Thoughts: On Becoming a Beach Person

alone

I am sitting in a McDonalds in Northampton, Massachusetts. I will likely be here a couple of hours doing some work. Then I will head off to Cape Cod for a couple of days.

Originally I was supposed to go to Virginia on a business trip, but at the last minute, they had to put the meeting off. I suddenly found myself with three empty days. I could spend the days scratching for new work, or completing a couple of long term projects, or I could take them off.

I had a couple of free nights saved up from Hotels.com. I had some small projects I could do in the evenings and early mornings. And I have enough work lined up between now and the end of the year to pay the bills.

So I am sorta taking the days off. Sorta, because I will do a few hours of work here and there, but for most of the time, I’m going to walk beaches.

I drove down to Massachusetts after church yesterday and spent a few hours with the woman I love. I went to bed early, without watching either the news of the NFL highlights that are part of my normal Sunday evening routine. After she went home, I read a while and went to bed early. Slept like the proverbial rock. Slept late (Late being 6:30ish for me). I will knock off a copywriting piece for an overseas client, and then head the rest of the way south to the Cape.

I have rediscovered the ocean.

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. We were a couple of hours from the coast, and a couple of hours from the mountains. For most of my life, I have been drawn to the mountains. In the end, I moved to Roanoke, Virginia, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and lived there for about thirty years. I vacationed in the mountains. My ex-wife and I honeymooned in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I have spent a lifetime hiking mountain trails. I have spent many a day simply climbing a mountain, and resting and writing on the summits, the world spread out below me. I have savored thunderstorms dancing between the peaks. It is not that I did not like the beach, it is just that the mountains held something for me that I could not explain.

When I moved to Vermont, I was glad to see that I would be in the mountains again. In fact, geographically, Southwestern Vermont is very like where I came from. It was comfortable. It was familiar. I felt at home almost immediately.

Spiritually, the mountains were a good place for me. One of my favorite bible verses is Psalm 121:1, “I will lift by eyes to the hills from when cometh my help.” And living in the mountains, that is how I felt. I felt like I was in a living cathedral, where everything lifted my eyes upward towards God. It was easy to be spiritual there.

Beaches? They were OK for a visit every few years and to get a really good tan, but frankly, they did not do much for me.

The woman I love adores the beaches here in New England. They energize her and bring her an inner peace. I never got it.

Until last March.

Last March I needed to get away. I had a book to finish. I was kind of overwhelmed. I was fighting a hard bout of depression. So I booked a few days in a B&B in Provincetown, at the tip of the cape and off I went.

Driving in, I stopped at a town called Brewster, and the tide was out. I could walk out on the sand for a long way, more than a mile, maybe two, until I was surrounded on three sides by nothing but sand and water. It was cold, and off season so there were few people. After walking a while, mine became the only footprints in the sand. There were a few chunks of driftwood. Nothing else but the sound of the ocean waves.

It was sublime.

Those few days were spent writing in the morning, and walking the beaches in the afternoon. For the first time, I started to understand what other people had told me they felt when they went to the beach. My soul quieted and fell into the rhythm of the waves. I felt eternity around me. The stuff that had been rolling in my mind fell into perspective without my having to work at it. I could just be and it just happened. Oh, and I finished my novel.

This will be my second trip to the shore since then. Always in the off-season. I like the quiet. I like the loneliness. Even with someone at my side, I feel that peace. I feel a strange power of possibility. I still don’t get it completely. I can’t explain it well yet. But I do know it is a good thing. Healthy. Nourishing. Joy-filled, without effort.

I seem to have become a beach person.

I don’t know what that means. I don’t see a path to move there yet. It’s expensive and there are few jobs. Some of what I do I could do from there. Other parts would be hard to do there. And I have responsibilities here in Vermont that mean a lot to me.

But I do know I love it there. I will be going back again and again, whenever I am able. Whenever the woman I love is able, she will be with me. And I will stand on the sand.

And simply be.

In most places, I have to work to be. I’ve worked at meditation. I pray a lot. I’ve worked at finding peace in a world that is often not the least bit peaceful. I am always having to work at it. I’ve not yet gotten to a place where I just AM peaceful.

At the beach (in the off-season), it just happens. It’s like magic. And I have no idea how or why.

And I don’t care. Some things you just accept and give thanks for.

We don’t have to know the details.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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