I grew up within walking distance of a secluded stretch of shoreline. It rested on the other side of a golf course and we would often refer to our campsites by what hole it aligned with, like the 7th hole. The white sand stretched between two rocky points and little islands of Naupaka shrubs dotted the landscape. This was and remains a special place to many of us.
This was my sanctuary for a good part of my life. As a child I was always amazed at the amount of treasure along the shoreline. I could spend hours sifting through plastic bottles, fishing line, nets, drift wood and sea shells. I had no concept of pollution at that point. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was still in its infancy and so was I. At the north end of the beach were slabs of rock and reef that would expose themselves at low tide. Carved in the stone were the names of people come before, many of whom I recognized. There was always so much to be discovered here. There was always so much beauty.
Our lives are like this shoreline. It is expansive, it is beautiful, full of memories, experiences, and trash – yup, years and years of accumulated debris. As a teenager this place become an escape, a temporary respite from the war within my soul. I would always find myself called to her sandy, plastic filled shoreline, much like the Japanese fishing gear would. We had a lot in common. We were inherently beautiful creations, sometimes battered by winds, taunted by rising tides, an ever-changing glorious mess of pearly shells and plastic pieces. I would walk here, sit down and cry. The tide would rise within me and finally push its way out. I too was often overcome by salty water.
We are never, at any point in our existence- pristine. The sandy shores of our lives have both the beautiful remnants of those come before and the litter of a thousand stories. As children, we see everything as new, shiny and precious. The brown cowry shell and the plastic floaters. The limu(seaweed) and the fishing lines. As we grow and come to know the differences, we understand that somethings were meant to be found there and others weren’t. Some were divinely created, and others were from the world. So, it became clear to me as a teenager that I had much more litter then I could bare. A giant mass had accumulated beyond the reef and made its way to my shoreline. It demanded my attention. I saw it as a child, I knew it was always there- on the horizon. I had hoped it would never come to close.
It was called an abomination.
I couldn’t go near it, I tried to ignore it and I prayed and prayed and prayed that it would go away. But like the shoreline, I had no control over what would wash up over the course of time. So, we would sit together. The waves running along it’s face and the tears running down mine. Why me? How can I hide something so big that it’s weight influenced my speech, my gait and my heart? Everyone will see it. I don’t even know how to explain it.
The younger children at church would sometimes ask me if I was a girl or a boy and it would piss me off. Obviously, I was a boy, I think. I liked Voltron and transformers. I played with G.I. Joe. But sometimes, I wanted a My Little Pony and when no one was looking I would take my cousin Maine into the bathroom and play with Barbies. I always knew it was there looming, but how dare anyone talk about it. I had friends who were boys and we did boy things. But I dreamt of other things. I liked blue and pink equally. I liked chasing chickens and catching butterflies. I had dreams of He-man rescuing me from danger. Dreams of being Gem and the holograms. But don’t you dare call attention to it. I avoided preschoolers because they could see it, they would ask to much questions. They were always peering into my shoreline, looking at the abomination wanting to poke at it. Leave it alone and it will go away. Damn kids.
How could a piece of shoreline have so much in common with me? It is not even human. Yet, we would sit together. When my tears would subside, the waves were still rolling in. The wind was still howling amongst the brush. The littered shoreline remained, and the abomination still stood amongst the dunes of my life. However, another presence would always appear as my heart settled and my eyes dried. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. I felt it in the wind as it touched my face. I felt its vibration over the roaring waves. It felt like glittering sunlight falling down my head, radiating out my arms and down my legs. I would forget the mess and the accumulated debris piles. I would see a humpback whale, a turtle or a passing cloud and think, Man! This is all so beautiful. I was so grateful to be here with you.
He knew. He knew it all along. He knew about the mass out at sea and how it would wash up on my shoreline. He knew who I was, more than I could have ever known. I would sit alone on the shore line, picking thru the pieces of litter that overwhelmed my life. However, I would always leave knowing that I was, in fact, never alone. You see, He was the one who brought the shoreline and I together. We had more in common than our inherent beauty. We had more in common than being a gathering place of the worlds waste. We were both created by Him. His footsteps graced the sands of both our existences. He walked them before I did. He planted the tree and laid the hinahina out as a carpet. He painted the cowry shell and poured out the sand. He fed the fish and gave light for the algae. He knew I would meet Him there, because I couldn’t see him anywhere else. He used the shoreline to reveal his creative force and the love He had for me.
The abomination still stood and every time I couldn’t bare it, I would come to the shoreline. It was my church. My place of worship. I had no control over the things I had to face, like whatever would grace my shoreline, but I became aware of His presence. Between that time and now, He invited people into my life and little by little they helped me unravel the mass – the abomination that came to my shore. I can’t wait to tell you how it evolved. It has been many years since these moments, but the lessons still live in my spirit. I accumulated more debris, but I had so much help clearing it. There are more pearly shells and glittering sea glass now. Life is beautiful, it is a gift and no matter what washes up on our shoreline we are never alone. We were spoken into existence and we are inherently beautiful. Waves may crash, and the sea might rise but His love endures forever and ever. He loves you and so do I.