Searching For Sand Dollars
Thanksgiving took me to one of my favorite places, the Oregon coast. Before unloading the car (and blessed with blue skies and sunshine), I immediately headed out for a walk on the beach, in search of sand dollars. Looking for these ocean treasures has been a favorite activity for me and my children since they were toddlers and just old enough to trundle along clutching a pail to collect their wares. Over time we have become quite particular in our selection, choosing only those that are completely whole and gently weathered to a light grey, resembling the clapboard siding on the cottages beyond the dunes. Without kids in tow, I walked briskly, keeping my eyes open for that first find of the trip. An hour later I returned home, empty-handed and disappointed.
The next morning I headed back to the beach, this time to go for a long run. After 25 years there I have my usual route, heading south then looping back to the start. This morning, for whatever reason, I went in the opposite direction, hoping to have the sun on my face for the return. As many know, I often use this solitary time of pounding the pavement (or the beach) for personal reflection, which sometimes finds its way into my sharing here. However in this moment, I found myself totally taken with the beauty of the day, the warmth of the sunshine, and the sound of the waves breaking on the shore. And then I saw my first sand dollar.
But, it wasn’t perfect. I bent down to pick it up and was dismayed that it was a muddy brownish hue – not at all the silvery sheen that makes the “keep or toss” cut with my family. Worried that I might not come across any others, I stuffed it in my pocket and kept running. A few steps later I saw another, and another – I filled one pocket and then the other. Although not up to snuff, these sand dollars would hopefully dry out and eventually turn into the quality specimens that adorn tables and bookshelves throughout our home.
The further I ran, the more I saw. I was confronted with a dilemma – I could not really run laden with sand dollars. I would have to slow to a jog – or even a walk – to bring my riches home. And how many did I really need? After all, they weren’t exactly what I had hoped for. But what if I never found one again? That is always my fear – a trip to the beach without some sand dollars to take home would be so dispiriting.
As I stood there contemplating these questions, I had to smile. While I had not begun my run with big thoughts to ponder or problems to resolve, the opportunity for reflection had snuck up on me. Look what happened when I took a different direction. I stumbled upon something I was not searching for. It was not exactly what I had hoped, but had the potential to develop into something wonderful. To take advantage of this opportunity, I would have to slow down and abandon my original plan of a long run. And there was the question of how much is enough – want versus need. What to do?
Pockets comfortably full, with the sun on my face, I walked home.
Hoping the holiday season offers you possibilities for new directions, a slower pace and unfolding beauty!
Published in the Connection from 12.11.15.