I love how my body changes when I am at the ocean. It slows down; it finds a rhythm that is not dictated by alarm clocks, appointments, or obligations. There is the beating of the surf against the sand, yet it is calming, unlike the beating of my head against a wall. The body that hides under baggy chinos and tee shirts finds its way into a bathing suit, showing the hard won muscles developed from running many miles on pavement. My feet ache and sigh as they use muscles to adjust to the shifting sands, one moment soft and giving and another hard from the pounding surf. As I run, I find my breath, my heart beat as they take on the same tempo as the world around me and I no longer find a need to listen to music, to block out my thoughts, or to monitor my progress. I just run. And in one direction, I feel like I could run forever, with the wind at my back, and the sun glinting off the waves. As I reverse direction, the headwinds batter against my body, reminding me of the power of nature and I have to bow my head in reverence as I make my way back, slower and no longer with forever in my mind.
I love how my pace changes when I am at the ocean. I feel like I could read book after book and I could be a writer if only I lived right here, at the ocean. I take my meals whenever my body calls for sustenance regardless of time. And an early evening glass of wine or a rare microbrew seems normal, and not a guilty indulgence. My wardrobe simplifies and I find with the ocean air seeping through the screened doors and windows, I don’t need extravagant lingerie, just me and a cotton sheet seems enough. Comfort trumps fashion and I find so many more uses for a baseball cap as it protects me from that windblown look that never looks the way it did on Bo Derek or any of the other beach beauties. For that matter, beach beauty is not a label I feel obligated to live up to. When I’m at the ocean, walking the beach, I become unassuming, perhaps easily taken for a local with my natural ability not to flaunt, never needing to call attention to myself or feel a need to compete with nature. I blend in and that seems like the natural place to be. At the ocean I don't disappear, I become part of what is.
I love how I am inspired to turn a cartwheel when I finally take in the place where sand meets water. It seems like the right extraordinary thing to do. It reminds me of what I did as a child, as a young adult and it astonishes the people around me that at 52, I can still execute a pretty respectful hand-hand-foot-foot pinwheel. I now wonder at what age will I be forced to give up that tradition. I know it won’t be because of embarrassment, but because of physical limitations. I will have to put more emphasis on the other traditions that I have mastered, such as the power of insight or sight. Within minutes of walking on the beach I find some treasure, often the first to uncover the perfect, unblemished sand dollar, or a perfect hat shell or a treasure carried from a distant shore. My eyes have always been trained to see the hidden secrets before the rest. It never does much to talk about what I might find, because talk is cheap. The treasure hunt is a nice reminder that it is what you do, not what you say that matters. And in the case of a treasure hunt, I have a respectable batting average. I'm a doer not a talker.
I love how time is different at the ocean. It rushes and stops and barely moves and stops and starts again. The late afternoon, when the mist and clouds have finally dissipated, it feels like the heart of the day. The sunset glows and lingers and then it is gone, leaving on nights like tonight, the blue moon in its place to coax funny creatures onto the sand in their own original moondance. The wind whips and batters and makes you feel as if your bones will never warm up and then they do and you wonder what it will take to feel another cool breeze and then it comes and you wonder why you can’t live here all the time. I wonder if one ever gets used to having sand in between their toes or lingering on the soles of shoes or within the cuffs of pants. I put aside the foundation, the eye shadow, the lip liner, and opt for lip balm instead. I wonder if my inner beauty really shines through or if the ocean makes me not give a damn of how ravaged and reckless I look. Perhaps ravaged and reckless is the new me.
I love how the ocean makes me feel like I have a future, a future not tied to stocks and bonds, or strategic plans, but rather to a destiny. I no longer have to make my mark, but simply live in the mark that this wonderful world has already made. I wonder how the locals really feel after all of us vacationers, three-day weekenders and interlopers leave, making our way back to the rat race that we call home. Perhaps they are relieved, but maybe they are panicked, living the same life as the rest of us, wondering where the next paycheck is going to come from. I wonder if a place can heal you or if a place is simply window dressing to what is already inside? Perhaps we should still send people to the seaside for recovery in order to restore their strength, good health and general constitution. Let the ocean be my constitution.
I love how the ocean always leaves me with cold feet and how the fantasy of a foot massage and nice cozy slippers is the perfect accompaniment to nature’s bounty. And why stop with the foot massage? Let me find strong, yet gentle hands to continue the journey to my calves, hamstrings and lower back. My spine relaxes and my shoulder and neck, slightly warm from the sun, welcomes release from the tension that is me. If I lived at the ocean, perhaps I would hire a masseuse and treat myself to a pedicure more often than the one-time a year I do now when I finally convince myself that I deserve it. The ocean makes me feel like I am deserving, not just sometimes, but all the time.
I love how the ocean makes me hopeful, wistful, and peaceful. For in my life, the tide has been out for a very long time and it takes the cyclic nature of the ocean to remind me that a low tide is always followed by a high tide. You can map it, you can schedule it, and yes, indeed, you can count on it in the same way that you can count on a blue moon. And that is something I so very much want to believe in.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012