Thoughts at the Edge of Civilization

sitting place

This is where I sat for a good chunk of yesterday. On a rock.

It never got very warm, probably only in the forties. But the sun was shining and if you stayed still and let the sun work, you eventually heated up. There was no wind, which helped.

It’s not a particularly picturesque place. It’s just where I came to after walking the beach for an hour or so, letting the rhythm of the waves sink in and letting the clutter in my mind wash out with the tide. As things began to clear in that muddled muscle and it’s overworked grey cells, I just stopped and settled at the first good sitting place I came to.

I was probably there a couple of hours. I wish I could tell you I came to some great discovery or revelation, but mostly, I just sat. I watched the waves break on the rocks, each one tossing up a new masterpiece, fleeting and wild, of water lashing the grey stone, each wave a ribald dance, free, beautiful, and wild.

I watched the ducks, just beyond the outcropping. Like me, they weren’t going anywhere. They weren’t doing anything. I never even saw one of them dive down after a fish. They seemed content to just be.

There were two people, a couple, who were walking the beach. They started from far, far down, somewhere near the edge of civilization with its beach cottages and mansions overlooking the sea, and walked towards the point of land and stone I had settled on.

They were wearing bright raincoats. Two shades of yellow.  They were in love. Trust me, I know the signs, even from a distance. I’m there myself. Each time I turned and saw them, I smiled.


It’s a different thing, loving someone and being in love. There’s a joy in it, a ridiculous, wonderful, vibrancy. And they were there.

They got almost to the stones and turned back to civilization.  Alternately playful and intimate, I heard their voices fade into the distance as they grew smaller and smaller. Other than the two of them, I was alone the whole time.

Staying still is hard for some people. They always have to be moving, doing, taking care of something.  I am not one of those. It is easy for me to be still, to be silent. I think sometimes that I am wired for it. Being seems to mean more to me than doing.

Peace is important to me. It always has been but ever since my divorce, it has become even more important. The woman I love believes it’s trauma from that time that has made my need for peace so strong. She may be right. It could also be an evolution, a lesson of age about what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve lived much of my life in a high stress, high stakes kind of place.  I am tired of that, or perhaps beaten up by it. I’m not so worried about the why.

I am content to simply know what is.

At one point a seagull came and sat on a rock next to me, cocking its head as if wondering what strange appendage had suddenly sprouted on his rocks. Deciding I was harmless, he stayed a while, primping his white feathers and soaking in the sun, letting it settle on his back.

I can remember, when I was about 12 and my grandfather, my father’s father, was teaching me to hunt. Grandaddy was a wizard with a gun, a magician, able to hit anything with anything.  It was a little spooky how good he was and the men in who worked in the fields with him would sometimes challenge him or take bets that he could or could not hit some far distant creature. I am sure he missed now and again, but to hear those men talk, he never missed. He was so good he was something of a legend locally.

I never took to hunting. But something he told me has stayed with me all the time. “Never shoot at what you want. Shoot in front of it. Let it come to you.”

It worked in hunting. I can tell you that. Catch an animal running and shoot just a bit in front of them and it’s like they run into the bullet. It’s weird, shooting into air and hitting an animal. Strange magic. I hated it. It fascinated me.

But that phrase, let it come to you, remains with me. I’ve learned that if I stay still, things come to me. I can sit in a place and wait, and suddenly I begin seeing pictures, photographs, sometimes dramatic ones. Not in the seeking, in the waiting. There’s magic everywhere. Most of us are too busy moving to see it.

I sat. I did not think. I just sat. I emptied out. I breathed in and out with the waves. I disappeared to myself.

I had come to the coast because I was stuck, and I wasn’t even sure how or why I was stuck. I have been less than happy with my work, although it goes well. I do not see my future, which is rare for me. I am in a holding pattern, and that is not my nature. Some casual conversations with the woman I loved about goals for the coming year had triggered something. My problem was not a lack of goals, it was too many. I felt a need to whittle them down, and did not know where to start.

The way that works best for me is silence and stillness. That’s the introvert in me, I guess. I can function just fine in madness and crisis. But that is not where I find answers and grounding. I find that in quiet, and in my sixties, I have come to find it best on the coast, where things are stripped to sand, sea, and sky.

The answer came to me. I had fallen into a trap that I had fallen into before. It was not the answer I thought I would find or the answer I was expecting to come from my questions. But as I sat on the rocks and the chaff flew from my life, this kernel remained.

I have work to do. But I know what the work is. I don’t have far to go, just a little mid-course correction.

That’s why I seek the silent places. To let the answers soak in before the questions overwhelm me. Maintenance work.

I left the rocks without the answer, however. It took time to soak in. I went to a coffee shop, the only place open in off-season, evidently. I read a bit and sipped a strong cup of coffee. I stared out the window to the sea and let the answer come, the words of my grandfather echoing in my ears.

“Let it come to you.”

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Stillness. The only way I can survive, and thrive. Unfortunately, so many people simply don’t understand the need to be still, be silent, and just be. Makes it hard, sometimes, for those of us who cannot live without it.

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