It was a particularly sparkly July morning. The sleepy red sun had risen earlier over a languid blue sea… and by mid morning… I found myself standing knee deep in the cool, clear shallows of the lagoon which had formed along the beach. The lagoon had not been there long… perhaps only a few short weeks or months. I marvelled at the changes since my last visit.
Botticelli Sea Garden – Copyright Jean Burman 2007
The beach changes frequently here… the sand shifting in response to the tide. With it’s incessant swirling and circling… the sea forms the sand into bars and creates pools along the beach where once there was none… and where all manner of marine creatures now exist. How they know when to come… and (more importantly) when to go… I have no idea… but I suppose there will always be those who are lost in the ever changing transition between the sea and the shore
As I stood knee deep in silent contemplation…scanning the horizon and breathing in the fresh beginnings of the day… I felt a rather strange sensation beneath my feet. I looked down… standing perfectly still so as not to disturb the water in order to see… and was all at once amazed and horrified at what I saw. Beneath my feet… and beyond… for as far as the eye could see… were millions and millions of tiny starfish! No bigger than the palm of a child’s hand… they lay scattered like precious jewels flung into the sea… stretching far and away across the sandy bottom.
As I stood there unable to move a muscle… and fearing to take a step should I inadvertently step on one… I marvelled at the fact that I had not noticed them upon entering the pool… as their small, flat, half buried shapes lay silently on the sandy bottom in perfect camouflage with their surroundings.
What to do… should I go… or should I stay? Common sense finally dictated that I couldn’t stay there forever… so with great trepidation and by placing my feet with very great care… I picked my way out of the pool as carefully as I could. It occurred to me afterward that perhaps I needn’t have been quite so concerned as, on occasion, when my foot inadvertently encountered one buried deep in the sand… the starfish slipped effortlessly to safety from beneath the weight. Nature has it’s way.
Back on the beach… the warm sand between my toes… I contemplated the miracle of what I had just seen. From this distance the lagoon pool was motionless… and gave no hint at the tiny miracles that lay beneath. From here… it appeared to be just another day in paradise… but for me… I knew there would never be another day like it.
The Starfish – [attributed to Loren Eisley]
Once upon a time there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to write. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach… he saw a man dancing on the sand. He smiled to himself to think someone would dance on the beach… so he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer… he saw that he was only a young man… and he wasn’t dancing. Instead… he was reaching down and picking something up… and gently throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer he called out “Good morning… what are you doing?”
The young man paused… looked up and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean…the sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
The old man then remarked “But young man don’t you realise that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!” The young man listened politely… then bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea.
“It made a difference to that one” he said.