Friday, June 7, 2013

A Day at the Beach

3 scans of a found object - 2013, DS (click to enlarge)

"Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami (神 "spiritual essence"),
commonly translated as god or spirit).

The kami reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and kami (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, shrines, and kamidana. There are natural places considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the kami, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine."

- excerpt from the Wiki entry for Shinto

High-tide is not the most excellent time for beachcombing, but, neither is the blistering heat of mid-day. So, for my first visit to the shore in a very long time, I chose the hour just before sunset for my foray by the water's edge. There were a few people milling about on the sand, but, like any dedicated beachcomber, I ignored them completely, aware only of their voices drifting around me in the air, in that peculiar way sound is both muffled, amplified and scattered by the ocean's waves.

I saw only one other person by the water - a woman, perhaps Muslim, swathed in black veils, hunched down in the encroaching waves. She was staring at the horizon, her hands folded under her chin in a way that may have been praying. But, as I approached, she stood up and slid off in the opposite direction.

Communing with the ocean is often - and needfully - a very private thing.

I found very little... the beach isn't what it used to be, or, maybe I'm not what I used to be, lacking the awe and raw enthusiasm I had as child, when everything still seemed new and mysterious.

But, I did find one thing... it was sitting in the sand in the path as I was leaving... a rock, but a special rock, in that it was a chunk of beach marble, my favorite sort of rock, and one that I had collected in the past; a collection I had to part with during the course of moving a few months ago. It was like greeting an old friend, but, before snatching it up, I looked around to make sure I wasn't stealing someone else's treasure.

Anyway, above are scans of three faces of the found object. It isn't as silky-textured as the specimens I've found in the past, those of which have been smoothed and sanded by the salt-water for a longer period of time... (and, an example of which is posted below... my only remaining touchstone of that species). But, it's easy to understand why marble is so often the choice of sculptors. Maybe it has something to do with metamorphic process that marble has to go through, it's physiological history, that speaks to the artist. Or, maybe some rocks just happen to "speak" a little more eloquently.

Interestingly, the grey, striated beach marble I find, tends to have one or more roughly pentagonal faces; the pentagon - along with the hexagon - being a favored shape in the organic world, and for the sacred geometer and mason, a symbol of sentient life.

In the Disneyland world of a child's mind and the "primitive", everything is alive, has consciousness, and is sentient to some degree, even inanimate objects. In other words, all is "animated". But, this is still true in many worldviews, up to and including that of Shintoism, an ancient set of spiritual beliefs and practices of which a large portion of the Japanese population, essentially, still adhere to.

Animism is defined as the worldview in which "natural physical entities - including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena - possess a spiritual essence". I suppose, how one defines "spiritual essence" is where a lot of people get tripped up.

But, to the child, the primitive, the artist, the naturalist, the mystic, and even a quantum physicist or two, that quality we call "life" permeates existence... either it's everywhere... or nowhere.

When in doubt, listen to an eloquent rock.

2 faces of an old friend - 2009, DS (click to enlarge)


Bonus link (re: how to house a kami): the shrines of friend and art shaman, B. G. Dodson. Guess which one I own? :-)

(Hint: Ever notice how the Shinto symbol, the Torii Gate, resembles a modified giant Pi symbol?)


  1. Superbly unfolded with items meant to be found -- the connections to the transcendent past.

    Thank you for the link to my shrine page!

    I am off to the beach listen to rocks.

  2. You're welcome! I like the concept of shrines, and yours are very cool.

    Re: Shinto. I have long sensed that, genetically, I am probably more Asian than anything else.

    Re: rocks. Give them my regards! ;-)