I woke up this morning to my third rainy, gray and cold day at Seaside, Oregon. My fantasy of a sunny, exhilarating Memorial Day weekend filled with bonfires and shell-hunting had crashed head-on, 100 miles an hour into a concrete block wall; there were no survivors.
It was 6 a.m. and I started to contemplate what should be on my daily agenda… maybe just roll over and go back to sleep… the kind of throw-in-the-towel mentality this weather deserved. Yet something drug me out of bed, propelled me to get dressed for the weather and head down to the beach. It was in the 50s, overcast, foggy and misting a light rain. The wind was cold on my face as I pushed closer to the water’s edge.
It was low tide and when I started to look around at the mile-wide beach, the pounding surf and the litter along the shoreline, the symbolism was screaming at me.
Life is so much like a beach. Sometimes we are at high tide where the water is warm and soft and the tide playfully licks at our toes… beckoning us to play. The sun is shining and the light reflects warmly off the whitecaps, throwing a prism of colors into the sky. All is right with the world and the beauty of life is generously presented to us on a silver platter. The only thing required of us to to bask in its perfection and breathe it all in.
Today was not one of those days. The beach was empty and the cold sea air stung my cheeks as I pushed forward toward the surf. The wreckage left behind the low tide extended miles beyond my view… beaten disemboweled bodies of crabs and clams lay before me. The beach was strewn with crushed shells and sand dollars mercilessly smashed to pieces. The seaweed and plant life had been torn from its roots by the unforgiving surf and mixed with bits of driftwood and an occasional bottle cap, crushed aluminum can or piece of trash. As the tide had retreated, it left devastation in its path.
I’ve found myself in the low tide of my life many times: during my cancer treatment, after the sudden death of my 34-year-old brother due to a drug overdose… even in the less descript daily monotony of children, famly and finances. But even in the devastation of those moments, life required me to push on, just as I did this morning as I stepped over the litter and continued toward the water line in the gray weather.
It was difficult. My body ached. I was breathing hard. I’m too fat, I was thinking… I should be in better shape by now. Even though I’ve been losing weight, I haven’t been working hard enough… haven’t been pushing myself like I should. The negative conversations polluted my brain as I walked along, mentally beating myself up… breathing hard and wishing I was 100 pounds thinner.
It was just a few minutes later when the sand became darker, almost black. It was pristine. Covered with less than an eighth of an inch of sea water, it looked like black glass. Slick and beautiful all the way up to where it met the crashing waves. It looked so placid and slippery that I almost expected to be able to skate across its hard surface, slipping and sliding the whole way to the ocean. A seagull screeched above my head, breaking my trance-like plodding, causing me to raise my eyes from the ground. “Wake up!,” it called.
As I jerked my head up, the extraordinary view caused my breath to catch. A foggy mist had settled around Tillamook Head. The lighthouse on the rock just out from the shore was being assaulted by the thundering Pacific coast waves. The crushing power of the surf was softened by the foggy mist that had settled around the point and the hundreds of beachhouse that speckled the coast. Dozens of small groups of clammers had begun to emerge from the dunes and dotted the water line hunting for razor clams, hidden a foot below the sand. People were bundled up… some even had waders on. Nothing was going to stop them from securing their 15 clam limit. Despite the cold, and the rain and the gray weather, the clammers were out in force.
The beauty of the moment was incredible. As I extended my view down the huge beach, I realized hundreds of people now dotted the landscape, searching for buried treasure. I later found out that this is one of the best clamming seasons on record. People flock to the beach in the morning during low tide to collect their razor clam prizeload.
It’s powerful to realize that when you change your perspective and surrender to the moment, your whole life can change in an instant. Surrendering to the moment, to the weather, to the beach… I suddenly felt exhilarated and all of the negative “suffering” conversations in my head disappeared. The ocean was magnificent. I was fully present, awake to what was going on around me, and my heart was full. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. I became flooded with appreciation for my life and for this day. It was literally as if a switch was flipped. And all it took was a change of scenery and a moment of awakening.
What will it take this day for you to flip your switch? For you to surrender to the perfection of the moment: if there are tears, taste them as they fall. If there is sunshine, bask in its warmth and feel the heat on your skin. If you notice you are not present, change your scenery and wake yourself up.
We all have low tide moments in our lives and the key is not to wait for high tide, but rather to embrace the moment in which we are standing and experience it to its fullest. This moment is your life. What will you make of it?