My husband and I walk along the beach at night, hand-in-hand, guided by the roar of the waves and faint, distant lights. The thick clouds of the day's heavy rains are dissipating; with each step along the sand, another star shimmers through the gray veil. The water gently laps our feet to keep a path ahead smooth and clear.
We find our way to two wooden chairs and recline, taking in the vastness. The rushing waters necessitate an encompassing silence and draw us each into deep reverie and repose. I marvel at the keen twinkle of the stars that make them seem to dance in their firmament. If I was billions of miles closer to them, I could truly see the roiling surface of these monstrous gas spheres. But from such a distance, the stars are brought alive only by illusions of atmosphere and imagination.
I think of the small seed of a baby within me, minuscule and intricate enough to mimic the many lovely shells scattered over the sand. I think of my boy, now asleep not so far away, who earlier tentatively traced patterns in the sand with a scavenged shovel, discerning the appeal of this new matter. Tears catch in my throat as I feel in my spirit the grand possibilities of their lives, the wonder and adventure awaiting them. Will they, too, someday meander along a beach at night, look up at the stars, and feel the power of their finity and smallness? Will they think of their mother and father?
I lay my hand on my husband's arm and speak from my heart into the darkness. I tell him that I need times to rest in wildness and remember then what I am as a human. I long for spaces where I feel the edges of my life, my perpetual closeness to death, and can rekindle love for living. The sky and sand, the water and fire of ocean and stars, hold dominant sway over me - I want to remember and know it.
That which is most transcendent in me rejoices that I have a life to embody, a being in which to experience the holy terror of my lack of separateness. Someday, I will be the foam along the shore. Someday, when Earth has died, I will be mere molecules in a stunning planetary nebula. Tonight, however, I am amazingly human, and I am not afraid. Looking at the sky, I can only cry at the harsh beauty and wish that my children can be free, free, forever.
Our son was the first person in the world to be born an Olivam. Our next child will be the second. My husband and I chose a new name together because we believe in what we can choose to create. We did not choose it because we hope the name will live on for generations, or because we hope to impart some permanent mark on the children who will bear beyond us. All we seek to choose is what we can live for, which we hope will, in all things, be peace - an extended olive branch, fruit that nourishes and heals.
| the first seashell my son intentionally|
chose, then gave to me as a gift
My few hopes for my children I carry like fragile shells in my palm: a delicate prayer that they discover and cherish their hearts' passions against any judgment; a whispered song that their poetry is treasured by others who know them honestly; a silent mantra of promise that they taste bitterness with wonder and savor sweetness with grace. Though their lives, like mine, are ephemeral and granular like shifting sand, they too are wave-emanations of an oceanic cosmos, born to crest and roar and carry something precious before returning to the source. I delight in the mystery that I will never know their journeys fully. I am humbled imagining that I connect to them now, in some unfathomable way, as I gaze at the stars and envision a future in which they will do the same.
After a time, we stand together and begin the walk back home, spoken and unspoken reflections reverberating across the broad, elemental planes. Every step is washed away by the tide coming in; no impression is left except on our own patterns of memory. His warm hand, like the water, brings comfort in the cool night. His gentle grasp tethers me to the path we choose walk; my sinking feet in the sand tell me again the truth of what lasts forever.