my concerns about cancelling my trip he assured me “Don’t worry, by the time you come next week you won’t even know the storm has blown through here.”

So after thinking about it for a few days, I decided to take my chances and not cancel my trip. I was hoping for the situation to change exactly as he said it would. And it was the right decision. The storm hooked, moved past the area, the bit of messiness was cleaned up in record time and I arrived to find a beautiful white sandy beach and all things in their rightful, safe places as I always had in the past.

On a particular day during my visit I was sitting quietly watching the children play and the pelicans swoop down for fish. I thought back to the wisdom of my friend’s advice and how it relates to life in general. I also thought how the beach is a beautiful example of the ever-changing life we are called to lead. I also thought back a bit further…

In high school,as an aspiring Journalist, it was quite natural that I would choose Creative Writing as one of my electives in my senior year. That year our class self-published a book full of some of the best of the literary works written by its students. The following work was chosen to grace the cover of the book. As I sat on the beach that day, I thought back to the words of this poem:

The secrets of the earth are written in the sand.
Each grain a different story, for those who understand.

The author is the ocean who left her book on shore.
Her waters hold the copyright, and now…just as before

The sea keeps on writing and her waves keep on churning,
And even now as we speak, another page is turning…

I pondered the meaning here and the words of my friend from the week before and how it related to my life at that very moment. So many of us are given a book of life, so to speak. It is full of pages of memories and moments…some laughter, some tears, some good times and some not so good, but they are all a vital part of our own book. Sometimes we have a book that others convincingly perceive as so perfect, that even we begin to think it is perfect and indestructible. Then a storm brews, the clouds lay low in the sky, the wind picks up and before we know it the tempest has become a full-fledged hurricane leaving debris and wreckage in its wake, and perhaps taking away buildings, a pier, the white purity of the sand and replacing it with seaweed and blackened piles of wood and mess. It is as if the book of our own life that was so beautiful one moment had pages ripped from it, and the remains were tossed on shore like flotsam, and forgotten.

We may deal with many things in our own book of life….the loss of a job, death of spouse, divorce, cancer or other illness, betrayal of a friend. We may feel as if our perfect life at that moment had an unrelenting storm blow through, crushing us, ripping a page from our life…and we find ourselves wondering if our book of life will ever be normal and whole again. Many end up turning to outer means to salve the inside heartbrokeness. They look for the missing pieces in another person, frenetic activity, a bottle of pills, or a martini glass. And they realize no matter how many things come into our life on the outside to cover over the sadness, the page will still be missing…but… it’s ok to have a missing page. It doesn’t mean you no longer have a book…

How many times do you keep going back to that same spot in your own book, looking for the missing page, and ignoring all your other beautiful and joyful pages in the process? How many of the other pages appear pristine and look as if no one has ever visited them? Shouldn’t they be lovingly dogeared, thin from where you have handled them, reading and re-reading the wonderful parts of your life, and remembering? Isn’t your life to be like the sea…getting written over and over each day with new stories, new experiences, new opportunities to cover up and
wash away the harshness that is the missing page?

Perhaps the secret…is in the sand…

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