There is only one other person at the beach when I go for a quick visit; an older woman with white hair searching the ground for treasures and putting them in a cup. I walk the length of the beach and find a good spot to sit, settling in for a good long look at the water.
The woman wanders closer and closer to me, searching the ground all the while, until she's too close to ignore. So I say, "Finding anything good?" Later she will say that she was drawn to me. That she didn't know why she walked so close to me but that she couldn't help it.
She answers me in a thick French accent.......and tells me that she is collecting things to bring to a nursing home. The residents love things from the beach. It is the simple things that make them happy, she says. Not fancy things or things that cost money. A smooth stone feels good in the hand and reminds them of happy times.
"Everyone is so bee-zy," she says. "They do not know that thees is all they need." She gestures toward the rocks and the water. "They do not know that bee-zy does not put anything here." This time she puts her hand on her abdomen, as if she's reaching into her soul.
I tell her that's why I come to the beach. To sit still. Absorb the beauty. Shut off the noise of everyday life. But mostly to sit still.
"Oh you are so wise!" she says. "You are so young to be so wise!"
That makes me feel good. Like the teacher gave me a star.
"As woman, we must lee-sen to our inner goddess, she always know what to do. But instead we run run run, go here, do thees, buy that. We so bee-zy we don't know what we want. We don't lee-sen. But your goddess always know.
I tell people you must stop and just be or you will not hear the messages properly. And they say "I cannot be! With be there is too much lost time!" But be is where we get our energy, our motivation. Yes? Life is about be. Not go here, do thees, buy that.
My niece have husband with lots of money. But she is not happy. She keeps getting bee-ger and bee-ger house to make her happy. But it does not work. I tell her what I think; I do not do bullshit, I do not play game. But she hang up on me. I say "ok, that is enough for today." She has not found her goddess. This is why I am committed to woman."
Eventually, she tells me her story. She grew up in an orphanage, very shy and afraid with no social skills. She married at 19 and her husband brought her to the United States........where he burned down their house to collect the insurance money. And then he left her. She had a 4 year old, a two year old, a 7 month old baby. And she was pregnant. And she didn't speak English. A kind person helped her get on welfare, find subsidized housing, a job and childcare. She put all her faith in God and prayed for strength every day. She acted like a goddess so she would feel like one. When people were surprised to find that she was on welfare and lived in the projects, she knew she was doing something right.
All of her daughters grew up successfully with happy marriages, good jobs and beautiful families. One is a doctor, one is a nurse. But her son is still lost. It is very difficult to replace a boy's father.
Now she lives simply but comfortably and visits elderly people in nursing homes with smooth stones and pretty shells. She has no electronic devices, no computer, no email address - just a name and a phone number. She writes letters. "When you get my letter," she says, "you get a part of me. My energy is on the page."
After an hour, we share a hug and wish each other well. She leaves me by saying, "If you stop asking the question, you will get the answer."
Then I hop on my bike and pedal home.