Typically, when we are at the beach it is a huge time of creative bursts for me. I get up before dawn and listen to the waves crashing and write poetry and blog posts, feeling overwhelmingly inspired, feeling the undeniable drive to write and share my thoughts. I had hoped this trip to the Emerald Coast would be the same, but it turned out to be something quite different. I have felt off-kilter, ambivalent.
We came to Seagrove Beach hurting, needing to be healed by the sun, sand, and ocean, the always dependable medicinal trinity. We found such a different experience this time, though, for better or for worse. We used to go to the same beautiful condo on the beach year after year, where we would sleep and wake to the sound of the waves crashing, having a private beach to sit under a one by two to evade the sun and contemplate the world. This time we wanted to bring Marley, so it was more difficult to find a place right on the beach that we could afford.
We’ve not had the beach time we usually do because of the incredible crowding; it feels like spring break out there, with people packed tightly under brightly colored umbrellas and loudly partying. After our experience with COVID-19, that was the last thing we had hoped to see. We walked and walked until we found a small empty space of sugary sand and stayed for a little bit to watch the pelicans and gulls, wading out into the warm water. I couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. Too much frenetic energy all around us, too much unsettling news.
We’ve found different ways to enjoy these few precious days of vacation; walking Marley early in the morning before the Florida sun made it unbearable for her, taking long rides on our bikes away from the crowds, walking the beach in the evenings after they had emptied. We spent time in our little beach cottage, talking, reading, and resting; a wonderful time of connection.
Change has always been difficult for me, Oh, I have thrown myself into major life changes (kicking and screaming) throughout my life, but my gut reaction is always to shy away from anything that is different from my well-worn routine or the expectations I have set in my mind. Dan has been good to help me try to shake that mentality, but still we laugh when he suggests a new way of doing something and my blocking defense kicks in first thing, right on cue. This trip has been good for me in that way, helping me to shed what I thought our beach experience ‘should’ be. ‘Should’ and reality are often quite far apart in life after all, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
And now, Tropical Storm Cristobal is bearing down on us, forcing us inside as we watch the roiling ocean and blowing palm trees from our vantage across the street. We’ve decided to head home a day early (if we can get the car loaded in the torrential rain) to try to out race the worst of it. And yet again, change is reminding me who is in charge (and it’s not me).
As we walked the finally empty beach yesterday morning watching the storm come in, Dan told me how much he loved feeling the shifting sands underneath his feet as the waves recede into the ocean. When he said that I had a sort of ah-ha moment, finding that to be the perfect metaphor for life right now- I feel like I’m constantly standing on shifting sands. I thought that we could run away from the stress and sadness of the world with a few days of beach time, but you can’t run away from life, can you? We are living in such extraordinary times, and change is chomping at the bit, ready to run no matter how tightly we try to hold the reigns.
As for me, I am ready to run away to home. Having the anchor of Chez Gainey will help me feel not quite so adrift in this sea of conflict and worry. I’m grateful for these days at Seagrove Beach with Dan and Marley, grateful to reconnect with this beautiful place…and now I will be grateful to be back in our funky old home where I can continue to think through everything and try to open my heart and mind for more change as best I can. Thank you yet again to the ocean for more lessons that I needed to learn to -if not embrace change, at least understand that it will happen in its own way and time and not according to my personal script. So much wisdom in those eternally crashing waves.