I discovered the ocean on a sunny day in Whiterock when I was young. The surf crashed as I dipped my child's hands into the salty water and let it carry sand from my fingers, dripping and dropping like soft ice cream from the machine at Dairy Queen on a summer's day. Growing up in the Interior of BC, all I had known up until that point were freshwater lakes where we ice fished in the winter, or avoided the weeds while we swam in the summer. This was new-and I loved it.
Years later, I finally made my way back to the salty blue of the ocean I loved so much. On my honeymoon John and I slept in a tiny cabin on Fitzroy Island, so close to the water that we could hear the surf as it tossed the bits of dead coral on the beach. At 22, I learned how to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef and among the colorful fish and feather tube worms reaching for their next meal, I learned how small I was in the expanse of our world's oceans. I was hooked.
Ever since, I've lived by the ocean. In Campbell River we were never far from sea wall where one can stand and watch orcas swimming through the Strait of Georgia on their yearly migration, or summer cruise ships float silently by on their way to Alaska. Kevin grew up playing in tidal pools year round as we sought the sun and surf of Miracle Beach in the summer, and scoured the sand for unique shells in the winter. On scorching hot days we sought the cool breezes near the docks where tugboats moored, sipping cold drinks and dipping our toes into the water.
Kevin grew, and life became more complicated. Despite my love of the ocean and where we lived, I yearned to live in a place where I didn't have to fight so hard for Kevin to be understood. Shortly before we left, I took Kevin back to the beach one last time to say goodbye. As we wandered around a boat launch staring out into the blue and wondering if we'd ever be back, something caught my eye. At first I wasn't sure they were real but as I turned them over in my hand, I realized that they were. Tiny abalone shells, picked clean by scavengers with their mother of pearl interior glinting in the sun were at my feet, just waiting to be scooped up and carried home. Silently, I bent and one by one, put them in my pocket.
"These are a sign," I thought. "A sign that things will get better. Even though I found Kevin curled in the corner of his room sobbing, and I don't think life can be much worse than right now, it's a sign."
The shells were tucked away in a box, brought to our new home on the Sunshine Coast, and forgotten.
In our new home, we can see the ocean from our kitchen, but it's not quite the same. Finally safe from the drama that had wrought both Kevin and I so much stress, we found ourselves walking along yet another sea walk. As I stopped to sit for a moment to enjoy the view, Kevin dug through the pebbles that surrounded us, smoothed by the ocean waves' constant motion.
"Hey Mom, look!" In his hand were tiny bits of glass, smoothed at the edges. Blue, amber, green, and white- the area was rife with tiny pieces here and there. We dug for hours on that beach, picking up bits and exclaiming over each new treasure. On one particular day when I was feeling down, I took those bits of glass and set them in a jar in my bathroom. The sun glinted through the glass, illuminating the colors and each time I looked at it, I reminded myself that it was a sign.
Each little piece of glass was a shard of hope. Things will get better, I promised myself. They already are better.
We've changed so much since those days, and so many wonderful things have happened. I discovered blogging, and found myself. My son has grown into an amazing young man who I'm fiercely proud of. John and I are happier than ever. I found an amazing soul that I have become very close friends with, who when I visit, we trek down the road from her house by the ocean. We climb over rocks and logs, and of late, have heart to hearts about the future. Cancer. How much time there is, and how many more walks by the ocean we will have. Conversations that you never dream you will have with your best friend, but there it is. Cancer has the tendency to steer friendships into waters you never dreamed you'd ever find yourselves in.
Recently we walked, and at one point I stopped briefly to look out at the expanse of blue before us, the waves crashing while the sunlight turned the water into a million sparkles. For a brief second I closed my eyes and listened.
Water lapped gently at the shore. Seagulls screeched. I could hear her footsteps as she trudged through the smooth pebbles on the shore. As the salty wind whipped my hair, I made a wish for something I've never wished for before, but that has increasingly become more important to me as 2012 rolls by. I wished for moments just like this one - a simple walk by the ocean with the friend I love, and time. Oh, if only time were a tangible thing I could pick up off the beach.
As I turned to go, something green caught my eye. A large piece of sea glass - rare to find, really, was right at my feet. My fingers ran over the smooth surface as I tucked it into my pocket, and later into my wallet to carry with me through 2012, where ever I may be to remind me specifically, of that moment by the ocean.
Somehow, someone knew that this year I needed a really big shard of hope.