An old man and a young girl sat on the seawall watching the sea as the tide slowly moved its way up the sands of the beach. They often sat thus enjoying the sights and sounds of the sea and the warmth of the sun. The cry of the gulls overhead added a plaintiff counterpoint to the energetic voices of the waves.
“The waves are VERY pretty today, Grandfather.” The little girl said after an especially large wave crashed onto the sand.
Looking down into the deep brown eyes he loved so dearly the old man replied, “Yes. Very. Can you show me what a wave is like?”
Her smile lighting her face with a radiance he could never tire of she jumped from the low seawall onto the sand and began to draw a picture with her finger. Smiling in his turn the old man watched as she drew two sides of a triangle the top of which was curved and leaning sharply to the left.
“Very good! But that is what your picture of the wave looks like. Can you show me what a real wave is like?”
The girl’s smile began to pucker and pull sharply to the left, not unlike her drawing, as she pondered the question. Suddenly, with a giggle she jumped to her feet and danced about raising her hands slowly over her head and making a ‘doosh!’ –ing noise as her hands came down to the sand at her feet.
“Wonderful!” the old man laughed, “But that is how the waves make you feel when you watch them. There!” the old man suddenly pointed out to sea, “Can you tell me what THAT wave is like! The little girl turned but as she looked the wave curved and crashed into itself dissolving into foam.
“Its gone,” she said with frustration, “it was too quick.”
“Come here,” he called as he helped her back to her seat on the seawall. “Can you see another wave out there that was just like that one?”
She followed his gaze to the many waves making their way to shore and looked for a moment before saying, “Grandfather! You know they are all different, like snowflakes, only snowflakes all have six points. Why do snowflakes all have six points?”
The old man smiled strangely as though a half-sad thought had crossed his mind and said, “Snowflake questions are for winter. When winter comes again you can ask me. Right now we are talking about waves. Okay?”
Brushing some sand from her sundress the little girl said, “Okay” snowflakes all but forgotten.
They sat quietly as the waves tumbled and sparkled in the sun then the old man commented casually, “They ARE all different but one thing stays the same for all the waves.” She saw his eyes twinkle a bit as he turned to her, “Can you guess what it is that doesn’t change?”
Her mouth found that familiar pucker again as she considered the riddle. The wind changed direction on a whim and carried some salt spray from the tumbling surf to where they sat on the seawall. The droplets settled coolly on their faces and bare arms. She looked down at her arm now sparkling with wavedrops and her face lit suddenly with realization.
“They are wet! All the waves are wet!”
When the old man laughed this time it was deep and resounded with his warmth and love toward this young girl that so centered his life. “Yes!” he laughed, “Wonderful! You got it! No matter what shape or size or color or temperature, or whatever, a wave is always water, it is always WET!”
The little girl laughed with her grandfather for a moment and then he spoke again, “Do you know what that is called?”
“Some people would call that Suchness.”
“Suchness? THAT is a silly word!” she said with an odd tone of seriousness as though the silliness was somehow her grandfather’s fault. “’Suchness,’” she repeated as though testing the shape of the silliness. “What does it mean?”
“Yes, it is silly I suppose. It is an old word. It’s like this: Everything that you see, hear, feel, taste or touch or think about in your life is like the waves, always changing. Some things change quickly like the waves or the wind and some change slowly like mountains or the stars in the sky at night but everything changes.” Touching her nose with his finger he continued, “Even people! I was once short and young like you but day by day I grew bigger and stronger and maybe a little smarter until I was grown like your mom and dad and then eventually I grew old. Every day was full of changes … I guess they still are. But the thing is no matter how much everything changes there is something that is at the middle of each thing that never changes, something that makes them what they are. That thing is ‘suchness.’”
“Even ME?” she voiced with wonder?
“Especially you!” he replied touching her nose once again.
“Tell me! Tell me! What is my Suchness?” she cried as she pulled on his arm with playful desperation.
The old man laughed again with that warmth that always made her feel safe and said, “No no no … that is like you standing in the kitchen and calling out to me in the bedroom ‘Is the kitchen light on?’ If you are standing in the kitchen you are the one to know if the light is on. You just have to open your eyes!”
“Grandfather, I don’t understand.”
“I know Grand Daughter,” he said as he gently stroked her small head with his aged hand, “so here, here is a clue.” And he gently bent and kissed her softly on the forehead.
Snuggling close she hugged his arm and said softly, “I love you, Grandfather.”
“Ah,” he replied gently, “I can see the kitchen light from here.”