What is it about water? Why are we so fascinated with it? We pay a premium to live by water. We go to places just because we want to be by water. We must drink it daily, use it to clean our bodies, baptize our babies. We listen to it, gaze at it, touch it, smell it, taste it for purity.
The water calls me. If I wasn’t so happy in my rural home in the foothills of the mountains, I would be where every moment of the day was accompanied by water. Fortunately my morning walk is beside a lake and I have moments to breath in the beauty.
The ocean calls me. I need time by the vastness of water, looking out to see nothing but water and sky. Every year I find a way to be renewed by the salt and sand, sky and starkness. It is the starkness of only water, sand, sky that I crave. The stripping of life to only the essential elements that renews my soul building it back from the foundation stones of existence.
For the first time I have come to the ocean alone. No children to play in the sand, no friends to share the experience, no husband to walk hand in hand on the beach. Just me. I have to be with the ocean. I’m using the excuse that I need time to write and I do. But it is the longing of my soul for the primordial water to cleanse myself in the salt water, like cleaning a crystal, an act of life-affirming renewal.
I’ve come to this same little borrowed hideaway for many years so I have my routine. The first morning is a long walk around the pristine neighborhood, seeing my favorite houses, hear the clang of metal against metal of the sailboats. This morning I walked out the pier and saw a solitary dolphin fishing for its morning meal. Every few minutes the fin or snout surfaced and I had a moment of joy.
I headed to the beach to read, walk and bob in the water. It is September so there are families with very young children and retirees, the people that are not bound to school schedules. The weather although still hot is not as intense as a month ago. I feed the parking meter and gather my chair and beach bag with the essentials: sunscreen, drinks and koozie, snacks, books, towel and phone. I alternate between reading, walking, swimming and just looking at the waves.
The water is just cool enough to be refreshing without any need to slowly get wet. Sometimes I face the vast distance and watch the birds skim across the water. The pelicans with their prehistoric silhouettes come in twos looking for fish. The seagulls fly just above the surface in large groups making the sound that is so familiar at the beach. Their squawk is as essential a sound as the crashing waves. Sometimes I face the shore with the colorful umbrellas flapping in the breeze and the colorless sea grasses nodding in agreement.
I’m not the only one who craves the ocean and aloneness. On the mantel of the cottage is a slim book, a book I had been thinking about for the last couple of week. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is a small book of wisdom and comfort for the inner life. Anne deeply craved solitude, her life of celebrity, family and personal tragedy left little time for quiet. In a two week trip to the beach alone, Anne wrote this treasure that has comforted women for decades.
Every chapter is telling a very familiar story woven around the beauty of shells on the beach. Anne needed time alone to sort out who she was from the world around her of demands and schedules. She voices the truth that so many of us share. Quiet, alone, solitude are not experiences to be shunned but moments to be savored as gifts to yourself so that the voice of your heart can be heard.
“Woman must come of age by herself…
She must find her true center alone“
“Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid.”
“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson