Midlife. I never understood or imagined how I would mourn the loss of what was effortless in youth. But it happened. I was suddenly unrecognizable to myself, not just visually but energetically. Have you ever felt that? It’s scary. The upbeat charisma I previously called upon so often was no longer available. But this was state of mind that the story of the seashell rose emerged…

Imagine an island with turquoise ocean waters and sunny shores dotted with treasures. An island lush with tropical flowers and birds. The vibrancy almost indescribable. Days were warm and balmy. The women of the island always walking and talking…-mothers, daughters, sisters, friends- … from sunup to sundown could be seen with wind blowing through their hair as they gathering pristine seashells along the shore. It was an art; a skill; a worthy hunt for this celebratory island.

Perfectly coiled shells were prized and sought after.Wading and swimming and diving to find the best was a good day’s work. Everyone oohed and ahhhed as the finder of the prized shell burst the seashell through the water and raised it to the sun. Cheers and praises were frequent and laughter a way of life. It was an endearing ritual rich with beautiful connection to nature and each other. Each night there was dancing and eating, with flower and seashell garlands strung for all to admire against the flickering flame of the campfire.

Year by year the routines solidified and grew like roots of a mighty tree. It was glorious until the day everything changed. The wind blew and a chill was in the air almost as if the sun was hidden behind a cloud. Even the stars seemed distant. There was a cosmic shift in the air, the ocean and the sky unusually solemn. The waves were moody and battering upon the shore with vengeance. The sea still yielded the seashells, but they were broken and disintegrating. There was a looming sadness for the loss of what had been. Because of this the nightly gatherings became rare. There was a sense of panic in the air and fear the underpinnings of each conversation.

Where were the flowers? Where were the pristine shells? Everyone wondered who had brought this curse upon them.

Little Sahalé, a beautiful island girl was born the year the islanders referred to as “the shift”. She was 5 years old now and had never experienced the celebratory rituals but she had heard stories of the perfect days of flowers and seashells. Legend has it that it was the night of her grandmother’s 55th birthday. She wanted so badly to bring the coveted flowers & shells so she roamed the shores for hours looking and longing, bargaining with the sun and sea like a forgotten princess.

Just after low tide, the sun was gleaming on the broken shells on the shell mound. She reached down to dig for something better and gasped at what she saw. Several broken conch shells stared back at her. The broken disintegrated shell revealed the beauty no one had ever seen. She rubbed her eyes? Is this a trick? Is this true? The broken shell looked just like a beautiful sculpted rose. It was only after the outer shell was missing that the intricate swirl of the rose was visible. The most beautiful part was not the outer perfect shine, but the inner. This was the magic.

She gathered shell “roses” and made a “bouquet”. She was nervous but confidant as she ran to the family gathering. She watched as everyone gave gifts. There were carvings and combs for hair and baskets woven with palm. She presented the rose shell bouquet to her grandmother and saw the tears rolling down her face. This bouquet brought warmth to her grandmother and to the all of the islanders.

Her grandmother said “It’s true that the change brought mourning, but change also brought new understanding and a whole new way to see what has always been, like the perspective of the seashell rose.

There is value in the shifting ocean waters; this shifting life. There is always value in us; around us; for us.

And the middle age women, feeling defeated in their searching for perfection, sighed in relief. The curse inside of them lifted and its place a magical warmth. The next morning the islanders roamed the shores gathering and admiring the BROKEN, beautiful seashell roses; the ones with the beautiful inner swirl.

And this is the beauty of menopause.