Winter at the beach is a different sort of time. Gone are the laughter, screams, and parties of the familiar summer scene. These all vanished after labor day. Now, people don their coats and shoes to venture toward the crystal, quiet shore. Only an occasional canine friend scampers barefoot on the sand or plunges jubilantly into the water–free from the lifeguard’s gaze. For the most part it is a peaceful place, almost deserted. And the waves create a hush that ebbs and flows in rhythm with those who pace by the water’s edge.
I found myself there a few weeks ago, and as my memories stirred, they turned to my sweet sisters and The Togetherness Project. Hard to believe I was across the country, chatting and crying and laughing with them in October! Time flies.
The conference was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to seeing all those fabulous ladies (and more!) in Phoenix in April. I’m still in awe of the process that preceded Togetherness–the roots that led to its birth. So many women. So many stories. Strangers once isolated by physical and emotional walls now broken down as we join together. Wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, daughters … women affected by the poisonous plague of pornography. Now bonding together, unleashed and transformed. It’s truly miraculous to behold.
That morning on the beach, as I huddled in my coat letting the cool air tousle my hair, I seemed to see them everywhere. Those beautiful ladies. Their faces in the pebbles by the water. Their arms around each other in the waving grass on the dunes. Their knowing smiles in the rising sun. Their hurt and pain in the crashing waves. And I missed them.
Suddenly I came upon an image I will never forget. Sea sponges. Dozens of them strewn along the beach, parched and half-buried in the blowing sand. Their little shadows shown against the sunrise in a squishy mine field at my feet. And there they were again. My ladies. Only this time the image ran deeper.
I was struck by how similar we women are to those sponges on the shore–immersed in such a harsh, strange environment. Once we flowed in a warm, soothing familiar place–nurtured by the abundant sustenance around us. We were alive and productive. Until … the waves crashed upon us. And we were washed ashore into this alien sphere–nothing like the comfortable life we knew. Slowly but surely, the life drains from us, we have nothing left to give. The sand and wind batter us to bits. We fall apart. Some of us become buried. Bit by bit, we suffocate.
But then one brave woman stands up. She has an idea. She begins walking down the cold, barren beach, collecting the dried-up sponges. Carefully, she lifts each one into her arms … fills her baskets. And then she carries the delicate things to the water’s edge.
The first dip feels cold, not quite comfortable. But she’s gentle and patient. She sets us in the shallow water together and gives us time to soak up the nourishing liquid. We are not alone. We see others going through the process and take courage. And then something happens. The water seeps into our veins, travels to our broken parts, and begins to soothe us. We rest in the cool water and are filled.
As I stood on the beach staring at those dried-out little lumps, my mind swirled with the depth of the metaphor. How useful is a sponge–a living animal once dead and discarded but then reclaimed and repurposed! We use them to cleanse ourselves. We scrub! We use them for work we can’t do with our own hands. We use them to beautify the world around us. We use them so gently on our little children. And the ‘real’ ones (not those synthetically-made substitutes) are expensive and considered quite fancy.
When I tell people I had the honor of attending The Togetherness Project, they often want to know, “What was it like?!” But while I can try to describe the amazing speakers, the awe of seeing so many women gathered for the same purpose, and the decadent sit-down dinner … I always have trouble conveying how it felt to be there. For me, it was like taking my parched soul for a dip in the sea.