Several summers ago, one of my oldest friends brought his new wife down from the Bay Area for introductions and to play a little catch up. We had a great time catching up. At the time, we were living right on the sand and so, being the perfect Sunday afternoon, we took a stroll along the beach. Before long we came to the marina and as we walked along the pier, the smell of dead fish became somewhat overpowering. And when I say “somewhat”, I mean we were ready to throw up. It was foul!! A cursory glance at the water gave ample evidence of the cause of the offending smell. Even though the surrounding scenery was magnificent, we hightailed it out of there.
I should probably mention here that for several days, from my front window I had noticed that the ocean appeared kind of dirty, like there was something stirring up the mud. Of course, I know very little about the workings of the ocean, so I didn’t feel the slightest bit of interest to find out the reason. With my guests gone and my Sunday drawing to a close, I decided to take a evening jog on the beach. The sun was just setting on the horizon, the waves lapped against the sand. It all conspired to be the perfect ending to a beautiful day. Then I noticed something that made me stop in my tracks. As the waves crashed onto the beach, they were glowing a beautiful neon blue color. I looked around to see what light was reflecting off of the water, but quickly realized I was on a totally dark stretch of sand. I ventured closer to the water and watched in rapt attention as each wave gave way to another brilliantly lit wave. I soon found myself seated on the beach totally mesmerized by this magical happening.
Sunday gave way to Monday and Monday to Tuesday and so on until suddenly it was Sunday night again. A quick scan of the ocean from my front window confirmed that indeed the ocean was giving off the muddy brown color that I now knew was the cause of the neon waves. I waited until the sun set then headed down to the waterfront and sure enough…the neon waves were gently crashing on the beach. I sat in amazement at the beauty!
As I sat, I thought of our Creator who designed our world to reflect beauty even when things look ugly. You see, I’ve been studying up on this phenomenon I call neon waves. It’s actually called Red Tide. Red Tide is the result of the first step in the essential life process and is the transference of solar energy into aquatic food webs. These tiny organisms thrive and multiply due to increased light sensitivity and favorable levels of salt and nutrients. And when I say thrive, I meant thrive. In fact, a single algae cell may replicate itself one million times during the course of two to three weeks. Of course all this thriving doesn’t go unnoticed. Depending on the species of the algae present, the water may reflect pink, violet, orange, yellow, blue, green, brown or red. Red is the most predominant, hence the name “Red Tide.” It isn’t always pretty. From my front window, it looked rather like thick, murky oil slick. As the ocean sprays onto the beach, those who are closest to the water breath in the spray and it can cause respiratory infections. But on those dark nights, if you are lucky enough to be on an unlit beach when the neon blue bioluminescent algae is blooming, you will be treated to an ocean that is literally sparkling with specks and ribbons of neon blue.
I’ve figured out that in this life there will always be some kind of trouble. Even yesterday the pastor at the church I attended brought this out in his message. Someone once said that into every life a little rain must fall. I guess all of us experience some down time, something that could very easily be considered quite ugly. For those who know me well, you know that last year was one of the harder years. And, while there is much to be hopeful for this new year, it too has already shown a rather sadistic streak.
And yet, as I’m getting older, I’m finding that these ugly patches often come with their own beauty much like the neon waves that accompany the Red Tide. Perhaps it’s our Creator’s way of giving us that little bump we need to keep us going through these times when things are hard and our lives seem completely bereft of anything resembling beauty.
In the scriptures we are told that
In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.
I have a hunch that when things get ugly (as they will), instead of cursing and crying over the stark lack of beauty, perhaps it’s time to change the light we use to view the ugliness. If my own life is any proof, then I believe what we’ll find will be neon ribbons sparkling along the waves of the evening, brought to us by our own Red Tide. There is beauty in everything; sometimes it just doesn’t show up until the light starts to fade.