My love with Kai (ocean) was birthed in my childhood because I was blessed to swim on a daily basis (summer months) in a beautiful serpentine stone quarry. I loved exploring the depths of the 26 foot deep, green hued, swimming hole looking for artifacts left behind from the days when the serpentine stone was mined for houses and walls centuries earlier. The quarry held the stories of the miners from long ago and then from the hundreds of families who swam at the quarry once it became a swim club. There I found youthful joy, intimacy, playfulness, and lessons. It is the quarry that fed my desire to study oceanography in college.
While I did not graduate with a degree in oceanography, my love for the ocean remained as strong as ever, so when the opportunity to get certified as a scuba diver emerged while living and working at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I happily dived into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Thirty-five years later, I still go scuba diving and snorkeling whenever I can.
I have many awesome memories of diving: night diving and my first shark encounter, cave exploring, being encircled by hundreds of barracuda, my first sea horse, the countless colors of the eels and their wicked sharp teeth, the effortless flow of sea turtles, the grace of rays, being next to dolphins, and delving into ship wrecks. My memories under water are equal to what I have experienced above water. If I could live in the water, I would. This is why I thrive the most when I am living as close to the water as possible.
Of all my incredible underwater experiences, perhaps one of my most sacred memories is coming across a bed of sand dollars. There are well known mystical and religious symbolism about sand dollars (mermaid coins, doves, Jesus’s crucification wounds, poinsettia), but am not sure most people realize that the sand dollar they find on the beach was once a living animal with lots and lots of cilia, a mouth, spines, etc.
What I saw when diving were hundreds of sand dollars standing on their edges, partially immersed in the sand of the ocean floor, nestled next to each other. They would move in unison, as if waving, back and forth, with each ebb and flow of the ocean surge. I was in awe of the beauty. I was touched by their sense of community. I could feel their life’s energy. I felt welcomed, blessed, and privileged to see these animals alive in their habitat.
I am so enamored by sand dollars that I have even gone to the beach in the middle of the night with a flashlight to find them. For me, they are a reminder of how special life is and how it could end at any time, and that we are each unique, just as the ones that wash up on a beach. They remind me that being part of a community is important for my soul.
While in Panama this past winter, I was blessed to find close to 100 sand dollars. I shared them with local artists and gifted them to friends with a message of love for their unique beauty. This picture is some of those sand dollars from Playa Cambutal.
Our service and time in Cambutal was full of the same lessons that the sand dollar teaches me: live in community, love our differences, enjoy every moment as best as possible, be grateful for what I have, life is precious, and love Pachamama and all her creatures, oceans, rivers, plants, land, and people.
Blessings as you take a walk to find your lessons, your uniqueness, and your joy. Like sand dollars, you are to live for!