When I visit my little hometown of Mattituck, I enjoy walking down Love Lane and being unable to avoid seeing someone I know. I love wine tasting at the vineyards and visiting people from the little church where I learned to sing. But more than these, my favorite thing to do is walk on Bailie Beach, a small stretch of shoreline that looks out over the Long Island Sound to Connecticut (pictured above). This beach has been home to some of my deepest revelations, most precious tears, and snarkiest conversations with God. Even with all that water stretched before me, I’m not content to just watch the waves roll lazily to shore, and I’m really not into lying in the sun till the skin melts off my body. I go to the beach to look for sea glass.
I first discovered this little pleasure when I spent four months of my life studying music on Martha’s Vineyard. There’s not much to do on the small island in winter and walking to the beach every day kept my stir craziness at bay. I became addicted to finding tiny colored bits of glass settled snugly between grains of sand, a perfect occupation for anyone with mild OCD, and brainlessly therapeutic for writers whose tired minds need rest. When my sojourn on the Vineyard ended, I kept interest in this hobby and became fascinated with the whole process. I’m always surprised when people have never heard of sea glass. I think it’s a phenomenon only known to those who live near rocky seashores. Boaters, beachgoers, and residents often end up throwing glass bottles into the local waters. The glass isn’t harmful to the environment because nature has a lovely way of making art out of this particular kind of trash. Waves smash the bottles to bits against the rocky shore, tossing them about with the ebbing of the tides, and as the pieces are scraped back and forth across the sand, the edges turn from razor sharp to velvety smooth. The sheen of the glass turns matte and porous, and the result is a little beach gem that can be made into jewelry or used as a decoration on all sorts of tacky craft items.
People may think me rather odd, wandering the shore, head to the ground, eyes peeled for something totally insignificant compared to the vast waters of the sea. But it’s a spiritual experience for me. I have a lot of rough edges that include a dirty mouth, terrible road rage, dislike of babies, criticism and judgment, a penchant for speaking before thinking, and the ability to carry a grudge to the ends of the earth. People each have their own specific set of rough edges they carve out for themselves, but everyone gets broken sooner or later. Relationships end. Someone close dies. A job ends. A trusted friend becomes unreliable. Harsh words fall upon vulnerable ears. The heart is in a constant state of transformation as life batters and blows. I can think back to specific times where I was broken. These were terribly unpleasant times where I felt defeated by love and life. But I’m thankful for those times. I’m on the other side of them now. I can look back and see that through the healing process, God smoothed away some of my rough edges. I’m sure that more times of breaking are ahead of me, but it’s comforting to know that through the pain, beauty can be born. Personally, I like to leave the glass as nature gives it to me. I keep a bowlful on a table next to my bed as a constant reminder that God keeps softening my edges so I can come just a little closer to resembling him.