So I’ve moved, or rather I have returned: from one west coast to another west coast. The West Coast. Vancouver Island to be exact. Here is my new place of work, the beach at Ogden Point in Victoria. The commute is short – it’s at the end of my street. The sky is big and the sunsets are awesome, and the rubbish, well the rubbish is there if you know where to look.
It’s a modest little place, really. Just a few metres of rock, pebbles, sand and the ubiquitous driftwood that is found all along the West Coast. Most people walk right past the beach on their way to the breakwater – a favourite walking and running spot for locals and tourists alike – or the cafe.
In fact, it is so modest a beach that, when I first got here, I thought it wasn’t “good enough” to be a beach cleaning beach. It was the beach that I went to the most and being there felt right, but somehow that didn’t seem to be enough. It was as if I needed somewhere bigger, more important. So I could say “look at what I’m doing,” as loudly as possible and to as many people as possible.
So I set off on my bike and rode up and down the very scenic coast road that hugs the edge of Victoria looking for a more important beach. And yes, there are other beaches that are grander.
And there are special places, where you might want to sit and think for a while.
But I was looking for a beach to clean. And after all that looking I ended up where I started, where I wanted to be all along, at the beach at the end of my road. A modest place for a modest endeavor.
Because I knew, if I was being honest with myself, that I was looking in the wrong places for the “right” place. And in a wonderful synchronicity, just when I needed it, I read the following quote in a friend’s post on Facebook: “Your vision will become clear only when can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” (Carl Jung, 1875-1961.)
So I knew what I had to do to find that thing that I could do. I had to look into my heart. Never mind whether or not anyone was going to notice. Never mind the grandiose dreams of fame and success. Stop looking outside for affirmation, look inside for the truth. And my heart was saying, “clean this little beach.”
In the fallout of ending the MA, (what one friend described as “falling off a cliff;) in the trauma of moving away from Cornwall and of leaving my family once again, I needed something meaningful that I could do, something that would ground me in the midst of change. So I follow my heart. Doing this modest work feels right. When I clean this beach, I feel returned to myself.
(My thanks to Jan and Shigenori for their contributions to this post.)