Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gleaning: Wheat vs. Sea Glass

Today while beach combing the west shore at Riding Rock Inn, San Salvador, Bahamas, I was reminded of the Old Testament principle of "gleaning" which is defined as the custom of allowing the poor to follow the reapers in the field and gather the fallen spears of grain. This concept is strikingly illustrated in the story of Ruth (Ruth 2:2-23) according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; www.bible-history.com/isbe/G/GLEANING/ .

The modern definition according to http://www.dictionary.com/ is: 1. to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit. 2. to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers.
My husband and I are obsessed with finding as much sea glass as possible each and every day while we inhabit this out-island of the Bahamas.

Just after sunrise each day while I am a guest on-board this beautiful yacht, my husband Vinnie leaves the boat while I sleep in quiet bliss. He heads 200 feet over a small sandune and begins his search for sea glass and other small trinkets.

Within minutes he returns to the boat, stands by my bunk announcing, "I made coffee. Come see what I found." He leaves again before I even open eye. I am not a morning person. Therefore early each morning I wait to get out of bed just until I smell that familiar aroma and linger a few minutes as I hear the water lapping against the side of the hull. This dark coccoon is an oasis I wish to enjoy a bit longer but the thought of Vinnie gleaning glass in the glinting sun calls me out of the darkness.

I swing a leg out of the bunk and head into the salon to have a bird's eye view of the newly-discovered post-sunrise beach treasures which my wonderful husband has so artfully layed out on the counter for me to inspect.

Quickly I slather sun block, jump into my suit and grab a visor. Carefully I jump off the boat onto the dock and I am a woman on a mission. I see my lifetime treasure hunter near the jetty and yell Yo Vinnie! I decide to begin my gleaning 50 yards from him - but right where he no doubt gathered already.

Today was a different sort of beach-combing event. The previous three days there had only been a whisper of wind sweeping through the island so the glass remained hidden under the sand and amongst the rocks. Upon waking on day four, the winds had picked up overnight and the surf began to pound revealing more of the hidden sea glass treasure we had been hunting.

At our beach at Riding Rock, there is a sandy "shelf" in which a 2' drop soon occurs at water's edge. This 2' drop is where the treasure lay just beneath. The heavy surf quickly reveals their hidden location. However, today as the bigger rocks and pieces of coral rolled up and down the slope, my husband realized that these ankle and toe beaters were allies to the glass but  knew exactly what to do.

My husband's ankles already had two bleeding wounds. The blood was slowly trickling into the water. I was surprised I was not bleeding, as several rocks had pelted my ankles and I had run out of the surf in pain. My husband, his ever-caring, always thoughtful self agreed to go get the dive booties that I had worn the day before. Wearing the booties, I knew I could stand among all of the rolling rocks and still glean beach glass without pain.

As he left the beach, I pondered the story of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament. Ruth had gleaned wheat in the field - for her very sustenance. Grateful that we were not  dependent on what we were gathering for our survival, I was able to focus on the fact that my husband had just left his beach glass gathering 50 yards ahead and yet I was finding beach glass right where he had just been!

The ever-changing sea, the ever-whirling, swirling living breathing sea had turned and swallowed countless numbers of beach glass in the mere ten minutes that my husband had gathered glass. If I had assumed he had gathered all that the sea would give up, we would not have the hope of more aggressive gathering once I had the dive booties in place.

It was exciting to attack the surf again, this time with my husband in a beach chair, watching me go into the 2' drop precipice into the gin clear turquoise waters. Today there was no calculating the depth after the shelf, which made the booties even more valuable. Crunching rocks underfoot, I dove and stretched, gathered and gleaned. My husband smiled just before dozing off into a slumber in the midday sun.

I thought of Boaz and Ruth once more. Had their gleaning adventure knit them together for their future as husband and wife? Were there times when Boaz rested and Ruth gathered? If Ruth's feet got blistered and bloody, did Boaz bring her sweet relief in the form of booties or some Old Testament equivalent? Did Boaz harvest his grain battered and bloody? Curious what that Old Testament couple endured, I plucked a beautifully ground shard of green glass from the frothy surf and held it high for my husband to see. Surprised that he was awake and looking in my direction, I laughed out loud as 100 feet away my husband formed a thumbs' up high in the air then crossed his arms across his chest as he stared across the wide expanse of the sea. What was he thinking? Was he proud to have a wife who instinctively gleaned? Was I the "Ruth" he had longed for all of his life?

Yes I am. My name is Christina and I am a woman of the 21st century gleaning decorative beach glass. This gleaning is for a display the sun will kiss but hands may never again touch.While I am not a woman of the Bible, the still, small voice I know well speaks loudly to me, "You are My child in whom I am well-pleased."

I ran to my husband, palms up, handing over all that I had gleaned - for him to inspect. Gleaning at it's best. And gratefully, we prepare to head back to the marina for lunch. Hamburgers - which we didn't glean at all but merely thawed from the freezer.
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