Hello sweet friends,

I hope your summer is off to an excellent start!

Here in Seattle, the days are long but the sun is gentle. It is Outdoor Season and Outdoor Season means we are enjoying ourselves.

That said, this month hasn't been without difficulty. Family health problems and unexpected travels mean that I've been more stressed and worn down than I'd like to be. I've been writing as much as possible, and that helps, but it's a busy end to the school year and, if I'm honest, a hard one. I've needed a few extra beach walks by myself, and luckily, my loving partner makes sure I get this time. I'm grateful.

On a recent beachcombing walk, I found the waterfront absolutely packed with newly released college students and newly drunken tourists. The place was teeming. Not to sound too curmudgeonly, but I prefer an empty beach. Or, you know, one with just a few souls. The racket of a packed beach is... less soothing. So I wandered, a bit blue and bitter, and thought for sure that the beach would be well picked over and I'd find nothing of interest. But, as I'm forever learning, the water had other plans.

I thought I spied a piece of metal under a stone, so I carefully lifted the rock, and there, half buried in the mud, was an iron heart.

My breath caught. I snapped a picture and then picked it up. It was heavy, like a paperweight, in my hand. It was smooth, but beautifully mottled with rust. I don't know why, but holding that weight, that shape, in my muddy corner of the crowded beach, gave me an overwhelming feeling of grief. Whoever had thrown this heart to the sea, undoubtedly when the tide was much higher, had done so out of loss. I was sure of it. Why else would you sink a heart? Maybe it was just a melodramatic gesture of a broken-hearted teen, but maybe it was more. A message of love to someone who had passed on, or maybe a message of something much harder to say or understand. I wasn't sure if I should take it.

I stood there, indecisive, for quite some time. I wanted to protect it from the kids and tourists. The tide was still receding, so I couldn't throw it out far enough and be sure it wouldn't resurface. It might sound silly, but I worried it might haunt me somehow if I kept it. I wondered who or what I might offend if I stole it.

Finally, I resolved not to keep it, but to hold it for a while, let it visit with my family, and then, when the time was right, I'd take it back to the sea. This decision brought relief, and I carried it home, carefully checking that I didn't lose or drop it along the way.

Later, as I related this story to a dear friend, she said, wisely, not to fret. It was a symbol of strength, she said. A solid, iron heart is a strong will, an iron will. See goodness, she said. And so I did.

Today, I took another walk. I wasn't nearly in as bad a funk, but still I craved some peace. Once again, the beach was jammed (as it usually is in the summer) but the tide was low enough for me to turn left instead of right, and climb in and among the rock seawall built decades ago.

I found lots of tile and seaglass, more than usual, since this part of the beach is rarely visited (as it isn't technically beach at all). I wandered farther and farther until I thought I might not make it another step without soaking my sneakers. I turned back, but then realized that it was still an hour until low tide. Surely I could make it a bit farther.

It's a good thing I pushed on, because soon thereafter I found one of the rarest and most beautiful creatures I've ever found on a beach walk: a baby octopus.

She (or he) was deep crimson, with a head roughly the size of my fist and legs splayed in the sand. She rested up near the rocks, well out of the still receding water. I could see that she was coated in slime (which would probably protect her from drying out) but she looked incredibly vulnerable, and possibly dead. I watched carefully for signs of life. A head wiggle and some gaping gills gave me an answer so I touched one arm with my fingertip and Zap! the arm wriggled and retracted and spun.

Maybe she would have been fine without my intervention, and I know that humans usually do more harm than good when they meddle with creatures, but I had the immediate and intractable desire to help her and get her to the water, out of the view of hungry gulls and curious people (a gaggle of which had now begun to venture this way since the tide was so conveniently low). I found a large clam shell and ushered her in. She bleached white (something they do when frightened) and her legs wrapped around my hand and arm. I quickly got her in the water and she swam to the shelter of a nearby rock.

My sneakers were now wet. More than wet. I stood happily ankle deep, guarding and watching over her for another twenty minutes or so. I let her touch me with two delicate suction cups, just checking, just letting her know I meant her no harm. She was absolutely beautiful and surreal and gentle and brilliant.

This is not the first time I've communed with a baby octopus. The last time was in waters on the other side of the continent and an afternoon on the other side of my childhood. My brother was there when we found it, the size of a silver dollar and completely transparent. We've cherished the memory for twenty-five years. When I finally left her side, I called him and we remembered again.

And so, as the tides tumble me forward, I remain in awe of the beauty, the serendipity, and the grief of this world. Life holds me with wondrous, fragile, and changing arms. May you find your peace too.

Love always,


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