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Perspective — the first gift of the sea

Before we left home for our trek to the beach, I wondered if I could leave all my duties and responsibilities undone for a week.

A miraculous thing always happens when we arrive in Avon, North Carolina.

My memory gets wiped clean.

I can’t remember what I had to do that was so important it couldn’t wait.

As I sit on the deck, mesmerized by the ocean, I try to remember.

What were those things I thought I couldn’t leave undone?

Perspective is one of the gifts of the sea, I think. 

The first book I brought to our new beach house was Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, the 50th anniversary edition.

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In the first chapter, she wrote, “The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books,  clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even — at least not at first.

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“At first, the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the seashore. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, and stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.

“And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense –no–but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind…”

“But it must not be sought for or — heaven forbid!– dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.

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“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.”

The bottom line of this blog is that I need to stay longer. A week is barely enough. I need to move into the second, third and fourth week to experience the awakened mind and to receive the sea’s gifts of patience and faith.

But, at least I’ve received the first gift from the ocean — perspective and forgetting home and all the seemingly important things that I thought needed to be done.

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Family

Left in the Dark

On Saturday afternoon I sat alone in our house surrounded by an eerie, totally unfamiliar kind of quiet.

The only sound I heard was Nikki breathing as he sat near my feet.

No hum of computers, no fans or air conditioning, music or television, no ringing phones or ice plinking into the freezer bin. No microwave beeps, no doorbell, and no air moving anywhere.

A surprise storm blew through Northern Virginia Friday night that brought at least 80 mph winds, lightening, thunder, and a deluge of rain.

credit: Leslie Perales

We watched the trees bend almost in half and gasped every time we heard a new roar of thunder or saw the house light up with lightning.

Trees were uprooted and dropped on decks, garages, porches, fences, cars, and lawns. Trees were split by either winds or lightening.

Our electricity flashed off and on, and then stayed off. As of now, it still hasn’t been restored.

Nearly 100-degree heat, high humidity, and no air conditioning.

We migrated to the basement until we couldn’t take it anymore.

Today we cleaned out the freezer and the fridge and got rid of all our perishable food.

When my sister told my mom about the storm and our loss of electricity, Mom said, “Just what I need. Another thing to worry about!” (Remember my mom is the world’s finest worrier.)

My sister said, “Mom, you don’t need to worry about her. She’s hot. That’s it.”

Precisely.

We’re not like the people we see on the news who have lost everything to fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and floods.

We’ve just lost electricity.

And, it will come back on.

Clearly we are uncomfortable, out of touch, and out of sorts without our cool houses and our cool technology. But, really, it’s nothing to worry about.

My sister is right. I’m fine. I’m just hot.

I also can’t blow my hair dry, cook dinner or keep food cold, but still, these are relatively minor things.

As I moved from one place to the next last night trying to find a reasonably cool place to sleep, I thought about how much I rely on the luxurious infrastructures of my life.

I have an interior support system with my faith, beliefs, values, people, and a positive mindset that keeps me personally propped up.

Then, I have the exterior scaffolding of my life like my home, car, food, water, and all my stuff, like my phone and laptop, washer and dryer, and everything that makes the chores of life easier.

When these infrastructures are disrupted, it’s like a major support beam of my life is knocked out.

Right now, my exterior infrastructure is down.

My family’s infrastructure is down.

So we’re dipping deeper into our interior support systems and relying on gifts of perspective and happy dispositions to keep us going.

We’re trying to make a mini-vacation out of this mini-disaster. We’ve played a few games, had some good conversations, laughed a lot, and had a slumber party in the basement.

We’ve also spent a lot of time in the car trying to get cool while we charge our phones for when we have a brief signal.

Life without electricity is less than fun, but it’s made me wonder — is the real disaster that we don’t know what to do with ourselves when the world goes quiet and the lights go out? Or is it that we are so reliant on our luxuries that we forget how much we appreciate them?

Or is it as simple as what my sister said? I’m fine. I’m just hot.