Ceremony by Salt Water

cloud and shore

There is this.

The place we go when we seek direction, when we yearn to pray, when we need to be still.

We light a candle on the household altar, leave an offering at the temple door, place a kata around the teacher’s neck, slip into a pew and make the sign of the cross.

Something primal in us yearns for sacred space, a place set apart from daily life.

Some seek it in churches, in temples, in stone circles. For others, it is found in the borderlands, where water meets shore, or the threshold where forest gives way to meadow. For some, it is found under a wide open desert sky, scented by pungent sage, ferocious thunderclouds overhead.

Today, here, now, it is this place, this mudflat, this estuary, where fresh water tumbles into salt.


Fecund mud squishes between my toes, redolent of crab, clam, and salt. I hear a kingfisher’s rattling cry. Thirteen crows hunt for clams, others caw as they fly overhead. Sunlight sparkles on the water (She is here).

Sister Heron stands sentinel.

I roam the rocky beach slowly, picking up a sand dollar here, bits of beach glass there. (Oooo! A soft-edged piece of glass in aqua hue — my favorite! And here, a cobalt piece as well.)


Soon mud and stones give way to broken white shells that crunch beneath my feet.

white shells

I find a seat on a boulder encrusted with barnacles, and begin to make a pattern in the mud out of purple clam shells, open wide in matching halves.

I make a mandala, starting with the open clam shells in the east, south, west, and north.


I place a scallop shell filled with beach glass in the middle, to hold the center of the sacred circle.

I add indigo blue mussels in between the purple clam shells.

Wide open.

I whisper a prayer.

It is enough, this ceremony by saltwater. 

Nothing more is needed.

. . .

After awhile, I meander farther down the shore.

I squat at the base of a stone wave, carved by millennia of ebbing and flowing tides.

stone wave

I watch a crow hop up to me with an inquisitive eye.

He squawks.

His jet-black tailfeathers shine indigo blue in the noontime sun.

He doesn’t flee from me with the rest of his flock, but seems content to be my companion. My thoughts circle back to the guidance I am seeking. The crow hops near and peers at me, then squawks and spreads his wings, as if to underscore the faint glimmering of new ideas. Suddenly the pieces begin to fall into place. A pattern emerges from confusion. I smile and scribble down some notes.


Satisfied (or so it seems to me), Crow skips down the beach to join his compadres in digging for clams.

Thank you, Sandstone Wave.
Thank you, Crow.
Thank you, Kingfisher.
Thank you, my beloved Sister Heron.
Thank you, Lady of the Estuary.

So may it always be, this place, this peace, held fast by a mandala made of shells and tumbled glass.

This place, this peace . . . this stillness at the center of the spinning world.

8 thoughts on “Ceremony by Salt Water

  1. Hmm, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this sacred time, Joanna. And may the wisdom of Crow be with you always!

    1. Thank you CrowsFoxes! We’ll see if I encounter Crow in New Mexico as well . . . 🙂

  2. This is beautiful Joanna. I feel I am there with you. Picking up the piece of beach glass, smelling the mud and the air…hearing the crow’s ‘caw’….appreciating with deep gratitude the ‘wave’, the ‘She’s’…thank you for taking us on this journey with you…

  3. Lovely Joanna ~ This takes me back to my own beach walking days ~ oh so long ago, but really more like yesterday. I walked, I communed, I gathered flotsam and jetsam and bits and pieces of myself. I made friends with a sacred tree and even still have a jar of sacred sand ~ made that way by universal intention. I miss it ~ yet at the same time it remains a very present part of me. Thank you for the sharing.

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