BY Bill Reagan
We are fortunate to live so near to a beach. The beach is the place where you find out who you truly are. e. e. cummings wrote a poem about it.
maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and
millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small the a world and as large as alone.
for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find at the sea
Beaches are transitional places, both sea and land. That’s why we like them. Go to a beach, look out at the water and you’ll see what seems to be eternity. The beach is as far as you can go. It is the very edge of our existence. The edge of our existence is a scary place. You learn two things at the edge: who you really are and just how far you can stretch your limits.
These kinds of events are called liminal experiences, from a Latin word meaning threshold.
Runners know about this. They call it the “wall.” So do people who have come through a devastating illness. They have been to the threshold of death and stepped back, but they are never the same.
Great crises are liminal experiences as well. Anyone who has experienced a natural disaster knows that you become more of who you really are when disaster strikes. You probably like the beach, but may not be too keen on liminal experiences. A liminal experience is good for you. “whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”
Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.