pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Gather and break

08 February 2013

Gather and break


Newport Beach, California
31 January 2012

Long ago, in another time and place, I was given a book of fairy tales. It was a gorgeous book with amazing illustrations, and I cherish my copy still.

One of the most poignant stories was a Japanese fairy tale translated as "Urashima and the Turtle." Urashima goes off into the sea with a beautiful princess, but eventually, he longs to return home. The princess gives him a box with instructions never to open it and returns him to his shore. Of course, Urashima has been in the sea for a very long time, and time has passed without him, and his family and friends are long gone. So he opens the box and ages in moments. The story ends: "Soon on the white beach lay a skeleton fit for a grave dug four hundred years before. When the moon stood above the pine trees, it shone on the waves that gather and break, gather and break, over and over, forever...."

The image and onomatopoeic quality of the words have remained with me for decades, and I never fail to hear the waves gather and break, gather and break when I'm near the ocean. Even more than the whole idea of the circle of life, the infinite ocean running up against the shore marks for me the cyclical span of our days.

It's been a hell of a few days. Not only was there another death in our family the day before the daughter's surgery, but a child at the daughter's school collapsed during lunch a week ago, and subsequently died. It is a terrible thing to watch one's child confront the reality of death, but more so when s/he they lose a peer because that seems to drive home the finality of death in such a brutal way. The loss of someone we care for leaves such a hole in the world.

Like the waves, our families and communities gather and break, gather and break. We celebrate and we mourn, gather more into our circle and whirl away from one another again as we move on in this world and out of it, over and over, forever.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. The quote from "Urashima and the Turtle" comes from The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, p. 69.

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