I walk the beach every day. The soft sand molds to my feet with each step while the smooth stones massage them. Brisk, saline air irrigates my mind during this ambulatory therapy. It shores up my mood, bones, and immune system. The forward motion pumps my heart and has propelled me through life here, from the most mundane Mondays to the most serious, searing crises. During the divorce, eight years ago when the boys were in middle school, it was often the only place I could keep the panic at bay. Stay sound on the Sound.
But by far the most soothing and satisfying part of the promenade is the search for sea glass. That wave-tumbled, sand-smoothed, multihued treasure created from others’ trash. The three-foot high, 18 inch-wide bubbled glass cylinder is nearly full with the bounty from my years-long quest. Clear, blue, lavender, gold, and even red pieces punctuate the more common brown and green.
The lessons I’ve learned scanning the shore for these smooth slivers spill over into life, like waves on the beach. Single for all these years, now, I suppose you could say I’m looking for “that special someone.” Or at least that tolerably-nice-and-sane-non-felon to see a movie with. My life is rich and full of friends, family, and activity, but I admit that I’d like to cuddle up with a man occasionally. I want to turn to someone who cares at the end of the day and share details both monumental and trivial. I miss someone having my back… and front. It would nice to be important to someone.
“Are you dating anyone?” my well-meaning hairstylist asks, making a little pity pouty face more apropos of a three year old that’s just dropped an ice cream cone than an of an adult ostensibly inquiring after my welfare.
“No,” I say, eyes downcast with just the right combination of grief and shame. The pout turns into a frown at this point. “They’re not exactly lining up at the door, you know!” I say, trying to lighten the now somber mood and change the subject. To make her feel better.
“Maybe you should try online dating!” my aunt asks as if she’s just discovered, or even invented, this new technology.
“Don’t you know anyone who could set you up?” she persists.
“Gee, why didn’t I think of that?” I don’t say.
Now, a bit more desperately, brow wrinkled in a worried crease “maybe the bars aren’t too bad, if you go to the right one with someone. It could be fun?” Is she trying to convince herself or me?
Looking for beach glass is an art. It would be easy to go to a hypothetical SeaGlass.com and just order a pouchful of pieces and hope to at least like them even a little. Or to sit at home and expect friends to find them, but the foraging is fun.
I try to look in those spots with the highest yield probability, like the low tide rock ridges. But sometimes a gem sits way up toward the road buried deep in dry beige sand. In a spot no one would think to look. Sometimes serendipity has just to put you in the right place at the right time.
It takes patience, diligence, and focus.
“How do you do it? You find some every time! I never find any and I walk there all the time!” my friend laments.
“Just keep your head down and let your eyes scan the sand. Steadily, but without desperation. And be sure of what you’re looking for,” I advise. “Don’t be fooled by rocks and shells posing as sea glass.”
I find new-ish pieces sometimes; ones that are young, and immature, and not fully developed. They are too shiny and sharp, with jagged edges that could hurt me. I throw those back to let the sea soften and shape them; I will be here waiting when they are ready.
The competition for the straight, age-appropriate single man is much stiffer than for the seemingly elusive sea glass. The number of the former (who have not previously been married to one of my friends and can speak in full sentences) is slim and diminishing. The Sound replenishes the supply of the latter daily, thanks to careless boaters. They toss their bottles overboard and the sea tumbles them into gems for me. Not many of us scour the beach daily for these products of the ocean’s alchemy. On the man front, the demand far outweighs the supply.
The difference is that I’m always certain that I want to find the glass. It is not a burden and it fits into my home and does not disrupt my schedule. If it is not good I can toss it back into the surf to be reformed. A man, on the other hand, would change everything and I both crave and fear that. Am I too set in my ways? The more time I spend companion-less, the more that time molds me like the waves sculpt the rigid glass.
I’m looking for the right pieces. Not just any piece. They don’t have to be perfect. Size does not matter. I just want them to feel good in my hand, and fit well in my life. Sometimes I spy a great piece in the gentle waves lapping at the shore. I just grasp it, but it slips away. I don’t regret those near misses. Those nuggets are not meant for me. They are there waiting for someone else, and I have to let them go without regret, happy for the person who will eventually find them.
It is counterproductive to try too hard or to be desperate. I have, often, to remind myself to keep my eye on the prize. Which is the walk itself. The peace. Not the piece.
“No,” I say, “I am not dating. I have not found the right person yet.” Or maybe, they haven’t found me. In this case, I’m the prize.