Monday, January 9, 2017

Flaws and Beauty

Over Thanksgiving we met two of our children (and their families) who live in the southern part of the US and spent the holiday with them on the Gulf Coast, in a town called Navarre. The beach was beautiful--white sand as far as we could see. And, because it was "winter," the beach was pretty much our own. Our condos looked out on the ocean, which was sparkling and clear. From the pier, we could see all the way to the sandy bottom of the water, so we could observe small sharks, stingrays, and the large turtles that flocked the area (probably because of the turtle rescue facility there).

I read a little about the area. It seems that the town was the site for the filming of the second Jaws film. Eerie to think about when we were in the water! But the town--and the beach--had been partially destroyed several times since then by hurricanes. When the hurricanes come, the beach is often erased by the wind and waves. Afterward, new sand is dredged up from under the water and blown onto the beach again. That can explain why it is so white and clean, I suppose. And filled with shells.

In my office, I have a bowl of shells I have collected from beaches I have visited around the world. I can't remember which shell is from which beach anymore, but I put them in a clear bowl to remind me of the beaches I have visited. Favorite memories. On this trip, my grandchildren had collected grocery bags full of shells and laid them out to examine on the deck of the condo. As I looked at them, admiring their beauty, I realized that none of the shells was perfect. Each had a flaw of some sort. I imagined the flaws were the result of some ocean hazard--waves beating them against the sand, currents carrying them against rocks, even sea creatures using and then discarding them. Each mark that made the shell imperfect was the result of a struggle, but each mark, now, on the shore, drying in the sun, made the shells beautiful. Unique. Strong. They had survived intact. As I studied them, I realized that in each case, the beauty of each shell existed in the aspects that might be considered flaws. Just like us: it isn't perfection that makes us special. It is the way we carry our struggles and move on. Smoothing over the broken edges and becoming something else. Something better.