Sunday, November 04, 2012

Gifts from the Sea

On a sweltering Sunday morning at the end of July, we drove to the beach and met friends who had planted a large, rainbow-colored umbrella near the water. After spreading our blankets out on the sand near them, we waded together into the tepid blue water of the Gulf.

The water was so warm that you couldn’t tell the difference between the temperature of your skin and the water. A few other bathers were splashing in the water, but the beach wasn’t crowded yet. By noon it would fill with thousands of bathers squeezed together, blanket touching blanket, umbrellas sprouting like colorful flowers.

We waded into the shallow surf past the sharp-edged shells and rocks to a place where the water was waist-high and we could lift our feet off the bottom and float easily on our backs as the gentle waves of the Gulf rocked us back and forth.

I watched one of our friends swim south, parallel to the shoreline, her arms flashing against the turquoise of the sea. A quarter-mile away, she made a wide turn and began to swim back toward us.

Off to our right, I noticed a middle-aged man and young woman standing on surfboards and using long-handled paddles to propel the boards toward shore. The Gulf was so calm that morning that the surface reflected the edge of each paddle as it dipped into the water sending glittering droplets in circles  around them.

And then out of the water emerged a sight that I hadn’t expected—a large gray flipper, a triangular shaped fin, followed by a sleek and shiny silver body.

A few yards away one of the other bathers shouted: “Shark!”

But it wasn’t a shark.  It was a dolphin, and it appeared to be playing with the paddle-boarders, weaving between them, crossing trails that they had left behind in the water as they paddled toward shore.

Slowly, in ever-widening circles, the dolphin came within a few feet of us, teasing the paddle-boarders in the hope, perhaps, that they’d follow in a game of tag or hide-and-seek.

Its large, sleek body gleamed in the sunlight, magical and mysterious, part of a far-away place hidden deep beneath the surface. The sight was like a gift from the sea offered to us unexpectedly on this tranquil Sunday morning.

One moment the dolphin was gliding smoothly along the surface of the water, the next, as in a dream, I blinked and it dipped under the surface and was gone.

Gifts from the sea--these kinds of magical moments--come upon us without warning and deepen our experience of life, just as they can deepen our character’s experience of life in our stories.

Do you recall the last magical moment that occurred in your life? What magical moments have you noticed in your own stories or in those stories that are your favorites?

Think about how such gifts from the sea contain the power to change your view of yourself and your understanding of life. Then spend a few minutes writing about a magical moment in your life and how it may have influenced you.

Now think of a magical moment in the life of your character—or characters—and begin writing about how that gift from the sea changed him or her.

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