Sea Star is the name of a watercolor in my office, painted by a friend years ago when she was traveling in India. She was on the beach in Goa watching the sea when a local woman, arms full of colorful, dancing scarves, swept up to her: “Sea Star, You want to buy?”It took her a minute to realize that the woman was calling her “sister,” not selling her sea stars or starfish.
Sea stars, or “sisters,” my dear women friends, have held me in kindness, given me tea and sympathy and laughter my whole life. The painting is a vivid reminder of the strength of this tribe of love.
And then there are the other Sea Stars, the variegated, orange and purple creatures of the sea that are also called starfish. The sea stars inhabit the temple of tide pools where I return each year on my birthday, smack dab in the middle of summer. Every year it coincides with the lowest tide of the season. These stars are for me an icon of magic and transformation.
It came about on my 50th birthday. After three days of solitude, writing and prayer, I stopped by the beach on my way home. It was the lowest tide of the year. I didn’t set any intentions or send out any requests. As I was walking along the beach, I simply thought of my childhood religion and decided to immerse myself in the water of a tide pool. It felt like a kind of baptism for the second half of life.
I came across a large tide pool, a temple with walls of green sea anemones and starfish. The sea stars bundled together on the rocks, a vivid testimony of beauty. I dunked myself in the water, and when I surfaced I heard the name “Susan Grace” loudly in my mind. I had been joking about getting a new name, but this was a bit more of a result than I usually got from my off-handed jokes. So I decided not to try to figure anything out, but to simply honor the moment by beginning to use the double name. Since that day I have done the best I could to actually become more graceful, literally, and to connect with my body in movement. I began a mindfulness practice, took more yoga and Tai Ch’i, and added some improv dance classes for good measure.
But most importantly, I began to welcome (and recognize) a subtle sense of being held by a force greater than I could understand. A force of mystery as big as the Sea Stars (or my Sisters). Thank you, Sea Stars!
What icons or images connect you with the mystery of being? What have your Sea Star women friends taught you about life and love?