Below the low tide line, there is a mussel colony. Their shells are blue black. The water is cold and the currents are strong. The mussels hold on to the rocks and to each other.
When a mussel dies, it lets go. It lets go of its rocky bed. It lets go of the other mussels. It lets go of itself—its shell opens like cupped hands setting free a butterfly. Waves roll in and push the empty blue shell up the beach; waves roll out and carry the shell back down again. Tide after tide, the shell tumbles up and back. Its two halves come apart. Bits chip off and become blue sand. Finally a wave lifts the shell to the very top of the beach.
Above the high tide line, the empty mussel shells collect. They are faded now, pearly and pale as early morning sky. Many are broken. Some have a tiny hole where a dog whelk drilled through. All the way from here to the whale rocks—between the long, dark furl of seaweed and the blooming hedge of rosa rugosas—a drift of blue.
Standing here, with the land at your back and the sea breaking at your feet, salt spray stinging your face and the sky, you feel the true size of your heart: big as the whole ocean.
After the surge and churn of the point, the shoreline ahead is a long stretch of sameness: no rock stands out from the others. You would like to get past this beach quickly, but you don’t feel like running now. Your feet are heavy as dull, brown rocks.
There is always a beach like this, a between beach, a beach you’d rather skip—if only that sea gull would swoop down and lift you up and over. It isn’t always the same beach—it depends on where you start and whether you have any chocolate left.
You consider cutting inland, through the woods and across the field. But you are not late for anything, and there is something important about sticking to the shore—about going all the way around, about meeting again the place where you began.
And so you trudge on (singing helps), until finally you come to the end of between and begin beyond.