Category Archives: Robert Louis Stevenson

Down Beside the Sea

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup
In every hole the sea came up
Til it could come no more.
Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was little, my mother used to quote that poem to me, and since then I’ve taught it to my children. Sand. Surf. Sea. I’m at the beach this week with my family, enjoying some down time. One of my favorite times to visit the beach is early in the morning before the heat of the sun and crowds. I like to walk along the surf, feeling the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and occasionally letting the water bubble around my ankles.

This morning on my walk, I was thinking about sand and how it gets everywhere and into everything. It burrows under your clothes, sticks to your skin as if its been glued on, and somehow no matter how many showers I take it ends up in my bed. Sand is like words. Words spoken by others have a way of sticking to us. Sometimes that’s good if they are encouraging words. But what about words that are harsh or painful? Words can exfoliate, buffing off the dead and reinvigorating the soul. But it can irritate, getting into eyes, and scratching delicate skin until it wounds. Words can be good and bad. Sometimes we need to hear the truth in order to help us. Yet, sometimes words can be aimed to injure.

Collecting words in a jar and holding onto happy memories can give us strength and hope. Yet, if words stick to us rub and scratch and continue to wound, then shouldn’t we get rid of them? How do you sweep away painful words from your past and hold onto those that have brought life?