Once upon a time, I walked a wave swept rocky shore. All around were salt and sun and the grinding mutter of stone on stone on stone. No one but me and the restless wind and the endless sea. There on the narrow margin of rounded cobble and worn ledge, there among the twisted strands of kelp, I spied a green glass bottle. On that wind swept rocky shore a fragile green glass bottle cast up whole along with shattered beams and boards and plastic Clorox bottles.
I was young and believed in magic and pirate treasure and so I stopped and picked it up, picked up that fragile green glass bottle there on the wave swept rocky shore and sure enough, curled up tight inside the bottle was a message. A message in a bottle come to me there on that lonely shore. A message come to me against all odds and across the wide and endless sea. A message rolled up neat and safely sealed in a green glass bottle, sealed and set upon the wild and empty sea, set free to travel all this way to me.
Of course I ran, ran straight home to show them all the bottle that had come to me, a message in a bottle from some unknown distant shore. We held it up to the light to see the message curled inside, curled up so tight like a caterpillar in a green cocoon. Carefully we uncapped the bottle and I leaned in to breath deep the air of mystery it carried. Carefully we unrolled the message and our heads bent close to read it.
An address, all the sevens crossed and angled. That much was clear but not the words. Not French, not Spanish, they said. Maybe Italian. So we all trooped out to find an expert, a sage, the wise woman who would read the words and make the message clear. The message that had traveled all this way to me.
We found the wise woman in her cabin by the sea, tending her herbs and flowers. She set out tea and magic cookies for us to eat while she found her glasses and peered deep into the green glass and smoothed the message flat on her ancient kitchen table. We brushed aside the cookie crumbs and held our breath and listened while she pieced together a story of a Sunday drive, a field above the wine dark sea, a picnic, a wish breathed into the last bottle, and write and tell us where you found our message, then the address in Rome.
Of course they laughed. And I felt small, small and broken as the scattered cookie crumbs.
A message in a bottle?
All that way?
What are the odds?
So they laughed and I slipped the message back inside and set the bottle on the shelves of treasures in my attic room. There among the old bottles, worn coins, polished stones, and a rusted candle mold. And there it sits now forty years later on a dusty barn board shelf in my parents’ attic.
And sometimes I wonder what might have happened if, what would have happened, what other I might tell the story of a message in a green glass bottle cast up whole on a wave swept rocky shore.