Bad idea. It’s Friday morning and I wanted to get an early start on my weekend, so I took myself to the beach. I came before the crowds, hoping to get some writing in so I could go home and post something on my blog. What was I thinking?
I couldn’t take my eyes off the ocean. Today is another Red Flag day with huge, pounding waves, white foam spewing from the rolling breakers, the air filled with the briny scent of sea. A laughing gull soared overhead, a sailboat floated on the horizon, the bright-striped ribbon of a parasail in the distance, a dolphin fin broke the surface of the water. A lone grey gull meandered towards me, hoping for a handout, but I know better than to feed gulls (wish tourists did!), and he wandered off again. Two Navy jets, F-18 Super Hornets, screamed across the sky, followed a few minutes later by two more. The sound of freedom, as they say in this Navy town.
I put my notebook back in my beach bag. I couldn’t get the graphite to descend from my mechanical pencil anyway, no matter how many times I clicked it. I shouldn’t have kept it in the bottom of my beach bag; sand and mechanical pencils are not good company. I stood at the tide line, feeling the pull of the sand as each wave receded, pulling me deeper into the moment.
I went back to my chair, closed my eyes, and lost all track of time as I listened to the sounds around me: the whoosh of the waves, the squeals of the children as the cold water crashed over them (though my sons, used to Cape Cod waters would find our ocean perfectly tepid), the humming engine of a passing boat, the shriek of a lifeguard’s whistle. I opened my eyes and was surprised at how fast the beach had filled up. People had begun setting up their beach chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas close to me. Too close. I checked my watch, and with a sigh, packed up and headed for the car.
As I walked back, I thought of my t’ai chi instructor this week, encouraging us to do our t’ai chi breathing while we went through our forms. She said the forms didn’t have to be perfect, but we must remember to breathe and pay attention to our breath. “When you do that,” she said, “everything else on your mind, your worries, your anxieties, your busyness, will all melt away and you will feel connected to this earth.” My yoga teacher yesterday said essentially the same thing. When you pay attention to your breathing, it’s like meditating and you feel at one with yourself, not fragmented like you do when you are hurrying around trying to get things done.
I’m trying to be more conscious of that, the need to grasp that inner peace that eludes me if I don’t pay attention. This morning at the beach, it was like breathing in the moment. Next time I will come earlier. And I will bring more coins for the parking meter.