When the World Takes a Breath

July 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m down by the beach in the old rental cottage, one of those shacks with moldy carpets and tacky paintings of the ocean hanging above the toilet. Inside extended family members I’ve never met are stuffing themselves with potato chips and onion dip and Cosmopolitans. The whole sky is a bundle of puffy gray clouds. They just sit there, blocking out the light, too lazy to move, too worn out to unleash a storm. Without a blazing sun, there’s certainly no point in dragging out the beach chairs. Might as well just complain about the forecast inside water-damaged walls.

I don’t mind these days. I don’t think the water minds, either. It almost seems as if it’s taking a nap. It quietly moves in and out, its surface undisturbed. A seagull allows the waves to take him wherever, his wings tucked in, his head down. The clouds sag and the tide moves and together they heave a collective sigh.

That’s when I see the little girl standing much farther down by the beach, out where the sand extends into the water. She’s got a little plastic blue rain jacket on, even though the air is dry. It’s hard to see but I think her eyes are closed, and she’s holding something in her hands. She’s turning it over and over. Over and over.

It’s just the two of us and the sleeping ocean. The clouds shuffle just a bit, almost imperceptibly. But there’s a definite shift. I get the oddest feeling they’ve taken notice of this little girl too, and they’re watching her closer, waiting to see what happens next.

She’s murmuring something. At least, I think she is. She’s got pale pink lips and they’re moving slowly, parting and then meeting again. Still the object goes twirling around in her hands, still her eyes remain firmly closed. The blue rain jacket hangs there. The ocean breathes again. I shift and a few grains of sand go tumbling down a tiny little hill.

Then it happens very slowly, but I feel it within me, feel it surge up like a much stronger tide than the one lapping down below. She lifts her cupped hands, opens her startlingly blue eyes, which stare intently at that precious something, and whispers something I’ll never hear. The clouds lean in closer. The waves sleep on, unaware. Then she drops it, what looks like a small seashell, into the quiet water.

The air is incredibly still. It feels like the water stops moving entirely, like the ocean is just one great puddle.

And then suddenly, so suddenly there’s no time to prepare, nothing to do, the ocean and the clouds and everything let out an enormous breath, like the breath that started the world, a brand new shiny world with so much to do, so much untouched, so much to explore. The water swirls, the waves crash. And the skies burst, showering everything beneath it with drops so cold, so fresh that I feel like a baby at her baptism.

And the little girls stands there, her plastic blue raincoat dotted with droplets, sparkling under a cloudy sky.

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