The difference between walking by and being still on the beach is in what you see. That a frilled and fleshy creature still churned inside its shell, for instance, would have escaped my notice altogether had I not been standing with feet planted on the hard wet sand of the Atlantic's low tide. A small movement in the exposed ocean bed caught my eye, proof that something of wonder always rewards stillness in the out of doors. At my feet was a thumb-sized rocket-shaped olive shell, propelled by its inner mollusk, pushing a tiny crumbly hill of sand ahead of itself in a brave attempt to go back home. Its wake was a long shallow trail in the sand.
With apologies, I interrupted its journey and rolled it over, and after watching awhile, improved its lie to softer sand at the edge of a tide pool. It dug right in.
This was back in September on Tybee Island, GA, just before I returned to the busy-ness of home and the resulting abandonment of my intention to resume spending an hour a day outside in silent observation. Now, five months later, the memory of that gastropod working so hard to get back to a place where it could thrive compels me to make an equal effort to return to that nourishing honey of daily quietude.
". . . This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals . . . , read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life . . . , dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem . . . ."
Today, along with the olive snail's valiant ruffling and the re-reading of Whitman's sweet words, I renew my intention to be still outside for a time every day to pay attention to whatever is there—and to see it. dkm