I enjoyed a half mile hike through Jurassic Park recently.
Well, okay—it seemed like Jurassic Park.
My husband and I vacationed in the Kingston, Washington area last month, and one of the friends we were visiting and I took off one afternoon for a mysterious and silent trek inside the Foulweather Bluff Wildlife Preserve. The hiking path is gnarly as they come and thickly lined with ferns, mossed-over dead wood and populated with a dense collection of ancient red cedar trees that had to be well over one hundred feet tall. It seemed like a T-Rex would pop up at any moment from behind one of the 6-foot diameter stumps long since overturned by weather and time.
The path brought us out onto the beach where my friend introduced me to a new experience. It was the first time I’d ever seen a sand dollar bed. Silly me—I assumed all sand dollars were pure white and spotless. They’re not. They’re black when they are alive, and they bleach out once they die.
That whole beach area was one giant metaphor for life itself laying in wait for someone to write about it, or sit in silence and meditate with it. I had a journal along but I didn’t really feel inclined to write. I simply wanted to be there.
As we walked on the moist sand something squirted my friend and she squealed. She explained that clams hunker down and hide about twelve inches below the surface, but maintain an air hole up through the heavy, water-soaked sand. If something interrupts their spot, they squirt water up through the hole to clear their pathway once again.
Large numbers of sand dollars wedged into the rocky sand bars of the water’s bottom, looking like little flying saucers who cut through the water, parked themselves at a 30-degree angle in the shallow sand and liked it so much they decided to stay. As the tide came in they changed their position—in rhythm with it.
You don’t need me to articulate the possibilities for analogy or metaphor in any of this for you. They practically scream at us, they are so obvious.
Long dead bleached tree trunks rest on the sand providing a place for birds or quizzical humans to perch and rest for a bit. Empty, but intact purple muscle shells and iridescent clam shells decorate the beach and delight the eye when no longer needed by their former occupant. Even the sand dollars in death, fragile as a saltine cracker and the same color as one, offer up their own sense of beauty and peace to the casual beach walker who wants to escape the noise of humanity for a couple hours on a summer afternoon.
Who or what has been blocking your air passage lately?
Who’s gone before you, but left something special behind—just for you? Do you know what it is, and do you appreciate it enough?
I’ve had to crawl back into the noise of everyday life, but I loved my time with the sand dollars, horse mussels and clams.