“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”
  — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

There is a memory tucked deep inside my heart.  It has no words.  It is a smell that I placed there when I was just a little girl — the aroma of the salt in the air as we approached the beach in New Jersey for our family vacation.  I have taken in that scent many times since that first one; but there is something magical about a smell that is a memory.  It can surface even when we are miles from the source and remind us that there is a place we need to visit.  Today, as I stood in the early-morning sunlight in my backyard, I could swear that I smelled the ocean; and I made a mental note to include a trip to the beach in my not-too-distant plans.

The first time I visited the shore, I remember thinking that I had found the biggest sandbox in the world.  I dug and tunneled and molded and built, making castles and gullies and fashioning roofs out of clam shells, just in case a sand crab might want to move in and stay for a while.

As I grew older, it was the waves that attracted me.  I learned to jump at just the right moment so that I wouldn’t be sent flying along the sand toward the shore.  I learned how to navigate out beyond the spot where they crashed and enjoy the rocking motion of the sea before it hit the shore.  I learned that salt water made me buoyant and let me float, almost above the surface of the water, and I learned to close my eyes against the salt-water sting when I dove beneath the waves.  I loved the beach at high tide, when we would have to move our blankets farther and farther toward the land to avoid the encroaching water.  The bigger the waves, the better; and I learned to belly surf and let the power of the ocean carry me back to shore when I was ready for a rest.

It was not until I became an adult and had visited the ocean many times that I began to notice its heartbeat.  I heard it when I walked alone one September, pondering the death of my son and wondering how my sorrow fit into the big picture that is the universe.  I heard it as it matched my own heartbeat and reassured me that I was part of something much bigger than my own being.  I heard its heart race with delight as it tossed a whole bunch of tiny starfish onto the shore at my feet and reminded me that in the midst of our deepest human despair, there are miracles to be found if only we will open our eyes – and our hearts – to see them.

As I stood in my backyard this morning and caught the impossible scent of ocean on the inland breeze, I remembered my constant friend and was filled with a sense of timeless wonder – a choicelessness that spoke to my heart of the places I have been and the places I have yet to see.  And it mattered to be free from choice; because it is only in that choiceless place that we truly understand that our footprints will linger on the timeless shore, even when they seem to be erased by the incoming tide.  Just as I hold the memory of the salt breeze deep in my heart, the ocean holds the memories of every heart that has heard it, of every footstep that has fallen on its shore, and of every soul that has discovered its infinite nature by the sea.