A do over
Today I put my face to the sun and heard the waves crash. The tide was coming in, so there were actually waves. They came in a diagonal flow, each one crashing a second after the other. I do this every day. Even yesterday when the winds from the remnants of the tropical storm sandblasted my legs. I walked leaning into the wind so it wouldn’t blow me over. The return walk — with a strong wind at my back — was much easier than the walk at to the point.
There is a marina in the distance that I haven’t reached yet — still being a little too fearful to go that far on a beach that is generally empty with the exception of a few swimmers still enjoying the water for daily exercise. The runners and walkers generally stick to the neighboring nature trail, a much easier walk than the rocky shore line. I stick to that rocky shore, watching my every step to avoid the large rocks and driftwood, which I took a nice trip on last week. Is it a public fall if only seagulls are there to watch?
I notice the differences every day. One day there is a weird kind of seaweed everywhere. One day, there is a weird sea vegetable that looks like romaine lettuce. One day there is some sort of pink algae. The shells that are there are battered, seemingly from trying to compete in a body of water full of rocks. Some days I notice a sock or a bottle cap mixed in the rocks and sand. We are, obviously, only an hour or so from New York City. On clear days, you can easily see Connecticut or big ships in the distance. In the last few weeks of warm sunshine, the waters were equally filled with sailboats and fishing boats — some ignoring their work and some doing it.
One day the tide was completely out and I could walk out on huge sand bars further than most would swim. Just me and the seagulls. Several days have been downright warm. Warm enough for me to consider getting in the water. Several days have been brisk. There will be many more of those to come.
But the sea air makes you do one thing: breathe. The gusts force you to inhale. Which is logically followed by an exhale. The constant focus on watching the rocks beneath you is separated by the moment you look up at the open water and are forced to pause, partly because you don’t want to trip and partly because the vastness and beauty of the world makes you stop. It makes you stop. And breathe.
And the things that are circling through your brain — silly things, dumb things, inconsequential things, they slip away. I find myself thinking a lot about my kids. How grown up they are getting. How the younger mothers on the beach playground — desperately trying to wrangle a toddler and a newborn — don’t know how wonderful those moments are even when you feel like you might just lose it then and there. Hell, I never realized it. What I wouldn’t give to have a moment to play with my toddler son or daughter on that beach. If only for a day. What I wouldn’t give to bring them home all sandy and feed them lunch and put them down for a nap. If only for a day.
I think about how I get a chance to have a do over. We moved. Elementary school here goes to 6th grade. I get the chance to see my son and daughter walk hand in hand into their school for one bonus year. I think about how much I miss our friends. I think about how it is no easier to make friends at 41 than it was at 12 — mothers at school pick up are just as intimidating to me as middle school mean girls.
I think about the moments occurring right in front of me now. The seagull standing on one leg in the face of winds I am having difficulty walking in. The two women walking the other direction complaining about a former spouse. The old woman showering off after swimming in the Sound — her skin hanging in folds on her skinny frame, but not covering up the way I would.
I embrace the present, yet still worry at every turn about losing it. Both in big, quick kinds of ways and small, seconds ticking on a clock, living life kinds of ways.
I think about standing proudly in my bathing suit at 80 years old, shaking my head at the 41 year old me attempting to cover up her soft, smooth skin.