Sand, Sea, Sky…Life

Posted: 23 February 2011 in Love.
Tags: , , ,

At lunchtime today, I went for a run on the beach.

(Sorry.  I don’ want to rub that in since chances are good that you are ensnared in the clutches of a particularly enthusiastic winter, but mention it I must, as it’s what inspired this post.)

I usually run from my condo building to the sea grass-tufted dune past the third lifeguard station and back, but maybe because my energy was on the low side this afternoon or maybe because the tide was a bit high, forcing me to run on more loosely packed sand, or maybe because the public beach was crowded due to the warmer weather and I had to navigate around the architects of sand castles and the stooped over seekers of conch shells, I ran there but decided to walk back.

For me, walking along the beach, any beach, is one of the great pleasures of life and I hope I never take it for granted.  I was walking fast, trying to keep my heart rate up, but I paused to chat with two little girls cowering before a spiky white shell of a deceased puffer fish (or at least we think it was a puffer fish–I’m no expert) and after I continued on my way I slowed my pace.

All manner of shells were scattered along the beach and everyone seemed to be scanning the shore for that perfect specimen.  I studied the sand as I went along, too.  I noticed how instead of shells on one part of the beach, the sea washed up sea grass instead.  Enormous green-brown clumps of the stuff, like wet tumbleweed.  Peering into the water, it looked striped, milky blue nearest the shore then a swath of brown where the sea grass seemed to be collected, then a green like dusty antique glass bottles.

In a few minutes I hit a stretch of beach so littered with shells that it made me think of a city street following a ticker-tape parade.  The shells crunched under my feet as I passed by a trio of Amish girls in long, plain cotton dresses and white bonnets engrossed in unmolding their castle-shaped sand pails and passed through a dozens-strong flock of nonplussed royal terns, who looked as though they were posing, as if thinking they were so cool with their spiky black feathers and orange beaks.  Way cooler than those nerdy seagulls.  Another glimpse at the water and the pelicans here bobbed on the waves in between diving for lunch.

At last, I looked up.  Like, at the sky.  I only did so because I had work to do and I had started to think about getting back to the apartment; I was only checking to see how far away I was.  When I did notice the sky, however, it made me stop and really wonder why I was always looking down.

Odd to say, but New Yorkers don’t look up often.  We have places to go, things to do, and we don’t have a whole lot of time to take in the scenery.  We study the sidewalk as we bustle along, raising our eyes at intersections to check the traffic signal or to see if it’s safe to jaywalk.  We generally don’t acknowledge passersby because there are too many of them and what’s the point, anyway?

The sky in New York is something to be glimpsed between skyscrapers or, if we crane our necks, to searched for way above.  The sky is almost a novelty to us, so that if we find ourselves at Central Park at night, in a spot where there’s a bit less light pollution, the sighting of a few stars is a true and remarkable wonder.

On the beach this afternoon, when I looked out over the Gulf of Mexico and up at the sky, I didn’t actually see much.  It’s a warm but foggy day, and the gray density recalled smoky bars frequented during my youth, but I made an effort to move forward looking up and ahead of me instead of concentrating on the detail of the sand beneath my feet.  The fog was such that I couldn’t see the red roof of my building, but still I kept myself from reverting to my downward gaze.   I took a deep breath, filled my lungs with the fresh sea air, and not only did I feel better, but corny though it sounds, I felt stronger.

So okay, overwrought metaphor in three, two, one…

Significant Other Ken and I moved here to Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida, almost two months ago and, for me, the transition has been a bit tough.  Like Ken, I love the weather, I love the beach, I love the more laidback lifestyle, but I do miss my friends and we haven’t met many new people yet.  I miss calling up a writer friend to go check out a reading or calling another to grab a glass of wine at the end of the work day.   And not knowing where to go–whether for quality olive oil or literary fiction or shoe repair–throws me off more than I’d’ve thought.

There are other things, too, all of which sound similarly trivial, but the point is that those things don’t much bother Ken because he is looking up, looking ahead, blue sky or fog, whereas my focus is on the ground, watching for the sea grass that may tangle around my ankles or the sharp points of broken sells that may jab the soles of my feet.  The more I look, the more I see things are different, yet that was the point of this move:  we wanted different.

I expect the answer to getting through this transition falls somewhere between Ken’s big picture and my small one, between belief and skepticism.  Because to characterize the solution as optimism over pessimism is too simplistic.  For all of us, going through any change in our lives, it is a balanced attitude that will save us.

When I run on the beach tomorrow, though I will feel the give of the damp sand and the shells beneath my feet, I promise myself to keep my chin raised and my eyes trained on what lies beyond.

  1. khalsaken says:

    Hmm… you may have just had an “aha” experience. I love the metaphor about looking up and gazing down. It doesn’t much matter which way you look as long as you balance up and down. In the end, we will see what we’re looking for.


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