The ocean makes its own observance of the changing seasons. At beautiful Guana right now, this translates into a great deal of sugar-fine sand being moved by the tides, new lines and ridges being created with each rise and fall, and new veins of coquina exposed. All the while the water shimmers and sparkles, lightened by silica, casting a glamour over the whole timeless process. It is at once as slow and as instantaneous as the opening of flowers, but we watch through the hours we can: the waves come to us, pushing us to the west and then recede and often render glimmering treasures in the form of shark teeth. These relics remind us of the reality of time, many coming from 3 million years ago, rare finds going back 30 or 40 million years ago, or more. In the coquina, the redshell I've shown here, I might find 10 or 20 or sometimes even a hundred shark teeth in a day at the beach. Rodney, who walks along with his metal detector, focused on the search and freed, for those moments, from the chronic pain I can only vaguely imagine, will often find even more.
Sometimes we find even more exotic relics of evolutionary pre-history. They are, for me, as puzzling and intriguing as those shape-sorting benches my siblings used to play with as teensy-pots. Shaped like a small wooden work bench with openings into which various brightly painted wooden blocks would fit, my brother and sisters learned to place the red cylinder into the right opening, the blue star into the right one, and so on. Many years on, I find myself looking at these shiny black or blue shapes, beautifully glossy and polished by fossilization and perhaps being tumbled like jewels in the waves of the ocean. There are discernible patterns into which I'm able to sort the pieces, but the identification of those patterns continues to elude me, to elude Rodney, to intrigue and entertain us both.
This one, pictured with my toes alongside for perspective, might be something like the tooth of a horse or related, prehistoric equine relative, or perhaps that of another herbivore. I'm not sure, though I'm not alone in dreaming of one day walking into the office of a prominent paleontologist at, say, the University of Florida, and dumping the whole disorganized collection on his or her desk: Tell me, I might say. Tell me what all these fascinating puzzle pieces add up to. (Get out of here, I can imagine him or her saying, you crazy person, you.) But it wouldn't matter, really. The puzzle isn't really the riddle. It's not the riddle at all.
The riddle is chronic pain, and finding some combination of medications and choices and lifestyle things that provide alleviation even for some small measure of hours. The riddle is how to continue to walk through life with dignity and peace when things we often take for granted have gone from us. For a person whose brain and capacity for logic and problem-solving have been connected throughout his professional life in his work, this is no small riddle. Most heart-rending of all? There is no real solution to the problem. There is no surgery, no treatment, no acupuncture or massage or medicine to provide a cure. There is only figuring out How Do We Live With This, a problem that, in its most basic sense, is being faced by countless people every day. And my guess is those people may have to work through without the inspiration of pals like Ms. Moon and The Surly Writer; Suldog, for consistent humor, and many others, none of whom, it should be noted, write for Inspirational Purposes (ewww) but all of whom are skilled at keeping us grounded and reminding us what really matters. And there are way too many more, my loves, than can be listed here, but their voices are beyond price at Eat Here.
And in the end, here is the man who walks down to the sea with me, in so many ways, and has walked for more than 20 years of our lives. And I walk with him, maybe now more than ever. Down to the sea, my dears. And back again.