On an early morning in August, Derek drives to the beach at the mouth of Big River for the very low tide. He wades across the wide shallow river to the sandbar and crosses the vast expanse of sand to the edge of the sea; and as he’s watching the breakers crash onto the sand, a man appears beside him. The man is about Derek’s age, late sixties, dressed as Derek is in shorts and a T-shirt, stubbly beard, shining eyes, sweet smile.
“Hey,” says the man, speaking quietly. “How you doing?”
“Hanging in there,” says Derek, which is how he’s been feeling for a long time now, hanging by a thread.
“I hear you,” says the man, nodding. “Can I tell you something?”
“Sure,” says Derek, wondering if the man is going to talk about Jesus or ask for money.
The man takes a deep breath and says, “You’re a healer. Maybe you already knew that, but I thought it might help you if I said it to you. You’re a healer. You heal yourself and you heal others.”
Derek laughs in surprise and says, “Oh I’ll bet you say that to everybody.”
“I don’t, actually,” says the man, laughing, too. “I think that about everybody, but I rarely say it out loud. But when I saw you…” He shrugs. “I just had to. It’s true, you know.”
“I believe you,” says Derek, looking way. “I mean… I want to believe you.”
“But why not believe me? What’s in the way of believing you’re a healer?”
“Well… I’ve been feeling pretty fucked up for a long time now, and by fucked up I mean… not much good to anybody including myself.”
“I know how you feel,” says the man, nodding sympathetically. “I felt that way for years. Decades. But when I realized I was a healer, and I mean when I really accepted that I was a healer and not just hoping to be one, I saw that feeling fucked up was something I could work with, something I could dig down into and find what I needed to heal myself.”
“This is my quest,” says Derek, starting to cry.
The man puts his hand on Derek’s shoulder and keeps it there until Derek stops crying.
“You’re the healer,” says Derek, looking at him.
“You and me both, buddy.”
Time passes and they part ways and Derek gets lost in his thoughts and when he finally comes back to the present, the sand bar is shrinking fast and he has to swim across the river to reach the shore.
Back at his truck, Derek is wiping the sand off his feet when a woman and her young son walk by and the boy looks at Derek and asks, “Did you see any whales out there?”
“No whales,” says Derek, smiling at the boy. “But the clouds are spectacular today.”
And the boy looks up at the sky, and his eyes grow wide, and he says, “Oh wow. They are.”