The day began with rain.
Not the downpour deluge of a strong and angry front, but the odd sometimes bright, sometimes rainy kind of morning. Not an auspicious start for my last day at the cape. So it was off to breakfast at Larry’s PX.
I had been going there three days so far, and evidently, three days is long enough to become a regular, at least in off season. Several people said hi, or nodded and smiled as I settled down to write a while and wait out the rain. The waitress asked if I wanted my regular, an omelet I had ordered the past two days. And she had not even waited on me those two days.
News travels fast in the off-season.
I ordered the omelet. I wrote a while. The sun came and went. The rain came and went. There was no predicting the day, so I headed out to the beaches to walk a while.
I am not one to pack for the weather. In fact, mostly I dress badly for weather. My theory has always been that mostly I am moving between a nice warm dry building to a nice warm dry car, back to another nice warm dry building. I can bear the minute of misery to not have to deal with coats and bulk and weight.
But for some reason, I had packed for bad weather, and I have been glad all weekend that I did. Layers of shirts and flannel and a big outer shell of a windbreaker and I was able to walk comfortably outside for hours.
For some reason, everywhere I walked Saturday had small boats and dinghies. Some pulled up safe from tides. Others were loosely thrown about, more victims of tide and weather than safe. Most of my walking was during lowish tide, and I wondered if the boats that lay so close to the water were strays, cut loose from their moorings that would drift away in next rising of the sea, or were they staked down, and would find themselves covered with salt water as the sea came in.
Mostly, the beaches were empty. Partially because of the rain and cold, and partially due to the season. At one point I came to a public fishing pier. It was set up for crowds, with picnic tables, benches and pay as you go binoculars.
All empty. I stayed there some time, watching the wood ducks and seagulls, and never saw a soul. Only my own.
I have been thinking these past few days. That’s what happens when you have little to do or see. You think. I thought some of the past. Things I’ve done well. Things I’ve done poorly. I thought about growth, and how for so long growth was forced on me by circumstances, but how as I’ve aged, I have slowly come to embrace it without the need for life to beat me about the head and shoulders to make it happen. I thought about my faith. My personal relationship with God, which as always been there, even if he and I have been contentious from time to time.
I thought about value. A lesson I often try to teach others that came back to haunt me the day before in a pair of art galleries. About how we often undervalue ourselves or our work, or how we value the less important things. About what self-value actually is and where it comes from and how we can develop a healthy self-valuing.
No answers, but that’s OK. Sometimes it is enough to figure out the right questions to ask and spend time thinking them through. For me, quick answers have rarely been the best ones.
I bought the clock in the picture above at one of those galleries. I can see it through the doorway from my desk, it’s pendulum silently moving back and forth. The time it tells is less important than the fact that it is, even now, a day and a few hundred miles later is rattling in my head.
There was, as there has been the past few days. Abstract beauty everywhere. Seaweed on the beach. Shells. Rivulets in the sand. The rise and falls of the ocean. Things without a clear meaning or description.
The weekend before this trip, I gave a talk on how to look at Abstract art. I talked not about trying to figure out what something looked like, but instead losing yourself in what it makes you feel, about allowing our emotions to see things instead of our eyes or our need to categorize things.
When you don’t know what a thing is, and just feel, there is no good or bad, no well done or poorly done. There is only connection. There is a conversation between our emotions and the art we are seeing.
That’s what these few days turned into. An unexpected, abstract conversation. Sometimes with myself. Sometimes with the landscape. Sometimes with my quiet God. What I did was not important. But the release and simple act of being was not merely relaxing, it removed any self-judgment, the worst and most brutal kind from my life, and in doing so, reclaimed a bit of my own self-value, a bit I had not even realized had slipped away.
All things end. It was time to go home. The clouds near the coastline were dark. And as it turned out, I would drive through rain and snow and sleet and rain again before I got home. There would be dinner with the woman I love, with friends. And then a long drive home into the night.
I don’t know if I am better off for going. Likely I am, but I don’t know how to measure such things. What I am is slowed down. What I am is living more abstractly, which for a chronic maker of to-do lists, is healthy. What I am, what we all become when we are removed from what is expected of us and get to just be, is more myself.
And that’s a good place to be. Always.
Be well. Travel wisely,