Sea stars have always been one of my favorite gems of the ocean. On childhood trips to the ocean, we would walk under the piers, or out along the rock jetties in low tide, looking for the sea life that appears when the water is down. Sea stars were one of our favorite finds, latched against a rock or pier, this fragile and persevering animal. If we could, we would gently hold it for a moment, appreciate the way it felt, the different types. We might come across one that had been injured and was missing a leg or already starting to grow it back. They made no sound. They barely moved. Just by their existence, they were impressive. After exploring it, sharing it for a moment with others, we would quickly and carefully replace it where we’d found it, that the water could bring it moisture. Sometimes too we might find one already dried out on the beach. We would bring it back to the campsite with our collection of shells, stare carefully at the simple and brilliant creation.
Those memories are one of the reasons I love them.
There is a also a story about a man walking along the beach where many sea stars had washed up on the beach from a particularly rough surf. He was picking them up and tossing them back into the ocean. Another man on the beach asked the man why he bothered, when it would not make much of a difference with the large number that had washed up and it only being a sea star. The man held up the one in his hand and said, “it matters to this one,” and continued returning the ones he could to the ocean. That story has been poignant to me because of the impact I hope I can make with each seeming small gesture and the awareness I have of the gestures that have been done for me. They matter.
Then there is the remarkable ability of many sea stars to regenerate an arm/leg after it has been torn off, generally as long as its central disc system, which functions as its form of brain and heart, can be salvaged. This allows these creatures, who are sensitive to light and touch and can be easily damaged, to be remarkably resilient at survival. My mother bought me a necklace as a reminder of this, that no matter how many times it may feel there has been a hard pull at who I am and my passion, purpose and patience, I have kept going, and always will. Seeing the sensitivity and intensity that I have in my children, I purchased them starfish keychains and explained that we need to keep remembering that as much as it may seems gets broken away sometimes, we have the central system of God, of our family and friends and of our own faithful hearts to keep going. We can hold onto those keychains as a symbol of that and a reminder of the love that unites us.
This past few days I have been thinking of sea stars as they relate to certain parts of our life. Perhaps our ability to trust in a specific way, for example, may be damaged to that central disc, the core part of us that has trusted, and been potentially irreparably damaged. Though much of us remains strong, it is one sea star that will not be tossed back into the sea.
I went onto a trail today with my tired eyes and walked amongst the collections of flowers and trees, a pond, the croak of the frogs. On a bench I contemplated the sea stars that make up who I am. Right now. The ones I have kept going, the ones that have had a hand from others. The peculiarities of being me. The things that feel changed and lost.
And I wrote. Why do I write these things or anything I write and post? To somehow comprehend me? Yes. With the hope that someone will learn or be touched by something I write? Yes.
To toss one more word out into the ocean.