Stone in My Pocket

December 2, 2008
By Brigit Carlson, Brielle, NJ

Lifeguards defy death on a daily basis. We plunge headfirst in to raging seas that would make an atheist pray to pull people out of the grasp of the waves. We go in with every intention of coming out alive, and having a breathing victim in hand. We don’t question or think, we act, we do, we save, we believe, we trust. We put ourselves at the mercy of fate and the ocean, and trust our lives in her fickle hands. We walk the tightrope between life and death every day.

If anything, being an ocean lifeguard has taught me the fragility of life. In one moment, one wave, one loss of footing, I could be dead. I could join the mass of souls lost at sea. Every summer, the sea tries to take the lives of thousands, and as a lifeguard, it’s my job to take them back. Where the line between life and death lies has always been a question for me. Most ocean lifeguards are superstitious, myself included, wearing Jesus, Mary, or St. Christopher around our necks. I often find myself praying to St. Christopher when in a near death situation, and I often wonder if it’s really him stepping in between myself and fate, or if it is my own indomitable will that gets me out of those situations alive. I wonder how often I have crossed the line between life and death, but made it back again.

I have lost track of how many lives I have saved at this point, but I know I have saved my own. From the first time I realized just how fragile life is, how evanescent it can be, how it can be taken away at a whim of the ocean, I have tried to live my life more fully. I have tried to savor every moment I am given, to truly indulge myself in being alive, because in an instant, it can all be gone.

I still plunge headfirst into the raging seas though, St. Christopher about my neck, resting on my heart, keeping me safe. I still wonder where that line is too, the line between life and death, and I still wonder how often I cross it, and if there will be a time when I don’t make it back. But for now, that is the stone in my pocket, unyielding and cool.

The author's comments:
The question supplied for this essay was a quote, a particularly powerful one, which I am including here.

"Using the quotation below as a jumping off point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world:
''Some questions cannot be answered./ They become familiar weights in the hand,/ Round stones pulled from the pocket, unyielding and cool.''1
- Jane Hirshfield, poet, Princeton Class of 1973"

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!