A silhouette of a man is often in my memory, as I walk the ocean shore. It’s been a couple of years since I saw him, and we never directly interacted. Yet I can’t forget him. He was at the edge of the waves with a metal detector, seeking treasure. He reminded me of a fisherman, of the type who really don’t care if they ever catch a fish, as long as they connect with the water, the wild outdoors, the contemplative slowness of a day away. I related to the man with the metal detector, since I also know the joy of seeking contemplative treasure, from ocean shore to thrift store. I feel I almost understood him.
Still, an aspect of his seeking saddened me. He must have known there was only a slim chance of the beach surrendering a metallic object of value. He might only find an old soda can pop top, a rusted bolt from a ship, perhaps a coin or two worth enough to buy nothing. Meanwhile, his metal detector’s headphones cut him off from the sound of the waves. He turned his back to their visual beauty too, on a brisk February day that made spray into kinetic sculpture.
I also came to the beach that day to seek treasure, but of a kind guaranteed I’d find. The majestic waves are always a treasure. The currency of their currents is priceless without scarcity. They’ve been ceaseless for an age that makes human history only a blink. The awe the ocean’s age inspires in me is another reliable treasure. I also treasure the cleansing sea breeze, more able than any shore wind to blow away the detritus of excessive thought. The treasure of shoreline perspective is unique, where an opaque watery world stretches out from my feet for thousands of miles, directly in sight yet completely alien, in places where my worries can’t reach. I also love watching my footprints disappear into wet sand, cleanly washing away evidence of my visit. That too is priceless. The sea is a healer of scars.
One wound in need of healing is at the core of that sadness I still feel, thinking of the man with the metal detector. Too often we seek treasure only within the confines of the human world, while missing treasure’s natural brilliance beyond. We’re always all held within that infinite treasure, a part of it ourselves. Healing the frequent absence in our hurried, digitized, paved lives is a simple return to seeing and celebrating those natural treasures. It’s in being with them without needing to own them. Along the shore, solitude is rarely lonely. Similar treasure awaits us in mountain, pure valley, desert. It’s in standing at the shoreline of the midnight sky’s infinite ocean of stars. We live on a sphere where treasure is endlessly present yet restlessly changing, patiently waiting for us to stop seeking and notice.