Jewels of the Fury

The southern Florida weather is raging outside. The double pained sliding glass windows shudder and twitch-in then out-as the rush of wind forces its way across the beach. My mother is standing on the porch of our eleven-story hotel trying to smoke a cigarette. The ashes evaporate around her index finger. Her stringy brown hair flaps uncontrollably in the wind.

Addictions must win above all if they are to maintain their status.

At dusk a small wedge of twilight sun makes its way through the concrete clouds. The day wants to rest.

“Gary, I don’t know where your little brown sugar packet is. I try to pack all of your items,” my mother says in exasperation. She is a specially skilled and practiced master packer. Decades of cross Atlantic travel have honed her skill in fitting fragile ceramics between German flowered dishtowels and rows of Haribo Gummy Bears.

I rub my eyes as they trail across the dark sandy beach below us. The storm has brought tide pools and treasures of sea life. An intense year of graduate school leaves my cells aching for a wider connection, to nature, to love. In my running shorts I race into the stairwell, leaping, loving the imminent taste of salt on my tongue. My sneakers sink deeply into the sloppy sand. The surf lies a half-mile out with breakwaters still too violent to allow visitors. I tip toe through the open clamshells and hear the satiated cawing of a legion of seagulls. Small sand flies hop onto my ankles nibbling a delicate circle around my sock line anxious for their piece of nourishment. The post storm air is surprisingly empty; empty of smell; empty of edge. The coal black strands of seaweed link all creatures.

I see an ecru sea star with one blackened arm. It is the size of my opened hand, easy to embrace. A jewel of the fury. As the bristling outer shell brushes against my index finger, I wonder how long it has been at this precise place. I wonder where else it had travelled? Who else has stroked the arms on its involuntary journey? I wonder in whose memory it drifts.

“Carmen, what did you find?” my father Gary’s voice sneaks up on me from the side. I wonder how long he has been watching me?

“A dead sea star the storm has deposited” I answer looking down with detached devotion. Then the blackened arm of the star fluctuates, flagellates its microscopic feet against my pinky. A shudder of life remains. I jump back with horror-and ecstasy.

How could I have taken it for dead? To assume one thing and learn another;

where we least expect it there is life.

I wind up my right arm and throw the star deeply into the ocean. It drops immediately into the horizon-a distant visual memory-the sacred discovery of life returned to its source.

Suddenly I remember my father. I look over and see the back of his navy windbreaker fluttering in the light breeze. His brown Dockers are planted firmly in the sand, through the fury.