Walking solo along the ocean’s edge, during a recent trip to a family gathering spot of thirty something years, garnered some serious reflection. I should mention that this trip proceeded a dodged bullet with my dad’s health and proceeded the entering of my next “half a century.” Both events had been dots on my horizon, to grow brighter when one really dwelled on them and to wane as they were repressed by daily life and its plethora of distractions. Either way, in my mind and in my own reality, they were to occur years from now. As we all know, we have no control over time and somehow it seemed to speed up and I was now sitting on the precipice of facing aging, if only by a number and mortality, with my dad’s health crisis. Both situations eliciting change, that double entendre word that can be a positive as well as a negative, either one usually inciting fear and nervousness concerning what lies at the end of it.
As I walked with my thoughts, they seemed to create their own swirling conversations that mimicked the scattered little paths of water finding it’s way back to the body of the ocean, changing the topography of the sand covered landscape.
The tidal pools that had formed, reflected not only the brightness of the beautiful blue sunlit sky but my thoughts, as they flowed from one topic to the next. The ocean has a way of doing that, of making one think deeply when gazing into it, feeling in awe of their life and the life around them. As the water swirled and twirled, carving out new paths to the ocean, my mind took me back almost twenty years to when I was at this very same spot. Not solo as I was now but with three of our five children who were jumping carefree into these tidal pools with abandon. We have been coming to this island for over thirty years, and in that time, this landscape has been a constant. the people who have gathered here, year after year, have been a constant. Brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, then spouses of those siblings, in laws of those siblings and eventually children…lots of them, twelve boys and two girls. This has become the favorite place on Earth for this gang of overly energetic males and one “loves the solitude” female. Nell is too young to share her opinion yet, but I have a strong inkling that she will follow suit.
Year after year, we have taken a family photo, under the same tree, of whoever is able to come down for Easter. From the years of the little ones in tow to the current day. The one above is about 14 years old and the colors have seriously darkened but you get the gist.
This one is from last year when all five of my siblings were present and their families, although the youngest of the brood had to bolt for his little ones had melted. We remember those days!
Unlike the overly energetic boys that vacation here, it is a place of quiet, where we follow the ebb and flow of the tides and the rising and setting of the sun. There is no boardwalk, there are no stores, no entertainment except what you take from the ocean, the food we prepare ( for we are all a little food obsessed and often before you have finished breakfast the question, “What is for dinner?” is asked. It might be served well after the sun is set but is served never the less) and the people who are here. This is the thought that caused me to stop walking, to take a seat on the edge of the vast ocean whose rhythm you could pretty much set your clock by. Unlike this unchanging ocean, which has crashed upon these shores year after year, our lives are changing. The kids are growing up. Some will be absent on these trips as they are now immersed in their own lives which does not entail or allow the travel and time off to come down to this gathering spot. Life certainly changes when your children who have LIVED with you for twenty some years become visitors. Parents are aging, we are aging, life is fraught with change, for the good and the bad but change never the less. My hope is that with this change, my children encounter more good than bad, full happiness, success and lots of love in their own path, whatever that may look like for each one of them. That they may someday come back to this sense of place with their own children because they too, feel it in their bones.
As I looked out again with hazy eyes upon the ocean and the beauty before me, it validated my thoughts that to deal with the changes in my life that are present and will continue to occur, celebrating the beauty of life as it is now, in this moment, is where it is at. To grasp these moments more intensely, to feel this beauty to the core, to celebrate the everyday moments even though they are changing. The people around me, imperfect as we all are, are integral to this. People who are strangers to one another or mere acquaintances, can we all impart an air of genuine interest in another versus indifference?
I know all too well that when bad things happen, things we have no power to change, the emotions that accompany them can suck so much out of you. Beauty is not noticed, apathy sets in and life is not experienced the way we should be experiencing it. Things become route, we go through the motions, maybe keeping so busy that the darkness which we are running from does not swallow us. If you ever find yourself there my friend, keep moving, you will outrun it…by continuing to create beauty and love in your life. By opening those eyes, truly opening them to give gratitude to what IS going right with your life, the good in your life, for there is always good…you just might need to focus on it and train yourself to do so, instead of miring your thoughts in the muck.
As I began my walk again, with my eyes wide open, the largeness of the beauty was not lost on me but it was the small beauties that I was noticing, that truly caught my attention. The footsteps that someone before me had cast on their own walk of thoughts, for that I am sure.
The clarity of the creatures who were so brilliantly illuminated in their crystal clear pools of water.
The dried out species whose ghost like images created art in the sand.
These small and brilliant notes of beauty would have been lost on me, twenty, ten and even five years ago, unless they were pointed out by the child of whose small hand I would have been holding, keeping he/she distracted from joining the bobbing heads already in the water and to whom I was mentally counting continuously. Sunscreen, towels, wet clothes and “who has Christopher” were the order of the day so that one of the non swimmers did not end up floating in a tidal pool…it has happened… thankfully only momentarily, or swimmers but not strong ones, had to be rescued from walking to No Name island which happens to look a lot closer than it is. This stage of life that I am in now, causes me to be nostalgic for the past but also allows me to walk ALONE on this beach and see it from a different perspective, to truly take in it’s small treasures and see them… and life from a different viewpoint. Alone time is something that you also acquire as your children grow up. Alone time that we once begged and prayed for, that can now leave us too much time with our own thoughts. What is it all about? this thing called life? We are often caught trying to figure it all out and have spent so much time dwelling on it that we have not truly lived it.
As I journeyed towards home and two houses full of our own kind of crazy lovable family members, my walk was halted yet again, as my eye was caught by a lone sand dollar in the sand. As I took out my phone one last time, I held my breath as I was about to snap this last photo of beauty. This phone was giving me way more than it had given in the last month on this walk, for it is old and needs to be replaced and keeps greeting me with a “no more room” message as I go to take a photo. I was sure, as I zoomed in on each and every photo that I took on this walk, that I would be greeted by that message and would have to walk home without a record of the beauty I was noticing around me. I pointed, clicked…
got the photo and was greeted by the message, “no more room.” How apropos and fitting that the last photo I was able to take was of a sand dollar on Good Friday of Easter weekend.
Thank you for reading my rambling missive of life upon entering my next century. As you finish, I wish you all, your own sense of place in this big, wide beautiful world. A sense of awe and wonder and never a blind eye to the good in your life.
Sincerely, 50 is the new 40