The tides slowly wear away at the ragged and scraped edges where we tore ourselves out, and what is left behind is as smooth as breath.
When the world is too much to bear, leave yourself behind and go down to the shore. There may be other people around, but they won’t see you. You can stand there, your body an empty conch shell, the wind whipping through the space your heart usually occupies, and breathe.
You do not need to be yourself at the shore. Even the ocean is not herself at her edges, all her fierceness stretched dough-thin and fragile. It is easy to forget that the soft waves kissing your toes are but the whispered shadows of what the ocean can do in a storm. It is easy to forget who you are, too.
This can be a blessing. There are parts of ourselves we do not love, do not cherish, do not honor—sometimes for what feels like good reason. Shame and guilt and memories of harm done are all woven into the fabric of our souls, and when we stand before the sea and forget these, yes, it is a blessing. The tides slowly wear away at the ragged and scraped edges where we tore ourselves out, and what is left behind is as smooth as breath. Such is the way of water.
There comes a time, of course, when you must rinse your feet one last time in the waves, gather yourself back up again, and make your way through the sand to the parking lot. The heat of the asphalt on your bare feet, the jarring sound of the car radio, the discomfort of settling yourself back into your body—these are holy, too. Holy as sunshine, holy as water, holy as the moment you find that, to your great surprise, your soul fits a little more softly in your ocean-worn body. Such is the way of the sea.
Excerpted with permission from Love Like Thunder, © 2018 Jess Reynolds (Skinner House Books).
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Jess Reynolds is a Sacramento-based writer who has been involved in their local congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, since they moved to the West Coast in 2015. Outside of writing, they enjoy choral singing, rock climbing, and swing dancing.