“I hope you still feel small/ When you stand beside the ocean…” –Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”
With no work, and no friends to spend time with, I headed to the beach today. I have been alone a lot lately and am trying to work up the courage to go and do all the things that I want to, despite the fact that I have no one to come with me. After getting up, I decided the longest day of the year and the first day of summer deserved some time in the sun. I planned to go read, listen to the waves, enjoy the sun and then run my weekly errands. Because I am me, things did not go that way.
About fifteen minutes after settling down in the sand, taking pictures of the rolling waves, Murphy’s Law caught up to me. Miscalculating the speed at which the tide was creeping in, I was not quite quick enough to pick up my things and got much, much wetter than I had planned. So I headed back, sandy and wet, fully clothed, with a very heavy towel. As my face heated and shame settled in for my stupidity, I remembered why exactly why I went to the beach.
I looked around at all of the people. Some sunbathing, some walking, volleyball players and cyclists. People come from around the country and world to see the beaches here. All different shapes and sizes soaked in the sun, enjoying summer’s emergence from hibernation. People didn’t come here to judge me and my wet pants. People watching is part of a day on the boardwalk, but it’s not why we go to the beach. There are so many weirder, louder, more baffling things there than a girl who’s wet. While I was uncomfortable and sandy, the anonymity of crowds gave me a little bit of dignity back.
I went to the beach to enjoy the beauty of it, but also to get perspective. The waves crash in, spreading along the sand, drowning out talk. They come regularly, rhythmically, always. The water stretches to the sky, and beyond. Turning my back on the boardwalk, it is easy to forget that yards away are homes and hotels; the ocean becomes consuming. The sky and sun cover the sand, uninhibited and free of power lines, overpasses and towering buildings. The sand stretches out to the piers, and deep into the water. It continues deep beneath the small indentations my feet make. The tide smooths it, erases the messes people make, leaving sparkling perfection. The ocean is too big, to the point of inducing anxiety. My heart races when I think of how small I am in comparison, how easily I could be lost if I went out there.
And it is comforting. I am small. I am young. I am transient. The ocean in huge, old, permanent. It doesn’t waiver. The tide comes in and goes out every day, waves continuing their predictable dance. Waiting to hear about this job is easier. The cruelty of my acquaintances, whom I misjudged to be friends, is trivial. My loneliness is lessened. We are all small. I remember why I live in this city, why I struggle and stress over money in order to live here. This is why I miss my family, why I miss friends, why I stayed behind. Sitting small in the warm sand, I remember why I love this city. Everything else, everything that isn’t warmth and refreshing and huge and enveloping melts away.
“You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?’
“They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.”
—The Shawshank Redemption