Last week, I was forced to go to the beach.
I was cranky. I was tired. It was a holiday and all three kids were home, but my husband was working. I still had tons of tedious tasks to do to get settled in the new house.
My parents said, it’s a beautiful day, let’s go for a walk.
I walked from the breach way to the border of this same beach with my parents when I was a girl. It was like coming full-circle treading it this day with my own children a short distance from the place I now call home.
The girls dove straight into rock hunting with my mother. I didn’t even have to chase my three year-old out of the waves, as she plopped down in one spot and proceeded to sift and stack. I sat down, too, and gave myself over to the sound of the rocks chattering against each other in the surf.
My other home was a short walk from a small inlet on Narragansett Bay. It was a lovely spot and we were fortunate to live so close to it (though we didn’t make the trek nearly enough). But it had nothing of the raw power and expansiveness of this beach, the open ocean. I am not used to the mass amounts of rocks, perfectly pounded and rounded by the constant tumbling of the sea. The smooth spheres of granite, mica, and other minerals I should remember from science class and Rhode Island history. Their shapes were so alluring to me, beckoning me to pick them up, roll them in my hands.
And so I did. I sat just apart from my daughter’s sifting and sorting and felt the weight in my hands. The cool heaviness, the sun-soaked pressure. I searched for the one that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. Then I spun it round and round, the smooth surface soothing me in a way that didn’t seem needed, but became suddenly essential.
I felt my hackles lowering, my blood slowing in my veins, my body decompressing, my soul expanding. I was running, running, running so quickly, so constantly, that I didn’t even know how wound up I was. I didn’t know how much I needed the salve of the sea.
I recalled a stretch of preteen fall days when a friend and I rode our bikes to the sand flats with our notebooks and sketchpads. I was so disappointed that I was caught without a notebook when the muse was so apparently calling to me, when an epiphany was beating me over the head with a smoothly-shaped rock. I hoped beyond hope that I could bottle this feeling and bring it home with me. It’s been diluted over the last week, but I did bring some rocks home with me as reminders. I picked out some beautifully speckled, striated, spotted ones that I stacked into cairns in my garden. I selected two larger ones to use as worry rocks, prayer stones, literal talismans to ground me; I planned to give one to my husband so he could benefit from my lesson, too.
As I kneaded these rocks in my hands, I thought of the many manifestations of humanity’s need for physical reminders of the spiritual side of life, of our souls. Kachina dolls, worry dolls, worry stones, chime balls, stress balls, rocks perched on gravestones, relics . . . there are so many examples. But they all begin at their basest level with a bit of the natural world. There is a reason humans turn to nature to reset their moods, their demeanors, their selves. While I cannot put my finger on it, there is something about it that resonates in our souls. I’ll just have to wrap my hand around those rocks each time I forget.