Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Treasure Hunting: Not If, but When

Melissa Darsey, lovely and profound spirit that she is, shared her recollections about this particular evening. You can visit her at Tethered: His Night Song.

Profound occurrences are often profound only to the person experiencing them. The serendipity of events does not quite impact others as it does we who are in the middle.
But I want you to see God. Watch him show up.
This story must be unfolded. Fold by fold. It is a long story. Read it in parts. Take a break or get a cup of coffee and join me for a little while.
I just want you to know my sweet God must have been chuckling as he orchestrated this one. 

On Melissa’s last night of vacation we discovered that one of her dreams was to walk the beach at night.
Abby and I declared we would go that night. It would be Melissa’s last adventure before going home. I was so excited for her. Years ago I walked the beach on Cape Cod at night, and it profoundly affected me. Vivid details still remain. I wanted Melissa to experience something very similar.
Little did I know.
Do we ever?
In our finite grasp of reality and space and time do we understand that the God of this universe really does hear us? He catches the sighings. He perceives the longings. He listens to the unvoiced desires—the ones we tuck away, tight back in ourselves. These are not secret to him. They are not veiled from his vision.
For years I have been tending a low burning fire for a sojourn to Ireland. There were times when the fire leaped and danced with flames high. Hot and compelling. Other times, a simple quiet fire, banked. Recently the embers burned down, ashen and powdery. The task seemed overwhelming. The finances. The time. The schedules. Slowly the fire became just a warm place in my heart. I attempted to substitute more practical things for it. Ones that would benefit far more people than just me.
Little did I know God heard, and his breath was about to blow over my dream embers.
The whole day began with a trip to the marina. We wanted to see dolphins and so we booked an afternoon outing—the marina’s advertisement gave full assurance that dolphins would be spotted.
While we waited for our departure time we visited several of the little shops along the marina’s boardwalk. We indulged in ice cream and truffles and dark chocolate covered stick pretzels (I ate the latter, not all three).

While Steve stood and watched the fishermen fillet their catch I meandered into a jewelry shop.
The small shop was filled with shelves of nautical jewelry and cases of charms and necklaces and earrings shaped like shells, fish, palm trees and ocean waves. Weaving in and out of the labyrinth I stopped at a few of the cases. Some unique piece would catch my eye.
Then I turned.
Behind me almost in the middle of the store was a rotating kiosk of Irish jewelry. Four leaf clovers, Celtic crosses, Celtic knots and pots of gold. It seemed so out of place. So random.  I spun the stand slowly. Looking and all the while pondering the question, “Why in the world was this in the middle of this store?”  
We went to wait in line to get on the boat for our date with the dolphins (another story for another post).
I forgot about the Irish jewelry.
After we docked we were all quite hungry. We were looking for something local—something with the reputation of serving really good food. We heard The Friendly Fisherman was the place to go. All twelve of us traipsed into the restaurant. If our numbers worried anyone we couldn’t tell.
Our waitress’ name was Dawn. She was from Pennsylvania: a transplant enjoying the ease of ocean front life. We could almost see her apartment complex from our table. We knew we had been given the seasoned waitress; she knew what she was doing. Feed the kids first. The food was fabulous. Other than Amy’s shrimp tacos it was the best meal I ate during the entire vacation.
Remember the random Irish jewelry back at the marina boardwalk? Here we go again.
Dawn wore a necklace. Not just any necklace. It was a large silver Irish claddagh. I know she saw me staring, so I just asked. Where did she find such a wonderful piece? She touched it, rubbing the embossed hands and crown and heart and explained that she commissioned it to be made. An original piece.
For an instant my head reeled. This absurd thought crossed my mind:  I am in The Friendly Fisherman eating clam stuffed tilapia being served by Dawn from Pennsylvania with a claddagh necklace.
The old fire stirred. The wind was blowing.
We left.
We spent the rest of the day playing and resting.
I forgot Dawn and the claddagh necklace.
Evening came. Everyone trekked back to the condo. Bedtime routines commenced.
I kissed Steve, then Melissa, Abby and I walked back down the beach.
We took pictures under the dock—leaned on the weathered wood. And the light began to fade.

