Saturday, May 1, 2010

For All That is Seen and Unseen

I adore swimming in the ocean but I'm not fond of the beaches I must traverse to do so. I don't like walking over the sand. And when I finish swimming, I don't like the feeling of wet sand on my toes and legs. So maybe that's why during a family vacation I hurried along the rocks and pebbles on Sunset Beach, New Jersey, to return to the family van. Thank God that Lucky, our then nine-year-old son, stopped me because he wanted to beach comb.

Something about this weekend's crystalline sky evoked a memory of the vacation we took this time last year to Cape May County, New Jersey. As a child I spent my beach time in the northern reaches of that county in Stone Harbor and Avalon. With my own family last year we explored Cape May at the county's southern end. We pretty much stumbled onto Sunset Beach after climbing to the top of both the Cape May Lighthouse and Fire Tower No. 23, a World War II lookout tower that once was part of the harbor defense of the Delaware Bay. We went to the beach to visit the submerged remains of  S.S. Atlantus, the most famous of twelve concrete boats the United States built during World War I. It sits submerged in the Delaware Bay off Sunset Beach. "It did not prove practical," the historic sign on the beach says of the concrete ship.


Lucky wanted to linger. He was fascinated by the variety of translucent pebbles strewn across the beach in all shapes and colors, pebbles I scarcely had noticed. And so we squatted together in the sand, digging out and collecting black, white, and clear pebbles. It felt as if time had stopped just for us. He was so awed by the pebbles I was moved to talk to him about how God had designed and knew each one of them, the same way He had designed every person who ever had lived. I told my son how God loves all souls, in all our shapes, colors and sizes. We carried the pebbles back to the van and put them in a Mason jar found on the floor of the back seat. 

Only later did I discover that these pebbles are pure quartz and known as Cape May Diamonds. "The Kechemeche Indians were the first to find the fascinating and beautiful stones now known as Cape May Diamonds. The Indians came to believe that these curious stones possessed supernatural power bringing success and good fortune." The strong bay currents against  the S.S. Atlantus throw thousands of these pebbles onto Sunset Beach. The pebbles' origins lie thousands of years ago and 200 miles away in the upper reaches of the Delaware River.

That gift of  time suspended in time under a crystalline sky with my son makes me think of these opening lines from William Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence"

To see a world in a grain of sand, 
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.