THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Miriam walked on the edge of the world. It was a path she trod hundreds of times before. The sand was hot as the sun beat down, pouring honey-colored light over her. Sometimes when the moon rose silver over the waves, the sand was cool and pale.
She always walked with her head down, searching where her feet made tiny indentations. Lacy wavelets washed near her feet, teasing, dancing, occasionally tickling her toes as they played along the shore, anticipating the return of the tide.
She sloshed through the rising water. The salt water was warm against her calves, breaking into foam as it curled over on its way to the waiting sand.
Miriam started the journeys along the sea as a child. Her sailor father taught her love of the eternal, ever-changing ocean. Over the years the sea had laid at her feet: shells, tiny jellyfish whose sting was as fierce as its larger relatives, pieces of old bottles battered against rocks and bottoms until the edges were smooth, dead fish nibbled around the edges by smaller fish, plastic six-pack rings that strangled pelicans and pieces of Styrofoam®.
The child walked in her quickly vanishing footsteps. Miriam smiled. She had seen him a number of times playing on the beach. He was always alone. Sometimes he drew intricate labyrinths in the sand and walked them as the tide crept in to cover the lines.
Over the summer, she walked more slowly as he walked faster. Soon they were walking together. She shyly showed him her treasures. She explained how the sea glass lost its cutting edges. She showed him eddy whirls where newly hatched fish congregated. The two of them burrowed their hands in the sand, searching for tiny crabs living there.
Winter descended and the boy no longer walked the edge of the world. Miriam donned sweatshirt and coat and continued her pilgrimage. He appeared during school vacation, taller and paler than in summer.
He asked what new gift the sea laid at her feet. Digging in her pocket, she produced a small piece of wood, worn smooth and grey from the years of soaking in the tumultuous ocean. She held her hands out as if receiving bread at church. He cradled the driftwood in the palms of his hands.
The boy queried why she kept these sea offerings. What was their significance? Knowing he would not understand at this time, but hoping he would in the future, she answered, “They remind me of what I found that is more important than the tokens.”
Miriam smiled, “I found myself.”