It is early, the sun is peeking up from a layer of thick gray clouds on the horizon, bringing a warm pink glow to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and the golden Cape Cod sand. I walk. It is low tide and the surf is quiet, barely making a sound and cresting so softly the rocks on the edge of the water do not stir. There is a bounty of beautiful ocean washed stones. They come in every shape and size; white, yellow, orange, green, black, veined, and marbled to name a few. This is one of my favorite things; walking at low tide, listening to the wind and the waves, and looking for the treasures of the ocean washed up on the sand.
During the height of the pandemic when it felt like the end of times, exhausted and numb, I would go to the beach and gather stones. They became my pandemic stones and they are everywhere; on shelves, in a box on my desk, in a glass jar on the dining room table, in pockets, and nestled in pretty bowls. They help to ground me in what matters. They stir memories of family and a sense of well-being. They remind me of dancing along the ocean as a child holding my father by his big bear paw hand, or long hot days with my brothers’ riding waves and burning in the sun. Not long ago I gathered stones as a parent with my own child. And I recall my sweet little brother who took to grinding them with a polisher, a long process that involved weeks in a tumbler with increasingly fine grit, a polish cycle, a wash cycle, and finally the magical shiny stones in their full glorious color and shine, as if they still lay covered in the gleaming ocean water.
Today I am feeling calm and unburdened despite the rise in COVID cases. I walk in the surprisingly warm December air. As I walk, I eye the sand for treasures. I stop to watch a family of seals swimming close to the shore. A gull swooping overhead lands nearby and doesn’t mind when I walk right by. There are few people on the beach and in front of me there is only sand, ocean and sky. As I look down heading back towards my starting point I notice four stones in a line, as if placed there. They line up perfectly, one after another. They have settled into the sand each one touching the next, each one almost the same size as the other but different in shape and color. The first one is almost blue, and round, the next one is shaped like a heart and almost entirely red. After that there is a brown speckled oval, and finally an irregular square yellow stone. The heart is snuggled up between the circle and the oval and had I not stopped to look at the four stones lined up so nicely I would have missed it. Its shape is nearly perfect and the fact that it is red is remarkable. I gently remove it and there in its place is a perfect heart shaped indentation in the sand. I know when the tide comes in it will disappear, but for now it fills me with the beauty of being alive. For this moment I am at peace. I walk to my car my hand clasped around the smooth red heart in my pocket.