Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Shore

"I could never stay long enough on the shore, the tang of the untainted, fresh and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought." ~ Helen Keller

I love the ocean. More specifically, I love the New England coast. When I was a child, the beach was a place we vacationed as a family once or twice a year. Memories of riding the waves with my dad, walking the beach with my mom looking for seashells, and playing skeeball with my brother on the boardwalk are as fresh in my head as when I was 10 years old. Even as a child, I remembered the thrill of smelling the salty ocean air from the backseat of our 1970’s style Chevrolet Caprice Classic as we descended towards our cottage or rental apartment. I equated the beach and the ocean with fun, love, and good memories.

As I grew up into an adult (for the most part!), I got too busy and too complacent to take the two hour or so hour trek (each way) to the shore on a regular basis. In my 20’s I would go with friends for the day from time to time and then when I got married, an occasional beach vacation would involve a trip to somewhere in the Caribbean. This is a great place to enjoy swimming in the ocean or snorkeling, but oftentimes, I need more than that from a beach trip. I need my New England coast…the crash of the waves on the rocks, the lighthouses, the sound of seagulls, the sand dunes, and even the seaweed. All the things that make it feel like home for me.

In recent years, I have come to have an even greater appreciation for the shore. I have found it to be a place of refuge, especially on the off season. I am not sure much of anything is more relaxing than walking a sandy beach without the crowds, the noise, or the blaring hot sun. I used to always go to the same beaches that I went to as a child such as Hampton Beach or Misquamicut Beach. Although I still enjoy both places, I have come to realize that I love so much more than the water and the sand. When my adventuresome side has taken over, I have found myself at places like Chatham, Gloucester, and Watch Hill. There I have also discovered my love for the scenery of boats, harbors, and lighthouses. I am partially attributing this to the generations of fisherman in my dad’s family!

So what is it about the shore that brings many of us such contentment and calmness? To start with, for me, it is all the senses being affected. I smell the ocean air. I hear the waves crashing. I see the beauty of the coastline. I taste the salt on my lips. I feel the softness of the sand on my bare feet. Every experience at the beach leaves me with a mental picture, one that I mentally recollect when I need it most. I have been known to pull up these shore images in my head during times when I have been in the hospital or have undergone a medical procedure. It helps me remove myself from whatever current unpleasant situation I may be in.

Being by the ocean (especially with a book to read or a notebook to write in) brings me a sense of serenity. Of course, this usually happens more often when it is off season or when there are not many people around. A transformation take place that I sometimes find hard to put into words. I don’t know if it’s all those senses being sparked or that the rest of everyday life seems so distant. I start to lose track of time. Two hours can seem like ten minutes. My mind stops swirling with all the things I am supposed to do. Pain and fatigue lessen. I can feel the mystery and history that comes with being on the New England coast and it takes me back in time. You can see it in the weathered look of the lighthouses. You can hear it in the whispering winds of the sea breeze. You can feel it as the waves crash at your ankles. All of this quenches my soul and ultimately renews my spirit. So after every trip, I store these feelings and images up as tight as possible….until I can make my next voyage to the shore.

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