I walked along the beach yesterday afternoon and discovered brilliant white oyster shells scattered across the sand, tumbled smooth by the waves and brought to shore in an offering from the sea. I began picking up the ones that seemed to be calling to me, until my hands and pockets were overflowing with treasure. I brought them home, not sure what I wanted to do with them — perhaps put them on my altar that is slowly growing along the windowsill framing my view of the water. Or maybe use them in some art by incorporating them into a mosaic piece. But mostly I find myself drawn to sit with them, running my fingers over their bone-smoothe surface and listening for the questions they ask of me.
What moves me the most by these exquisite remnants is the beauty these creatures have left behind in their wake. Likely their soft and tender gray bodies found their final life offering as nourishment for others, perhaps a heron or otter. In my imagining I encountered two simple and profound questions: In my own life how do I offer nourishment to others? And when I am gone, what will I have left behind of beauty? Not just the tangible creations of writing and art, but will my love have rippled across time and space and left a small imprint on the heart of another? Will I have sustained someone through dark moments?
I have said here before, that in my moments of greatest clarity, I realize that if I love as fully and as well as I can in this life, then I have fulfilled my calling. What my prayer is inviting me to is realizing how the beauty of that offering is sustained across time. I offer a prayer of gratitude for the gentle wisdom of oysters.
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts