Sail Away, Sail Away
The idea of a message in a bottle has always intrigued me. Imagine – your thoughts, a piece of you, encapsulated in glass and riding the currents of the ocean, floating and bobbing through the glittering blue-green abyss like a tiny toy boat, until the Universe decides it is time for it to be discovered. You decide what to write, what to express, and the forces of nature will determine who will be the lucky recipient of your message. Perhaps it will be someone in the next city, or halfway across the world, or no one. Perhaps it will be tomorrow, or 10 years later, or never.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Several years ago, when my friends and I were younger and a bit cash-strapped, we became more creative in our pursuit of fun. We didn’t have as much money to spend on entertainment, so I compiled a list of potential “Random Adventures” that were free or cheap to pull off and, frankly, more exciting and rewarding than going to the movies or a club or an amusement park. One of the Random Adventures on my list was – you guessed it – sending our own message in a bottle. So my friend and I composed a letter briefly describing ourselves before offering warm tidings, words of inspiration, and well-wishes to the finder. We also included an email address. Then we rolled up our letter into a tight scroll and slipped it inside an empty soysauce bottle.
It was a beautiful, breezy day in Santa Barbara, California. The warm sun kissed our skin and the wind tousled our hair as we walked along the pier, bottle in hand, inhaling the salty sea air. We leaned over the weathered wooden railing, each with one hand gripping the bottle. After snapping a few commemorative photos, we just held onto the bottle for a few sacred moments before ceremoniously hurling it into the ocean. And then we held our breath as we watched it dip and shuffle through the wavelets. We stood and watched for quite a while. What we had released to the whims of the elements was more than just a piece of paper in a bottle; it was a piece of ourselves. Who knew how far it would go? Who knew how long it would take?
Not very far. And not very long. From downtown Santa Barbara to Goleta, in fact. And it was discovered only several days later.
But we got a response.
Here is an excerpt of the email I received:
I only have a few moments to write as I am chasing the sun! I have been meaning to check in with you. I truly appreciate your message in a bottle. I was walking my dogs on the beach (which is where I am headed shortly). I noted that there was something on the shore that a few people had walked over top of. I think one person might have even kicked it with his foot. Perhaps that is what drew my attention as it was getting dark and the sun had long since set. When I approached it I spotted the cylindrical paper down the center. Ah! I said to myself. I picked it up and read the first words of your note “Dear Friend”. How sweet. You see, it was Valentines Weekend and my friends who are all in love and whatnot had other plans. No one but my dogs to keep me company. I continued reading your letter and called my sister-who had recently broken up with her love- and read your letter aloud to her. We were both comforted by your found letter on this most pressured day. You two sound very adorable. I really appreciate your entire letter and the purple ink is a nice touch.
You can’t imagine how amazing and gratifying it felt to receive the email, to read these words. Sure, the bottle may not have traveled very far or for very long, but it traveled to a person who needed it, who found comfort in it at just the right moment. You know that song “Message in a Bottle” by the Police? You know that line – “Sending out an S.O.S.”? In this case, my friend and I weren’t the ones sending out an S.O.S. with our message. It was the recipient who sent her S.O.S. to the Universe, and the ocean responded by delivering our bottle of love to her. Or so I’d like to believe =)
Somewhere, Beyond the Sea
I think in life, the actions we take – the way we express ourselves and contribute to the world – can only go so far on their own momentum. Then something else takes over, something beyond us, something beyond even the sea. The Universe, God, chance, destiny, karma. You can call it what you want, but the point is, a part of life is beyond our control, and sometimes it seems that these unforeseen results, these consequences that we could not have planned, were meant to be.
Don’t get me wrong – nothing will happen if you don’t take any action. We are the makers of our own destiny in that respect; it’s just that once we put our efforts out into the Universe, the Universe will orchestrate events in such a manner as to lead to a meaningful result. Sometimes it may seem that our efforts are futile, that the result is failure, or perhaps there does not seem to even be a result. But that failure or lack of activity may be the Universe’s way of stalling you while it orchestrates something even better.
Of course, there is also a flip side to that. When something beyond your control happens to you, the course of your life is set by which actions you decide to take to respond to it. An unexpected job opportunity abroad is offered to you – do you take it or stick with your current job? Someone rear-ends you – do you take out your anger on everyone else all day or remain pleasant? Etcetera.
And so I believe life is a cross-cycle of the Universe responding to our actions, and our actions responding to the Universe. Maybe it’s crazy to think that there could be some sort of meaning in that, but then again, I’m only human, and aren’t humans the only creature to question the meaning of its own existence? We live for meaning. We constantly seek understanding. But half the fun in life is the journey to find the answers, the luxurious unraveling of all the layers of all the events that build up to a moment, a moment where you go, “Oh! So THIS is what everything has been leading up to! Now it all makes sense.”