Gems of Change

Published in Spa Magazine January/February, 2001

Since moving to the island of Kaua’i some eight years ago, after twenty-seven years of living in fast-paced Los Angeles, my life has been in a state of total flux. Rather than the peaceful, simple life-style my husband and I sought, we were greeted with Hurricane Iniki, the worst natural disaster to hit the Hawaiian Islands, just ten days after our arrival.
We thought we were moving to paradise, but instead found the move to be fraught with continuous challenge. Over the years I felt like our goal for a peaceful life-style was being shattered into chards of broken dreams. Every time it appeared as if bits and pieces of my life were coming together, something would happen to squash the opportunities from coming to fruition.

A few months after the hurricane I decided to visit our local neighborhood center. While sitting at a picnic table, one of the Hawaiian elders opened a large jar of what appeared to be multi-colored jewels and emptied the contents into a round basket that was on the table before us.

Upon closer look, these jewels were really tumbled pieces of broken glass. I became curious and asked her about them. Aunty Martha told me about a beach on the Westside of the island known as “Glass Beach.” She said that rather than soft golden sand, the beach is covered with what looks like tiny pieces of glittering jewels. However, these jewels are really fragments of broken glass that were once parts from various types of bottles, which were discarded out at sea.

Over time, these jagged fragments are washed onto the shore and transformed by nature into colorful gems. These gems are often used to create jewelry, picture frames, flowerpots, sun catchers, and ornaments of various kinds. Aunty Martha then handed me a piece of glass and told me to put it in a special place.

I did as Aunty Martha told me to do and placed it on a shelf next to pictures of my friends and family, all the while thinking someday I’d like to visit that beach.

That “someday” didn’t happen until about a year later, when I noticed that I was still feeling jagged and fragmented in my own life. I had no regular job, finances were dwindling rapidly, and I missed my friends and family very much. It was then that I decided to take some private time for myself and visit this beach. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas as to what I might learn. I just knew that I needed to be there.

With gentle shore-line waves lapping over my bare feet, I walked along the water’s edge, noticing pebble-size pieces of glass glistening like fine jewels in colors of turquoise, emerald, brown, crimson, and orange.

As I walked further, I notice larger, thumb-size pieces of the glass and decided to collect some of them. After an hour or so, the plastic bag I had brought with me was filled with these gems.

Wanting to survey my treasures, I found a cove, and emptied my sack of glass onto a large beach towel. I picked up piece after piece, noticing its’ shape and color. One particular piece of smooth, frosted white glass caught my attention. I decided to use this piece of glass as one would use a reference book to find answers to a puzzling question. Holding it in the palm of my hand, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and mentally asked it to teach me something I needed to know right now in my life. I turned it over and over in my hand, while waiting for an answer to surface.

In these few moments of quiet meditation, I realized that our dreams, goals, and visions begin whole and smooth like the glass that was once part of a bottle or a jar. However, sometimes we find ourselves in uncharted waters. Perhaps feeling like we were tossed overboard. There may be rough seas, high winds, and unclear navigation. This lack of clarity and turmoil can leave us feeling broken and shattered. With time, the edges of uncertainty smooth out, and we can find a safe place on which to land and gleam.

With these thoughts in mind, I began to think about the many challenges and traumas that have jarred my life over the years prior to our move. I remembered how, at first, these difficulties felt like they would break me apart. However; upon inner reflection, I now know that each experience has helped to smooth my rough edges and helped me to look at my life with greater dimension.

The sun was beginning to set as I bundled the many gems in the towel. Once I was home, I placed them in a large, clear glass jar and tumbled them over and over again. Each time I turned the jar, I saw a new design emerge.

As I look at that jar today, I realize that those once broken chards have become the vibrant colors in a personal kaleidoscope called my Life.