Monday, August 24, 2009


Oh ye! Who have your eyeballs vex’d and tir’d
feast them upon the wideness of the sea.[i]

Walking the two miles northward along the Oregon coast on a rainy morning, I spotted a large round object sitting at low tide. Though it was still before dawn and the rain was coming in at an angle, I went to the water’s edge to discover what had washed up during the night. Nestled between two large yellow plastic coverings, a three-foot in diameter glass ball was staring back at me. I struggled to carry the over-sized globe up the dune to where I work. Later that day, I removed the plastic shell to more thoroughly acquaint myself with the ‘gift from the sea’. According to a sticker inside the glass, this orb was manufactured by an ocean research lab in Massachusetts, sold to the Florida State University, attached to an unmanned research lab, and sunk four miles deep into the heart of the Pacific Ocean. Over time, the metal bolts holding the float to the lab corroded and broke, freeing the giant jewel to rise the surface and wash ashore near my home on a low tide dawn in November.

We’ve found a few Japanese floating glass balls in our beachcombing treks. The hand-blown Japanese glass floats travel tens of thousands of miles in the whirlpool of the North Pacific, before a severe storm breaks a few loose to castaway and wash up onto the sand. Anne Morrow Lindberg’s classic book, “Gift from the Sea, offers a beautiful way of looking at our life on planet earth. Every period of our life is like another tide, bringing in new gifts for any and all who are willing to go a little out of their way to discover these treasures. Life is a beachcombing adventure. Speaking of her beach return, Lindberg writes,

At first, the tired body takes over completely…. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea-shore…. And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense—no—but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind, what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor…. But it must not be sought for or—heaven forbid!—dug for…. Patience… is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.[ii]

[i] John Keats, Sonnet on the Sea, from The Penguin Book of English Romantic Verse, (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1968), 288.

[ii] Anne Morrow Lindberg, Gift from the Sea (New York, NY: Random House, 1955), 10-11.

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