We are growing stronger here, together.
I say this to her as we walk along the beach, leaving impressions of our feet in the sand. With every purposeful step, the soft shore sinks. The salty sea rolls over our footprints, filling the heels, the toes, making briny tidepools and minuscule islands—our own desolate Lilliput, soon to be inhabited by scurrying crabs the size of our thumbs. Zoe bends to photograph one of these, leaning gently over it, and I scoop the warm sand in my palm, sifting through it with one finger, searching for treasures. Our presence changes the shape of the place.
I wear a bikini on the beach because I prefer it; because I am more here than the sum of what you see when you look at me. This is what I want for my girls, the understanding that they are strong and capable, not objects of any kind; that their identities aren’t bound up in another person’s thoughts. They are pilgrim souls with bodies as warm as the sand, as vibrant as the sun-filled fruit that drips juice down their chins. Maybe one of the best things we women can offer ourselves and each other is freedom from critical tongues that lash like whips and make slaves of our daughters. Pilgrimage reminds us that we have a freedom that cannot be stolen, an eternal hope bought by love. It’s no wonder God has always been a traveler.
A seagull lands gracefully just a few feet away from where we stand, carrying a morsel in his beak, something nebulous; a dull, white lump—a hunk of fish, maybe, or a bit of crab pried free of its shell. The bird wants to release the find, to drop it in the sand and impale it on that beak, but three more gulls soar in on the breeze, landing nearby, and immediately cause an alertness the first did not have prior to their arrival. These new birds, they see, they smell, the salty feast. They hop toward the first bird, lightly, and he hops away, once, twice, gripping the dripping chunk, until at last their aggressive interest–the heat of their desire–sends the first gull back to the skies.
Kevin rejoins us, drifting in from a few feet away where he stood framing up the sky with his camera, photographing clouds that just now sweep in wide, wispy arcs, like wings. Without a word, we move purposefully on. We walk for miles this way, watching the crash of waves, the curve of sea–in one turn rich green, like murky emeralds and sea weed, like tortoise shell; in another the deep, inky blue of a storm. We are pilgrims stripped of unnecessary weight, sharing treasures, dropping burdens. We learn to feel comfortable as we are, with our bare feet and bare faces, our imperfect lines and misshapen opinions. We are healthy here. I walk the beach wondering how to take this back home, this awareness that we are travelers, that our light steps make deep impressions.