We’re vacationing on a beach where I’ve vacationed in the past. As a child I came to this area, and as an adult I came to this area. But those visits feel like they were a lifetime ago. They were. Those vacations happened before my oldest child was born. Those vacations predate my son’s lifetime.
This morning I took a walk down a familiar route and got to partake in that magic point where the ocean meets the sand and your mind escapes to a place that can rarely be reached in other settings. Although I had not taken this particular walk for a decade, my feet knew right where to go….moving on their own, guided by both, the memory of the heart and the memory of the mind. I felt comfort in the consistencies of the shoreline and ridges in the sand, and streams. I noted the changes on the skyline of the land as new vacation homes and hotels now adorned those dunes. I relaxed and breathed in the fresh air, enjoying this rare moment of solitude and my mind slipped into a comfortable semi-meditative state.
Interruption. My indulgence in the moment of reflection and comparison of things the same and things different stopped. The rhythm of my walk and thoughts abruptly halted as I clumsily tried not to step on a jellyfish.
Without thinking, I crouched down and studied the jelly, examining how it reflected the light of the sky. I poked at it with my finger, and used a stick to flip it over and differentiate between textures. During what can be long days of parenting young children and in an attempt to fend off boredom, we’ve logged a great deal of time at the Jellies exhibit the Shedd Aquarium My son loves this wonderful exhibit. For me, rather than it being an opportunity to retain information, those visits usually feel like one big game of roulette where the only options on the wheel are “tiring”, “really tiring” or “exhausting”. But as I observed my beached jelly this morning suddenly all of the facts and tidbits from the aquarium came to mind. I looked for its tentacles, and tried to identify other parts. I kind of whispered to myself, “now, what was this called, the mesoglea, or the epidermis?” I recalled the reproductive cycle of jellyfish and wondered how many larvae this jelly had released. I determined that it had just recently been washed ashore based on the amount of water still present.
Remembering that an adult jellyfish is called a Medusa and recalling the giant jellyfish in Japan, my scientific curiosity gave way to a storyteller who now weaved a mythical tale through my mind of how this jelly came to shore to protect beach goers from a powerful creature who appeared only when the moon was full and the tide high. Alone on the beach, I made my face fierce, thought this could be too intense and shifted gears to an upbeat tone. The storyteller now crafting a simple story of a happy little jelly bopping its way along the shore, just waiting to come up and say hi to all of the children playing on the beach.
Another interruption. My rational mind reminded me that I was alone on this walk today. Without my child alongside, I didn’t need to invent such tales or deconstruct the parts of this jellyfish. I could go about my walk as I was before. Its not unusual to see jellyfish on this beach. Surely there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about this jellyfish. When I took these walks ten years ago I’d never stop to take even a second look at a jellyfish. In fact, quite the opposite. I thought jellies were kind of creepy and scared me a little. I’d purposely step away from them and quicken my pace when I came upon these creatures.
So what made this simple jellyfish so fascinating this morning? Because now I am seeing it through the eyes of a parent. Through those eyes, I not only see, I observe. Through the eyes of a parent, I am conditioned to view the world from a vantage point that allows me to absorb the lessons the world teaches and share them with my children. Also, through the eyes of a parent I know that every one of the world’s offerings, no matter how seemingly little or trivial, provides an opportunity for me to connect with my children and capture their imagination. A stick, a leaf, a bird’s chirp. Small things that when observed through a filter of curiosity and creativity can become sacred things.
While I was walking alone on the beach this morning, now as a parent, I know that I am never alone. My child is always at the top of my mind and in the bottom depths of my heart. And now through the eyes of a parent I know that among the greatest of gifts I can bestow to my child are a sense of curiosity, creativity and wonderment. Wonderment with the world and wonderment with the people of the world.
Interruption. Interruptions welcome. Forever more I am a parent, and forever more my walks as a parent will be filled with interruptions for exploration. There is no discovery without exploration. Wonderment abounds and curiosity prevails. The last time I walked this beach certainly does feels like it was a lifetime ago, and not only because it predates my child’s lifetime. It predates my lifetime as a parent.