Weathering the Storm
By Amber Jurek
I want to start by telling you the story of a young girl and a sandcastle. This girl was an ocean child, a girl of the sand and surf. She only felt truly at home with seashells beneath her feet, a playful sea-breeze ruffling her golden hair and salt crystals delicately lacing her lashes. When near the ocean, her eyes took on a certain sparkle and her words weaved stories limited only by the breadth of the sky and the twinkle of the stars. As the story goes, this particular day was a fine one, canopied by an ice-blue sky and wispy cotton clouds which sprinkled sunlight down upon the sand as they meandered over the sun. The young girl gazed out on her peaceful ocean, with gentle lapping waves and buoyancy enough to support even the heaviest of weights, and she smiled. She sat down, and built a sandcastle. Now this was no ordinary sandcastle mind you. The girl sat for hours crafting, moulding layers of damp, cool sand with the deftness of an artist and the patience of a saint. Her fingers nimble, movements measured, eyes keen to capture every edging and every curve as if this structure were her life’s greatest work. I must remind you here before we go on, talented though she was and a dreamer she may be, this girl was still just an ordinary girl, subject to the same life experiences as you and I. This proved to exist as both her greatest strength and greatest weakness.
That very afternoon as she danced along the shoreline oblivious to the changing winds, the sky turned an ominous shade of charcoal. No longer did the clouds dance across the sun, instead they stifled it while sharp gusts of wind eroded grains of sand from the girl’s precious castle. She tried anxiously to protect her creation, building a wall around it in a measly effort of defiance, to feel protected, to feel safe. But the storm loomed and the winds, with unrelenting animosity, dissolved her little wall as if it were a mere inconvenience. The sea rose and fell and bucked and swelled, driving waves of grey sand-streaked water up the shore, their tendrils reaching dangerously close to the castle’s quivering walls. Rain pelted down in sheets and the girl covered her eyes, covered her ears and, cowering under her coat, rocked back and forth praying; praying the dreaded storm would go away and allow her peaceful ocean to return. She resisted, and squeezed her eyes and ears shut with all her might but the tighter she squeezed the louder the sea swelled. The smaller the ball she made with her body the harder the rain seemed to fall. It was as if the world she knew and believed in so faithfully was taking its wraith out on her alone, until all she could hear was the urgent whistling of the wind, and all she could see were heavy clouds in the skies, stormy grey swells and a perpetuating darkness. Her limitless world was confined to a box where her sand castle and her naivety ceased to exist. Where she no longer seemed to matter at all.
The girl grieved. She grieved the playful sea-breeze ruffling her hair, the gentle lapping of waves on the shore and against her sandy toes. She grieved her beliefs, her dreams and aspirations which seemed lost high up in the sky, beyond the clouds, beyond her reach. She grieved her innocence. This period of sadness, of hollow isolating loss lingered for a while; the story of a young girl and her sandcastle a seemingly long lost memory. Until something shifted; maybe in the sky, maybe in the sea, maybe in the storm, or maybe in the girl herself. She chanced a moment of vulnerability whereby she loosened her grip on her ears and eyes just a little and the storm seemed to subside. The rain no longer pelted against her back but sprinkled and laced her lashes with translucent glistening pearls. The sea no longer swelled and instead graced the shore with a moon-driven intent to raise and lower the tides. Delicate, golden rays of sunshine filtered through the clouds and illuminated patches of ocean with hues of pale amber and gold. Her vision widened and the girl saw again her sandcastle sitting a few metres from the lapping waves, still largely intact. She could see the tide was rising and the rain was still falling but this time, it didn’t fill her with anxiety and dread. The little girl knelt down and with the familiar grit of seashells beneath her knees, she began to dig. The girl scooped handfuls of moistened sand and after a few minutes of work she stepped back to appraise her work. Bordering her little castle was a shallow moat. As a new wave lapped up the shoreline, fingers of silver-blue seawater rushed up the moat and welled in a shallow ring around the girl’s little sandcastle, and the girl smiled.
As with all good stories, the story of a young girl and her sandcastle has a happy ending. Before you roll your eyes, I need to bring something to your attention. Whilst the story ends with the storm subsiding and the sandcastle surviving, the girl is not the same naïve little girl she was at the beginning. The storm remained with her, in her memories and in her mind for days and weeks to come. Only with the passing of time did the storm’s imprint lessen until the girl recalled events of that day with a sense of nostalgia. Through her suffering, the girl had learnt how to survive and more pivotally, how to grow in a world of constant change and uncertainty. She learnt how to find beauty and grace in the stormiest of skies, and how to weather storms even when their fronts may feel unrelenting. She learnt the value of gratitude for peaceful moments, when her words would weave stories as vast as the sky, and salt would form crystals on her lashes. She learnt the power of acceptance. With her newfound perspective the girl continued to build her sandcastle, a little bit braver, a little wiser and a great deal more free. I believe the story of this young girl and her sandcastle can teach us all something. Building a wall and pushing against what fears us the most only serves to perpetuate the pain and prolong the cycle; whereas accepting, allowing and being present for the oncoming tides is often our fastest route to personal freedom and growth. In the words of the philosopher Allan Watts “To have faith is to trust yourself to trust the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will likely sink and drown. Instead you relax, and you float.”
“Weathering the Storm” was submitted to mindshare as part of The Turnings Project in 2020. To learn more about the Turnings project click here.