Beach Lover

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith.    ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh


I spent much of June at the ocean, visiting more times than I can ever remember visiting in prior Junes, or even whole summers. 

I am not a beach lover by nature.

I question why I bought a beach pass and when I visit, I sometimes wish that I was gazing at a towering mountain instead, or a wide open prairie with stalks of wheat bowing to the wind. 

I was born in the breadbasket of America, hundreds of miles away from fresh lobster and salty waters. There were plenty of lake trips, front yard sprinklers, and backyard pools in my childhood, but no landlocked water source could compare to the vastness of an ocean with  waves reaching all the way to the horizon. 

When I moved to New England, the ocean was an afterthought. I was coming for an educational adventure, and the coast was simply the setting for the plot line of my emerging adulthood. I had no personal connection to the ocean beyond one memorable trip to Florida that kissed me with a third-degree sunburn. 

My first visit to the local beach in Massachusetts was obligatory, and my first thought when my toes touched the Atlantic was "COLD. MUST LEAVE."

I had no trouble abandoning the shore for the woods around my school and the pastures of local farms and trustee-owned parks. There was plenty of good creation to savor beyond gritty sand and seaweed. Occasionally I'd go back to the ocean with other people, to wow an out-of-towner or throw around a frisbee, but rarely for very long and never alone. 

I'm not exactly sure when my feelings toward the sea changed, but I think it was closely tied to my first cravings for solitude and stillness a couple of years ago. 

When I first set out to spend time at the ocean, I didn't know what a proper "beach day" would mean, but I knew that I didn't want to be left wanting for activities, and so I walked to the shore with a 5 lb. bag of books hanging from my shoulder. Plus a journal. Plus some stationary. Plus a few snacks. That bag was my armor. "Things to do" were my defense against the fear of being alone, and worse yet, being unproductive. 

westbeach

I smile at that memory, and while I continue to bring a book or two when I go to the ocean, I know for certain that more often than not, the activities will be set aside in favor of simply seeing what is in front of me. In favor of paying attention. 

I know now that what the noise and chaos of everyday life takes away, the ocean can restore. My spirit, cracked by pain and dry from both giving and receiving, can come away from the tide filled up to the brim. 

The vast ocean still dwarfs me, but I come to feel small, to breathe wind that's wrapped the world and brought ships home to harbor. 

The open ocean still quiets me, but I come to be silent, to rediscover what is lost in constant, imperfect translation. 

The cold ocean still shocks me, but I come back to jolt my bones, to be chilled to a near-ache by a single wave of icy water. 

In spite of my upbringing, I have become a beach lover. Not by nature, but by necessity. 

May Day

Today is May Day!

Since I was a little girl, my mother raised me to mark this day with a special sort of joy.

The night before May 1st, Mom and I would fold lace doilies into small cones, staple a ribbon around the tops, and fill them with cut flowers, sometimes picked, sometimes purchased. 

On the morning of May Day, a few minutes before we left for school, I would run to nearby houses and hang the fragile vases on the knobs of our neighbors' front doors. The next time they walked outside, a little bouquet would greet them. Sometimes I'd even keep vigil at our front windows, squinting to see which neighbor would find our offering first. In my mind, we presented the greatest mystery of the year: who were these secret flower girls reminding the houses on our street that May had arrived? Now I imagine that they knew all along, and perhaps were keeping their own vigils from their own front windows, waiting to see if the little Palmer girl would come running by with a lace doily in hand.

I miss that ritual.

It denoted the change in season from winter to Spring, a time when our community would rejoice and encourage transformation by spreading seed on brown lawns and moving conversation out to back decks and front porches. We were shifting from our winter ways, but we didn't need a Hallmark holiday to make it happen. On May 1st, there were no specially marked bags of candy, no family parties, no obligation to send thank-you notes. 

This small celebration was all our own, just a mom and her girl, spreading beauty around the neighborhood in a simple way.

Photo by The 2654 Project

I left off right about here as I wrote this post earlier this morning, unsure of what it meant that something I loved as a girl has since been lost. I haven't made a doily cone since my wedding day, and though it would make perfect sense to spread a little springtime beauty around the dorm where we live, hanging flower baskets on door knobs hasn't exactly been at the top of my priority list. 

This afternoon, I got a call around 4pm to come by our Public Safety office. I could think of only a few reasons why I would get such a call, and most of them involved an emergency situation of some kind.

But it wasn't an emergency waiting for me at the office.

It was a bouquet of flowers, from my mom.

"Someone sent me flowerrrrs!" I cheered when I called her to say thanks. I rushed through telling her how I started writing this blog about our May Days of old, how I missed sharing that celebration of spring with her, how I loved that giving away bouquets was our unique way of marking beauty and celebrating new life.

"You're the only one I send May Day flowers to," she replied, and I held the bouquet a little tighter. I've set the flowers on the kitchen windowsill-where all cut flowers should go, in my opinion-in the hopes that whoever might glance toward our apartment over the next week or so will be cheered by ranunculuses and roses: small signs that Spring is finally, finally, here.

Today is May Day, and my mom and I keep vigil over it even now, in our own simple way.