What I Can See in Sea Glass

This past weekend I was able to get away with my husband and son for our yearly gathering of my husband’s family on the shores of Lake Michigan. Amidst all of the laughs and chatter as we enjoyed our beach time, there was a quest: sea glass. We all love it and want to add to our collections, so there is always a lot of walking up and down the beach in search of the poor man’s treasure.

We have rules of what is a “keeper” and what isn’t. Basically, if the glass can draw blood, it doesn’t count. We envy the lucky picker who finds the beautiful cobalt piece or the lovely mint greens and soft blues.

My strong start.
My strong start.

My weekend began with two beauties right away…and I pretty much peaked at that point. Some of us got some great stuff, but I didn’t find much to speak of after my initial luck. As I walked along the shore, though, neck baking in the sun, I thought a lot about this valuable (to us) commodity.

I’ve often joked that as a Chicagoland dweller, I should just smash some bottles into Chicago’s lakefront and wait for them to make their way to the Michigan shores we visit…wait for them to show up as the glass that we treasure.

How long does it take for shattered glass to evolve into beautiful sea glass? I wonder. And as I think about the process of what it takes for jagged shards of glass to become beautiful pieces of…art, really, I can’t help but think of how it represents the journey of life itself.

Indulge me in the metaphor for a bit, will you? Let’s say we kind of all start out as bottles. And as the waves of life have their way with us, many of us, for one reason or another, get shattered. That initial phase is devastating. What once was is no longer. What you thought was your purpose is gone. Instead, it’s quite scary. Sharp edges warn of danger.

But the waves keep churning.

And your broken self is pulled into the tide and tossed up on the shore only to be sucked back in and overwhelmed by the waves some more. And then some more. And then some more again.

But maybe it isn’t overwhelming at all. Maybe it’s polishing, refining…turning you into the beauty that you will one day be. Maybe the powerful force of the roiling waves is exactly what is needed to make you your best self. The harsh battering of the surf against those jagged edges smooths them over and instead of danger, there is a refinement that makes you something to be treasured.

Or not. Listen, I had a lot of time to contemplate as I was crooking my neck to find this damn glass. Maybe you find the metaphor to be a stretch, and that’s fine. But me? I’m fond of the notion. It makes the “smashing moments” of my life easier to embrace. I look forward to being my sea glass self. A poor man’s treasure worth finding.