I woke this morning thinking of our family vacation to the beach this past summer. On our last day there, I walked out onto the pier to fulfill what had over the years become a personal ritual. Tucked into the back pocket of my jeans was a small glass bottle with a note inside. Nothing profound, just a few words that said I was here and that I hoped whomever would find it would be there. I tossed it beyond the tide and watched as it bobbed in the current and was then taken away.
I’ve done this every year since I was a child, and I will continue to do so. There is something inherently fantastical about a message in a bottle. That it could connect one human being to others is virtually impossible, most say. And yet history tells us different.
In 1784, a Japanese seaman named Chunosuke Matsuyama and his forty-four companions were shipwrecked on a reef in the Pacific Ocean. Shortly before they died of starvation, he carved their story on a piece of driftwood, secured it in a bottle, and tossed it into the water. One hundred and fifty years later, Chunosuke’s bottle washed ashore in the very village where he had been born.
And there was Thomas Hughes, a British infantryman who in 1914 wrote his wife a letter, placed it in an empty beer bottle, and tossed it overboard into the English Channel. It was found by a fisherman in 1999 and returned to Thomas’s daughter, Emily. She was two years old when her father went off to war, and never got the chance to know her father. Thomas was killed in battle two days after writing those final words. It was the only letter Emily ever had from him.
On their 1979 cruise to Hawaii, John and Dorothy Peckham spent their time putting notes into empty champagne bottles and throwing them into the ocean. Four years later, they received a letter from Hoa Van Nguyen, who said he and his brother had found one of the bottles while adrift in the Pacific attempting to escape Communist Vietnam. Hoa wrote that finding the bottle was an answered prayer and gave them the strength to carry on. The Peckhams wrote back and offered to help Hoa and his family escape to America. The two families met in Los Angeles in 1985.
Amazing, isn’t it? All of them.
That’s what I woke thinking. Just how amazing and wonderful it all is.
October 11 marks the official publication of my first novel, Snow Day. Those of you who have been gracious enough to visit here know about the story and why I wrote it. I won’t revisit that. What I will do instead is say this:
Today I am tossing a longer letter into a larger sea. I will spend the next long while watching it bob in currents made not of water, but of voices. I do not know where those currents will carry it or when or how far. But I have abundant hope that if need be, my little bottle will wash upon your own shores and offer whatever comfort and hope you need.
If that is indeed the case, then I invite you to toss a bottle of your own my way. Let us complete that amazing and wonderful circle and share our stories. We may in fact become convinced that life is more than a spattering of randomness.
That it is instead beauty and joy and a reason to smile.
My friends at Faith Words have been kind enough to throw me an online party to celebrate the official release of Snow Day. I would be honored if you would join us.
Visit their Facebook page here.
And follow them on Twitter here
Watch for the #SnowDayBook hash tag on Twitter for updates, trivia, giveaways and more surprises.
Updates will also be posted on my new Facebook page here.