We went to the beach last week. I took a day off and did one of the few activities that is safe as well as one that truly feeds my heart and my soul. It was a Tuesday afternoon after an overcast morning with a chance of thunderstorm later in the day. I was betting that those three factors would work in our favor to keep numbers down. I wasn’t wrong. Everyone could keep socially distant, the water was calm and while it was the ocean, the beach was in an inlet so calm.
I had to drag my son, unwilling to break his routine of swim team in the morning followed by video games and YouTube the rest of the day. He finally agreed to go, but assured me he would not, under any circumstances, swim or have any fun whatsoever. It wasn’t the start of my much-needed day of fun in the sun and ocean that I so needed for my soul.
Needless to say, he was the first one in the water and the two kids got me to spend three hours in there frolicking with them. We all came home with burnt shoulders. We all slept well that night and a few nights that followed. My face finally has some color to it. My hair smelled of salt water, reminding me of the day, so much so that I didn’t want to wash it off.
I noted to a colleague that it was the first time in a long time that my kids seemed genuinely happy.
I took a day off, finally. I needed to take a step back, but also a step away. I don’t hike, I don’t have a bike that has gears so I’m limited to relatively flat surfaces and it is shockingly hilly where I live, I still haven’t been able to swim, but even swimming doesn’t have the same effect on me as going to the beach and getting into the ocean.
When my daughter was not that much younger than she is now, when she couldn’t sleep, I would narrate visualizing the ocean with her, recreating one of her favorite moments when we lived in California: going to Laguna Beach, walking down the street towards the PCH and the shoreline, coming up over a small hill and seeing the ocean unfold in front of us. The smell of the water. The sound of the waves. The breeze in your hair. The warm sun on your face. The hot sand between your toes. The cold water splashing up your legs until you are brave enough to dive into a wave.
And you feel safe and warm and loved.
I need to be by the water. There is no other place I would rather be, that grounds me, that gives me peace, and lets me relax. I prefer the ocean, even if I grew up right next to a lake, so a lake will do in a pinch. Rivers are ok, as long as it is wide enough (or rough enough) that it would be challenge to swim across. That’s my standard – if I feel like I could easily swim across it, it is not vast enough to swallow everything I carry with me and can let go of into the water. Small bodies of water will not wash away the world, at least not fast enough so that I may enjoy the day.
If I am too far from water for too long, then I forget that feeling of peace, forget that there are places I can’t swim through and so just must enjoy because it will hold me and carry me and I can float. Where I can rest.