Our eyes were searching the sandy beach, hyper focused on the grainy landscape looking for tiny bits of plastic. Normally our attention would be on the glistening waters of Puget Sound, but on this day we were more concerned with pieces of styrofoam, plastic straws, and cigarette butts hiding between chunks of driftwood, aiming to grab them before they were snatched by the next high tide and carried out to sea.
If that doesn’t sound like a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, I beg to differ! My daughter and I had been volunteering at beach cleanups around our part of western Washington for several months and found an oddly satisfying zen quality to the quiet pursuit of tidying our beaches. In fact, we would get so absorbed in our efforts that before we knew it the event would be over. Organizers were calling in volunteers to record and weigh their hauls and we felt we had barely scratched the surface.
Two hours is a pretty typical timeframe for a beach cleanup – after all, people want to help, but they’re also busy and any longer might discourage participation. But two hours was never enough for us. We were always the last ones in, and left a little frustrated at the trash we knew we were leaving behind. You know what’s funny about that sentence? The fact that we somehow felt we needed permission to pick up trash.
As strange as it sounds, it actually took an ah-ha moment to realize that we didn’t need permission. If we wanted to keep picking up trash on our own, we could! In fact, we could decide on any given day to go out to any public beach, river or lake of our choosing with our trusty trash grabbers and buckets in hand, and get to work. We could also stay as long as we wanted. Ah-ha!
We somehow get conditioned to thinking that we need permission to do good, or that only certain people can make a difference, but I am here to challenge that thinking! I am here to tell you that (aside from private property or sensitive protected areas) you do not need to ask permission! This realization marked the beginning of our trash cleanup program. We even added on-the-water cleanups from our kayaks!
I remember another time I felt the rush of freedom in realizing I didn’t need permission. It was when we had taken ownership of my grandmother’s house after she died. The nearly 100-year old craftsman had been sitting vacant and alone on a stunning piece of property with sweeping views of the Puget Sound. It had three-quarters of an acre of land that I had roamed since childhood. It needed a lot of work now, but my grandma’s house had always been magical to me. Any sweat equity I put into that house to make a sanctuary for me and my children was a pure labor of love.
I love to work outside! I love flowers and ponds and paths and vegetable gardens, but for the first year or two I think I felt that somehow that property wasn’t mine. I kept the lawn mowed and the yard tidy, but I clearly remember the day that I had an image of the yard I envisioned, and the sudden realization that I could create it. I didn’t need to ask permission – the only thing standing between me and the lush, enchanting landscape I dreamed of was the misplaced notion that I needed permission. I plunged my shovel into the rich dirt and started digging.
That property became a refuge and place of pure joy for me and my children. It was filled with fountains, overflowing flower boxes, hummingbirds, golden sunflowers, and deer who came to get drunk on the overripe apples that fell from our trees.
I believe we likely feel we need permission to do a lot of things in our lives. If you ever get a pang of sadness when there is something you want to do, but don’t feel you can or should, ask yourself if maybe you’re waiting to be given permission. Just maybe your passion or purpose lies on the other side of realizing that you were intended to step out in courage.
There are things in your life that make your heart sing. There are projects you’re waiting to start, causes you’ve wanted to volunteer for, good that you want to do. You were meant to do those things, to leave your mark, to place your unique stamp on life.
I’m here to say, permission granted!
With love and possibility,
Tracy Strandness, Owner/Founder