29 July 2023

There's sea glass love that few will see

Until a few years ago I had never heard of sea glass. I probably had seen sea glass before but had never thought twice about these glass shards. I was more interested in shells. A friend from another century who makes ornamental jewellery as a pastime, not for sale but for gifting, told me that she picked up sea glass from the beaches of Maine, USA.

It was later that I actually saw sea glass on a beach. Walking along the shore in Mirissa, I saw my daughter picking something from the sand. ‘Sea glass,’ she told me. By that time she had also taken up the fascinating art of making jewellery out of all kinds of odds and ends, sea glass included.

Thereafter, whenever strolling along a beach, I would look for sea glass. Invariably I would collect at least a handful. Not being artistically inclined, I didn’t know how to differentiate ‘nice pieces’ from those that she would ‘reject.’ I didn’t know what sizes and shapes made sense to this jeweller who would spend meticulous hours turning out earrings and pendents which to me seemed beautiful.

Being ignorant, I picked them all, simply because my crude filtering may have very well discarded something she could have worked on and kept something that was, in terms of her craft, too crude.  

I didn’t know then that sea glass takes anything from 20 to 200 years to acquire its characteristic texture. Now that I know, I am sure the next time I pick one of these small green pieces of glass I will study it more closely.

Twenty to 200 years. I can’t wrap my mind around these numbers. How much life must have passed before each piece landed on some shore, I ask myself now.  What signatures of history have been inscribed upon them, in what languages?

I can’t read them. Just as I can’t read the stone that has become a paper weight by decree of a writer. I don’t know where it was picked up from, whether it is part of a bigger rock or whether it was crafted in some manner.

It has character. Theoretically all things do have character; all things are signatured, if you will. Only, we don’t bother to take notice. We don’t bother to read. We don’t bother to decipher.

A geologist would shed some elemental light on this object that is not the subject of these reflections. Black with white strains. Layers and layers of meaning. Just like a mountain. Just like an epic narrative. Just like someone’s life. Someone’s death. A country. A community. A household. All layered. All made of ‘stones’ that have multiple stories made for as many or more  interpretations.

Why this shape and not some other? Why these and not other angles? Why black and white? How did these whites ‘cut in’ the way they did? And that’s just the visual aspect. There's also texture. Different textures in different parts. How did it turn out the way it did?

A geologist would give a plausible answer to each of these questions. Then again, if rock is a metaphor and so too size, shape, weight, texture and colour, then it is not just an inanimate configuration of nature, but a metaphor for almost anything.

There’s sea glass all around. We don’t see. Even if we do, our eyes move on to things that are of more prominent dimensions. There are rocks like that. People like that. There are backstories and histories, again unseen and if seen brushed aside.  

Sea glass jewellery. Sea glass people. Sea glass schools and syllabuses, legislators and constitutions. Sea glass earth, wind, fire and water. Sea glass politics. Sea glass lies. Sea glass love, too. It’s there on the shores we walk on not know that there’s play of sand, wind and water across time. It’s there but we don’t see. It’s there, seen and ignored. It’s there, seen, picked up and misread.

We are a species that will not observe and yet insist on judging. We miss the sea glass and therefore our descriptions of the shore are invariably incomplete and skewed. We don’t see certain faces and those that we do see we misread or read not at all.

We can’t pick up all the sea shells, all the sea glass and all the driftwood and other things that make ‘a beach,’ sand included. It is easier to let the gaze sweet across a landscape quickly, note the unmistakable lines, colours and shapes and use these to paint the picture, ‘The Seashore.’ But there’s art that’s unnoticed. There’s poetry that will not be read.

We could be so much richer, but it is the generalised poverty that we seem determined to embrace. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below] 

Other articles in this series: 

Re-residencing Lakdasa Wikkramasinha

Poisoning poets and shredding books of verse

The responsible will not be broken

Home worlds

Ownership and tenuriality of the Wissahickon

Did you notice the 'tiny, tiny wayside flowers'?

Gifts, gifting and their rubbishing

History is new(s)

Journalism inadvertently learned

Reflections on the young poetic heart

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga 

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down) 

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred 

Manufacturing passivity and obedience 

Precept and practice 

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited 

In praise of courage, determination and insanity 

The relative values of life and death 

Feet that walk 

Sarinda's eyes 

Poetry and poets will not be buried 

Sunny Dayananda 

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990) 

What makes Oxygen breathable?  

Sorrowing and delighting the world 

The greatest fallacy  

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi 

Beyond praise and blame 

Letters that cut and heal the heart 

Vanished and vanishing trails 


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya 

The soft rain of neighbourliness  

The Gold Medals of being 

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri 

All those we've loved before 

Reflections on waves and markings 

A chorus of National Anthems 

Saying what and how 

'Say when' 

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra 

The loves of our lives 

The right time, the right person 

The silent equivalent of a thousand words 

Crazy cousins are besties for life 

Unities, free and endearing 

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!" 

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

The revolution is the song 

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins 

The day I won a Pulitzer 


Ella Deloria's silences 

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness 

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable  


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan 

Enlightening geometries 

Let's meet at 'The Commons' 

It all begins with a dot 

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation 

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone 

On sweeping close to one's feet 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts... 

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm 

Who really wrote 'Mother'? 

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing 

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed 

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember 

On loving, always 

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal 

When you turn 80... 

It is good to be conscious of nudities  

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday  

There's a one in a million and a one in ten 

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California 

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature 

Pathways missed 

Architectures of the demolished 

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts 

Who the heck do you think I am? 

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha' 

The Mangala Sabhava 

So how are things in Sri Lanka? 

The most beautiful father 

Palmam qui meruit ferat 

The sweetest three-letter poem 

Buddhangala Kamatahan 

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello 

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership 

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked 

Pure-Rathna, a class act 

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna 

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other 

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles 

Matters of honor and dignity 

Yet another Mother's Day 

A cockroach named 'Don't' 

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth 

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara 

Sweeping the clutter away 

Some play music, others listen 

Completing unfinished texts 

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn 

I am at Jaga Food, where are you? 

On separating the missing from the disappeared 

Moments without tenses 

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have) 

The world is made of waves 


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller 

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya' 

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist 

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses 

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced 

Some stories are written on the covers themselves 

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature 

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time  

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie 

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists? 

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords 

The books of disquiet 

A song of terraced paddy fields 

Of ants, bridges and possibilities 

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva  

World's End 

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse 

Street corner stories 

Who did not listen, who's not listening still? 

The book of layering 

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain 

The world is made for re-colouring 

The gift and yoke of bastardy 

The 'English Smile' 

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5 

Visual cartographers and cartography 

Ithaca from a long ago and right now 

Lessons written in invisible ink 

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness' 

A tea-maker story seldom told 

On academic activism 

The interchangeability of light and darkness 

Back to TRADITIONAL rice 

Sisterhood: moments, just moments 

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging 

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha 

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows 

Sirith, like pirith, persist 

Fragrances that will not be bottled  

Colours and textures of living heritage 

Countries of the past, present and future 

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched 

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains 

The ways of the lotus 

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace 

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville 

Live and tell the tale as you will 

Between struggle and cooperation 

Of love and other intangibles 

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions 

The universe of smallness 

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers 

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills 

Serendipitous amber rules the world 

Continents of the heart
The allegory of the slow road