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.