I wrote the following excerpt during the writing workshop I took last weekend…Maybe someday it will appear in a book.
It’s a mess, this shell. Groves and mounds all dirty yellow with tiny holes that would let water collect underneath. But there is one small white pearl on the edge of the cracks—perfectly white—showing glimpses of what it once was or what it’s trying to be.
I find it under the stroller wheel when we stop for a picture in front of the ugly, massive American flag mural faded from the saltwater and dirty from low fog and heavy wind. Jeremiah insists the babies take a photo in front of the mural, and we sit them down in front of it, wobbly and crying. They don’t see the humor in this setup.
It’s not my first time on this beach. Only two months have passed since we were last here, just the three of us. Before chemo. Before Christmas. Before the healing began, if you can call chemotherapy healing. At sunset we walked these calm sands, watching horses roam past in that romantic way. It would have been romantic, had he not been sick. Us, young and barefoot, with a baby strapped to my chest fast asleep.
We wanted to be healed by those waters but they mocked us for an entire weekend. They are rhythmic but not in the calming sense. Angry—over and over and over again—building and then crashing with no relief between.
But now he is fighting. And now we are here with friends—no longer alone in our misery but walking these warm sands with sunlight on our faces instead of it’s fading darkness on our backs. We are still slowly moving, but there is playful silliness in our trek. This time a football being thrown and American flag mural pictures for no good reason, and the promise of fish tacos and brown butter cookies when we’ve walked long enough.
I’m holding onto that shell. I’m holding onto hope. Even ugly things have beautiful parts.
p.s. The above photo is from the day I’m describing in this essay. Cayucos, January 2012.