Saturday, October 29, 2022

Northshore Notes: Smoothed by Tides

     When Caren turns her essays in, if there is an opening quote, it isn't separated from the text. I add the italics and indentation. So this week, when I read "I want to age like sea glass," I immediately stopped, awed, and thought, "Whoa Caren! You've upped your game!" Then I saw that it wasn't her writing, but a poet she had uncovered. And I realized, for the first time, thank you Caren, that while finding poetry isn't the same as writing it, it is in the same realm, both generous acts of bringing wonder to the wonderless. Enjoy.

By Caren Jeskey 

I want to age like sea glass.
Smoothed by tides, not broken.
I want the currents of life to toss me around, shake me up and leave me feeling washed clean.
I want my hard edges to soften as the years pass — made not weak but supple.
I want to ride the waves, go with the flow, feel the impact of the surging tides rolling in and out.
                —Bernadette Noll
     Sky Tonight is an app (some of you might already have) that illuminates the stories of bright and dim lights in the sky, and those you cannot see at all. It turns your phone into a telescope and reveals an intricate pattern of celestial entities.
     My 9 year old niece was over last Saturday. The day turned into an unseasonably warm October night. She adeptly set up a tripod telescope on the front lawn. One of those perfect moments with the love of a child, soon-to-be-gone autumn grass, and the wonders of the universe just fodder for exploration. Getting ahead of myself — I needed extensive tutoring to get through astronomy class at DePaul — I excitedly said “Look! That’s Venus!” pointing to the brightest star in the west. My niece took my phone and said “nope.” It was another entity that started with a V that was too small for my eyes to make out. Perhaps I need a bigger phone.
     This was my first experience with the app that I had downloaded just that evening, and it opened up a new world. The next morning I awoke before dawn and took a peek at my new toy. It showed the sun just below the horizon in the east. It was a warm day, thus it was easy to get motivated to bike over to the lake for the sunrise. 
     I arrived at the Kenilworth beach overlook as the sun was resting on the lip of the lake to the southeast, a Halloween-orange orb. Waves lapped loudly over the concrete and sand below, and drew me down the stairs. You know you’re a Chicagoan when you arch your face towards the sun as it rises. You know you’re partly Texan when you look for the shade. With enough sun damage on my face to last a lifetime, I took off my boots and socks, and made my way to the water's edge, stopping at the one shady spot on the beach, next to the pier.
     A tiny, bright green object twinkled and brought me closer to the pebbles. Eureka! Sea glass city. First I picked up only what I saw at ground level, and where the waves met the sand and created a catchment area rife with these little gems. I found myself sitting down on the cool damp beach to get a closer look at the treasures, and dug a hole with my hands until I reached water. I filled my fanny pack with smooth pebbles and glass with a plan to make gifts this year. Little clear glass vessels I'll buy at the best store ever, filled with treasures and shipped shore to shore to friends and family. (I'm cancelling Amazon as of November. Time to get back to basics).
     I found the biggest pieces of glass I’d yet discovered in the Midwest, modest in comparison to what friends find on beaches near their tropical island homes. Still, I was more than pleased. A fellow traveler walked towards me, and I kept my head down. The only two people on the beach. I figured she was enjoying solitude as much as I was, and did not want to disturb her. Alas, as she came closer I glanced up and our eyes met, and she said hello. We chatted a bit. She bent down, picked up a rock, and handed it to me.
     It was filled with crystals. A geode. I’d been down there for an hour and a half, and had not found anything as amazing, even though I was trying. She said I can keep it.
     I found myself sitting on the water's edge until ten a.m. I got up, walked barefoot in the water, and let the texture of the sand and rocks, and the cold laps invigorate me. I remembered that I had somewhere to be so headed back to the terrace. I grabbed my boots and sat at a picnic table, wiping the sand from between my toes with a sock.
     I’d also found a giant piece of unfinished lake glass. It still clearly held the shape of a bottle and was not yet as round and smooth as it would be if I threw it back into the lake for the sand and water to polish it further. A man and his son were nearby and I showed it to them. “Cool!” The boy said, and dashed off to find his own treasures. I said to the dad “a friend of mine on an island in the Bahamas would tell me to throw it back.” This friend is the king of sea glass and has spots where he harvests these natural gifts and makes whimsical faces, menorahs, and other sculptures with their shapes and colors. The dad said “which island?” I said Eleuthera. His mouth dropped open. “My wife has owned land there for 23 years. I’ve never been.”
     The combination of this synchronistic experience and the app that’s been teaching me of lesser known constellations like Serpens Caput and Corona Borealis just above us as we sit here in this moment has me feeling pleasantly plugged into life as it is, now. If that were not enough to help me feel connected, I decided to see what poets have to say about sea glass. The first thing that popped up was Bernadette Noll's poem above. You see, she was a favorite neighbor of mine in Texas where I was living in a 288' tiny house until last May. In fact, she also made the two flute bags on a shelf just above me on my desk, as a sweet gift.
    As our guy Carl Jung says, "synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see," and I am sure digging it.


  1. Haven't been to the beach in a very long time. Didn't know a thing about sea glass, so the poem initially went right over or under my head. Now it makes sense. Thanks, Caren.


  2. When I still lived in Chicago, I found some amazing treasures at the original S...location, an old factory building on Northwest Highway. I even made it a go-to stop on return visits. The last time I shopped at AS& S was in 2014. It's unbelievable how much stuff Uncle doesn't want or need. Their inventory of industrial, scientific, military, and educational items is truly mind-boggling.

    There's an entire beach in California that is nothing BUT sea glass. No sand. All sea glass, thanks to the unusual ocean currents in that spot. I said "is"...but the beach was featured on CBS Sunday Morning...and California has almost 40 million residents. Which means it's probably all gone. the very least...almost gone.

    Along the Great Lakes, it's called beach glass. There's even a Beach Glass Festival every summer, in Ashtabula, OH. My wife's best friend has a cottage not too far away, literally a bottle's throw from Lake Erie. It's been owned by her husband's family for 125 years.

    The place barely more than a weather-beaten shack, overlooking a long private beach. The interior of the cottage is very quaint and cottagey, with only the basic amenities. But it does have a number of transparent jars that hold at least a century-and-a-quarter's worth of beach glass. Maybe four or five generations of beach glass. Pieces of glass that are in many shades of blue, green, white, and brown. And, yes, even some red beach glass, which is extremely rare. To a beach glass's gold,!

    1. Wow! Red beach glass? And a beach of sea glass? Amazing. And yes, it's hard to see so much industry waste, isn't it? Like the steel mills. Lol "last time I shopped...". Reminds me of the guy who owns Architectural Artifacts. He's been shopping in abandoned lots forever. Thanks for hipping me to beaches of glass:


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