“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence . . .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”—Mother Teresa
“Sea glass is symbolic of the magic of transformation.”—Unknown
“Look how much I found!”
Her voice was insistent as she entered through the sliding glass doors and into the living area of the summer cottage in which we vacationed for two weeks along the Bay of Chaleur in Petit Rocher, New Brunswick, Canada. Her face was flushed red; eyes sparkled with exhilaration. Her friend, Gracie, whose face was just as crimson, followed her.
“I taught Gracie how to look for it!”
Spreading their loot across the kitchen table, they began sorting by colors: green, white, brown, and one blue.
“I found this cool rock, too!”
Madelyn, my daughter, placed a heart-shaped rock alongside the colorful sea glass they had collected. Then, seemingly, without thought, she began arranging the sea glass around the heart-rock in an aesthetically appealing rotating circular shape as she chatted about the bracing winds, the rocky shoreline, and the chilly, damp air. She smiled as she meticulously constructed her creation–though I do not think she realized she was doing this.
Sea glass is, in actuality, discarded trash. Before the proliferation of plastics as popular storage vessels, most liquids and creams were housed in glass bottles. In fact, I can still fondly recall the small 10-ounce green bottles of Mountain Dew, the blue Noxzema glass jars, the red Avon decorative glass goblets, the brown glass bottles that held Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup, and the clear, tall 16-ounce Pepsi-Cola glass bottles of my youth. All of these various glass bottles, and many others during this time period, were often carelessly dumped into our streams, rivers, and oceans; or, buried in the sand along the shore with little thought.
Once in the ocean, these containers were tossed about in the waves like a colorful mixed green salad. As the waves violently thrashed the bottles against rocks, ocean floor, and various other inflexible objects, they were sharply broken down into smaller pieces, each with a unique shape. Eventually, the edges of these pieces were worn smooth, giving the glass found today a frosted and/or pitted quality.
In fact, many sea glass jewelry makers consider sea glass a “reverse gem”. Traditional gems are created by nature, but refined by humans. Whereas, sea glass is created by humans; but then, transformed by nature.
Today, with the increasing use of plastics and numerous recycling programs, sea glass is becoming more difficult to find. I suppose that is part of the fun for Maddie–the challenge of spying scarce, multihued gems peaking through the milieu of rocks, pebbles, shells and other flotsam found along the shoreline. Perhaps, though, there is more to it.
Walking along the craggy shoreline of the Bay of Chaleur one day, I became totally immersed in the search for sea glass. My intention, when I left the cottage, was to enjoy a brisk walk along the bay’s edge, but with the sighting of one piece of green sea glass, briskness was set aside; and instead, all of my focus and energy was directed towards hunting for sea glass for Maddie. Earnestly searching for sea glass emptied my mind of all thoughts, allowing my vision to fully focus as I pursued multicolored oddities amidst shoreline debris. My breathing and heart rates were notably slower, and time was measured only by the present moment.
Occasionally, I noticed an abandoned house, a group of playful sea birds, or a passing sailboat; but then, my vision would return to my shoreline quest. During that walk, my mind was not attached to current worries, past failures, or future concerns—there was just the background sound of lapping water and the possibility of sea glass. Thus, I became the recipient of three lessons courtesy of the sea glass of the Bay of Chaleur.
Nonattachment. While this wasn’t my first run-in with the concept of nonattachment, my experience with sea glass served as a reminder that nothing is permanent—change is a continual process, even when I cannot immediately see it. While I clearly observed Maddie happily creating various sea glass arrangements, she could not become attached to any of her creations if she wanted them to grow into something else. Likewise, in life, growth cannot occur when we remain attached to past events/failures, present-day worries, or future concerns. Growth can only occur with a release of mental grasping—just as the bottles could not become gems if they held on to their original shape.
Transformation. Nonattachment can lead to transformation, the second lesson of the sea glass. Maddie’s artful creation of sea glass, formed at the beginning of our stay, was reworked several times, moved to another table, and ultimately disassembled in order to travel home where it will, no doubt, be changed again. Likewise, copious bottles of my youth, and even prior to my birth, are continually, and quite harshly, broken by the ocean’s waves; however, this seemingly brutal treatment creates exquisitely colorful treasures. Therefore, it is worth remembering, no matter how severe the seas of life become, there is transformative power for positive change especially if we seek it out. Even the sharpest edge of a glass bottle is eventually worn smooth.
Connection to our Creator. Hunting for sea glass required Maddie and me to get outside and away from screens. The propagation of social media has the ability to distract and separate us from our natural world. Noise and visual stimuli distract our brains, leaving little room, or even time, for silence. When our minds remain attached to these stimuli, transformation can often become stalled. Time spent in nature, however, even in pursuit of sea glass, is an excellent conductor to our Divine Creator. If God created a sea with the ability to transform glass bottles into bits of colorful collectables, what sort of gems can we potentially discover within ourselves, and others, when we take time to unplug from what the world is telling us, and instead, spend a bit of time in nature, so that our souls may hear the whisperings of God?
Can you find the piece of sea glass hidden in each picture?