We discussed which way to walk and Melissa explained she wanted to walk toward the light—in the direction of the setting sun.
Away we went. Jaunty. Happy. Carefree. Fulfilling a dream.
I kept watching Melissa’s face and praying for her. Praying God would meet her. Praying she would experience His presence in this trek in the dark with the water lapping around our feet and the sand grown cold. At first she and Abby held up their dresses, but then they let them down. Unfettered, the hems grew wet and heavy. They drug in the sand, combing it smooth as they walked.
When I walk the beach I am forever keen-eyed for shells. That night was no exception.
I saw one. Or what I thought was one. A black shadow in the sand. A large one.
Cautiously I reached down and tapped it quickly with just the tip end of my pointer finger. Just in case. Earlier in the weekend something had caught my eye in the sand and I failed to use caution. A crab bit my finger. A snap, a sting, and a narrow trickle of blood encouraged and wizened me to be careful of shadows in the sand.
This one didn’t bite or move, so I picked it up.
Oh, what a treasure. It appeared to be a black oyster shell (still not entirely sure). It was the most unique piece I found during the entire trip. I was thrilled.

We began again. Walking.

A woman passed us. Nothing odd. Except she was holding a shell almost exactly like my own. She noticed mine. There we stood, as if we were holding two pieces of the same puzzle wondering where our pieces fit.

The early part of the conversation is hazy in my mind. I think it was just courteous beach dialogue. But several sentences into the conversation my hearing heightened and honed.

Flames flickered.

I cocked my head and looked at her, and the words were out of my mouth before I realized I was thinking them.
“Would you mind if I asked where you are from? Originally?”
I wonder now what was going through Abby and Melissa’s heads, but then I was oblivious.
I took a deep breath as I saw her mouth open to answer.
“Ireland.” She answered.
I gasped. Whether out loud or not I don’t know. It was very loud in the cavernous places in my own head. And puzzle pieces began to click into place: the Irish jewelry at the marina, Dawn and her one-of-a-kind claddagh necklace.
I peered at this woman. Holding my breath. I wonder now if she thought I was crazy.
We began to talk. The lyrical cadence of her voice was soft. Her “r’s” trilled slightly.  In my peripheral vision I saw Abby looking at me.
We continued to talk. I asked questions somewhat just to hear her speak.
I told her I had dreamed for years of going to Ireland.
She gazed at me. Eye to eye.
“Then you will, Lady, you will.”
Tears, as usual, threatened to pour down my face. But I held them. There was something in her tone. Something in her gaze.
We kept talking. I asked her where she would want me to visit if I ever went. What out of the way place would she like for me to see? Again that eye to eye gaze. She held it longer this time.
“It is not if you go, but when. I want you to set a date.”
I blinked. Finally.
I explained I also loved the Vikings and wanted to visit Dublin because of their influence there. She chuckled and said she was from the area the Vikings first settled in Ireland.
She went on to tell me that tickets were not as expensive as one might imagine.
I watched her face. Tried to drink it in while standing in the fading light.
The real time lasted a few minutes. But in my head it was slow motion. Almost stop frame.
I stood in a dream. And in that dream I saw myself on the shore of the Gulf at night having a conversation with an Irish woman.
It welled up in me. The question. Bubbled in my mouth.
“If you don’t mind I would love to know your name.” I waited.
God must have leaned forward for this one. Leaned right forward and looked over the rim of heaven. He must have been laughing his great belly laugh of delight. Absolute delight. His divine appointments always change someone’s life.  
One of my favorite authors is Linda Windsor. She is the author of a beautiful series of books set in fifth century Ireland: The Fires of Glennmara. The female protagonist of the first book in the trilogy is one of my absolute favorites. This is quite important. Unlike me at the time, my dear Reader, you know what is coming.
The Irish woman looked at me and said, “My name is Maire.”
The character in Linda Windsor’s book is named Maire. (Pronounced: Moi-rah).
I spelled the name back to her to make sure I heard correctly.
I did, although this sweet Maire on the beach had to spell her name differently here in the States because no one could pronounce it. Often she was mistakenly called Maria or Mary.
Maire is a soft and musical name when spoken by an Irish tongue. I can still hear her voice pronouncing it for me.
Our encounter ended after that. We hugged. Clasped hands.
She turned to leave, but before she did she looked at me with that eye to eye gaze again.  
“You will go to Ireland. It is not if, but when. I want you to set a date. An actual date on the calendar.”
Maire turned and walked down the beach disappearing into the evening. I watched her walk away until the dusk became dark and she disappeared.
God set me up.
I can hear Him laughing still.
Little did I know.
My God. My God.

He knows and pays attention to every detail of our lives. He knows the longings of our heart.
The embers are hot now.
Red. Alive. Glowing.
It is not if I go to Ireland, now it is just a matter of when.
We’re working on a date.
BTW. A couple weeks after we returned from vacation all these events were but memories beginning to fade. One day I pulled into a parking spot at a local department store. I got out of my car and looked at the van parked in front of me. I noticed the license plate. I took a picture.
Are you kidding me?






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