A huge conch shell adorned my dresser for years. I’d packed it safely home from a beach trip. It whispered when I held it to my ear, but the message depended on the listener—as do all messages.
One friend would hone in on the sea object and remark she’d heard a bell or a whistle or some other noise. The other girls in the room would pass it around, agreeing they heard the same sound. I don’t remember if I heard it or not, but if I did, I probably didn’t admit it. I liked being the odd one out, the rebel.
I wish I still had that pink-tinged shell, the roughness of it poking my hand as I listened to what sounded like the wind shushing the tide.
I wonder what I’d hear now.
My hearing’s improved—maybe not physically, as with age it’s known to get worse—but my mental listening is much more acute. I’m a bit less susceptible to the power of suggestion and more in-tune to my inner musings where my true interests and desires make themselves known.
People hear what they want to hear, me included. I’d probably hear an angel reciting the next chapter of my new book or a spirit guide revealing the next chapter of my life’s journey. At least the message I’d be hearing wouldn’t have been planted there by someone else’s idea of what makes an interesting read or what’s an acceptable activity for a woman my age or for that matter, what defines a holy place of worship.
I spend time in nature on Sundays—a stroll through the woods or along the lake by my house. Some folks frown when I say that. Others smile and say they too, prefer to pray under the loving umbrella of a blue sky.
When I was tiny, I’d occasionally accompany my grandparents to their church. I loved hearing the church bells ringing from the belfry where grandpa performed his duty every Sunday morning, 9:55 a.m. sharp. The organ pipes would croon under grandma’s elegant touch. The sounds they both made were different, yet both melodies stretched beyond the steeple of that small-town church and penetrated the clouds.
The joy my grandparents expressed in their dedication to making those Sunday sounds touched me. I believe they would be happy for me finding my joy in praising the One who created all that is, by relaxing in the very cradle of His creation itself.
Suggestions that my sacred, sandy ground isn’t an appropriate location for veneration of His Majesty, well, it’s not acceptable to me. I let those suggestions get garbled in the translation just like the swooshing sound inside of that conch shell. The sound which I now know was the result of different sounds in the environment reverberating within the shell walls.
So, as I kick the leaves along the shore and thank the one who kissed them with life, I propose that you hear what you want to hear. Decide for yourself what is right for you—make your own shell—cup your hand over your ear. Listen. You’ll hear your own heart-beat. It’s the smartest sound you’ll ever hear. You know what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to be different.
The sound of church bells ringing in the distance merges with the seagulls mewing above my sandy alter. I’m one with all that is, safe in the winds, safe in the arms of God, my rebel heart and all.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County, author of “Rain No Evil” and host of Life Speaks on AIR radio.
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