Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starfish Thrower

I did manage to abstain all of Monday but we went to some friends' casa for dinner last night and the moon was full in the sky above, and the breeze was soft as we dined alfresco in their courtyard kitchen. It was a night made for wine. So I had four glasses and then after a moonlit stroll home I had another totally superfluous glass. Yes, I drank more than I had allotted myself but I didn't reach my definition of drunk and I didn't wake up with a hangover. No hangovers since New Year's Day is a small success but I'll claim any success I can. I abstained again tonight. I really, really wanted a drink at from 4:00-6:00 pm but I kept my hands busy and made a list of why I wanted a drink and another list of why I shouldn't have a drink and the nays won tonight.

You all know I do a lot of talking to my co-writer (GOD) but during my most desperate nights I talk to everybody I know that has "crossed over," pleading for their intercession. The one person (are they still called persons when they're dead) I couldn't talk to for years was my mother. Even though she supposedly can see what goes on down here, I was too ashamed to talk to her. My drinking escalated greatly after my mom died. Not because of grief but out of a sense of freedom. My Mom was kind of my super conscience. I always worried what my mom would think. Too much,actually. So when she was gone so were a lot of the restrictions I had put on myself. I couldn't "talk" to her because I couldn't bear her disappointment in me or my disappointment in myself. I eventually got over it. I know she worries about me but I know she's there to support me and give me strength too. I know this all sounds crazy but I think I got a message from her today.

I was walking our stretch of beach this morning and I decided to poke around a new batch of rock that was uncovered by the uncommonly low tide. The cap'n I used to do this regularly in the Bahamas and after the hurricanes we found old coins and all kinds of assorted treasure. (Don't tell the Bahamian government). My treasure hunt this morning didn't turn up any bootie but I did find a starfish that had been marooned on the beach by the low tide. It was still alive so I picked it up and flung it back into its salty home. It reminded me of a story the priest told at my mother's funeral. He said Mom was a starfish thrower. You have probably heard this story but it's a good re-read.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, a scientist but also a poet, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrased.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man's actions represent is something that is special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.

And that is your challenge. And that is my challenge. We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, I have no question that the 21st century is going to be a wonderful place.


A lot of the time I wonder if I should be writing this blog. What is its purpose? What is it supposed to be teaching anyone that reads it? Certainly not how to manage their drinking successfully since I obviously haven't figured that out for myself. Maybe I'm supposed to keep writing it because if even one person feels less alone in their struggles, it has made a difference. I hope so.

Thanks,Mom! Love You!


  1. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

    One person does feel less alone in their struggles, and it has made a difference.

    Thank you!!

  2. Kary May, I know this entry is over 3 years old (I just discovered your blog yesterday thanks to Belle's blog), but I just wanted you to know that I am so glad and grateful that you wrote during your moderation/management attempts. As someone who has struggled to string more than a few days together several times (but I'm trying again!), I can say for sure that you have made me feel less alone, and given me soooo much hope. Thank you!! You're awesome!! (And I love the "starfish thrower!" That's a new one for me!) :)