I try to visit the Bay Area a couple of times a year. Besides loving NorCal, I still have a child living in San Francisco, which makes visiting a requisite. The San Francisco Writers Conference is the mandatory February trip, but just about any other time of the year beats Michigan weather hands down – yes, even the San Francisco summer fog-in.
After last February’s conference, my son and I took a trip to Marin County, to visit Muir Woods (fabulous place! Go there if you can before you die.) and hit up some coastal eating. I enjoy walking on beaches – Ocean Beach being my favorite cityside beach – but every beach is different. Some are wide, expansive, and flat, like Ocean Beach. Others are rocky and treacherous. Most are in between. Cliffs line most of the coast. A straight one thousand foot drop off is not beach blanket bingo material. Northern California beaches are what I would consider ‘rustic’ – you won’t see fish taco stands and amusement piers, and the surfers are in wet suits, not bare-chested.
I’m so old, I now only travel with sensible shoes. Muir Beach is a spot of a beach. The part closest to the parking lot is sandy and relatively flat, and I took off my hiking shoes to enjoy the sand.
My son decided to explore the area just north of the main beach. Of course, he didn’t tell me; he just stalked off. Since he is over six feet tall with lanky legs and I am but a midget, I struggled to keep up with him.
The tide was out, exposing extremely rocky terrain, a complete 180 degree departure from a few yards away. Black boulders sported thousands of edible mussels. Suffice it to say, there were more small, pointy rocks on this beach than there was sand. Maneuvering the area was like walking barefoot on a carpet of hot Legos. Between huge rocks and small rocks, there was nothing of note to grab onto. Call me stubborn (I am) but I decided not to put my shoes back on. (Bad move.)
As luck would have it, because I’m old, not very spry, and because I have no good luck, I lost my balance and fell.
Falling at my age is a risky proposition. Oh, I’m beyond embarrassment. Who cares about a momentary social faux pas? I could break something I really need – like my legs. Or my head.
Before a nice young man (not my son) came to assist me to my feet, I happened to look to my side. I saw something I had never seen before on a California beach.
You don’t understand. I’d been visiting California for years. I’ve found lots of things on the beach, including shells, sand dollars, garbage, driftwood, a starfish, crab bodies, even a bloated and rotting sea lion. I have never once found a piece of sea glass worth putting into my pocket.
After I had been righted into a supine position, I yelled at my son. We had hit the sea glass lottery. I instructed him to pick up any glass he could that was bigger than a speck.
This is what we came up with.
Since February, I had stashed my sea glass in a used Altoid’s container, waiting for creativity to strike me like lightning. Every so often, I would take the glass out, compare each piece, turn it over in my hand. (I do this with stones, often. Before I set something into a piece of jewelry, I let the stone speak to me.) I would think about where the glass originated, what journey it took to end up a smooth piece of silica on a Northern California beach. Who drank from that bottle? Who tossed the container into the trash? Did it come from Asia, or somewhere closer? And how was I so lucky as to literally fall on it during a challenging yet pleasant walk on the beach with my son?
Finally, the glass spoke, and this is what I came up with.
(Currently on my neck and not for sale. Yet.) 🙂
Here’s another one. This one is going in the booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week.
Here is what we need to remember as artists: Sometimes, things are thrown our way – beautiful, ugly, inconsequential, glaring. Sometimes we fall on our ass. Sometimes it takes a while before “garbage” becomes art. Sometimes there is suffering, buffering, tumbling in sand to smooth the rough edges. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the true story, inciting motives, genuine characters.
The thing to remember is that there is art in every thing.
Even in falling on your ass.