Thank you, Teen Daydreamer, for this challenge. I first noticed it with Sophie’s blog about the color blue, and I have to admit, I thought, “What else can possibly be said about the color blue, even though I love it? But I went and visited the page, and I am glad I did. I encourage others to do so as well. I’m going with the Beach thing. Or as my friend Rosie and I used to call it, “Biker church.” (No, I’m not a biker, but I’ll explain that moniker in a bit…)
I was living on Long Island for about thirteen years. We moved there when my oldest child was about six weeks old, from Atlanta, Georgia. It was a move away from most of my family (though I had an aunt who lived in Brooklyn, she was a bit older than my father, and because she lived so far away and we never saw her often, we weren’t very close.) It was also a move away from all the friends I had made in Atlanta, and possible job prospects. In short, it had been something of a leap of faith, so to speak. Especially since I had misgivings about my marriage even then, misgivings I buried deep in my stubbornness. Long Island. I had a love/hate relationship with that place. The land was never the problem, except perhaps in winter, when I missed the sun.
For years, I focused on raising three beautiful children, making them my entire world, my reason for living even when I was miserable. There was quite a bit of driving involved, many music lessons and gymnastics practices and dance classes, and even ice skating at one point. And then there were the summers, when everything felt free, and we would go to the pool for a while… and sometimes, without even going home first, we would head over to Jones Beach, because it was late enough in the day that there would be no charge to park there, and we were already in our bathing suits anyway, so why not? I would drive to the beach often when the kids were in school, and explore the boardwalk.
When my youngest kid was (rightfully!) suspended for a few days in first grade, I made him do a lot of yard work, no electronics, but I also took him to the beach and made him learn some stuff about the history there, and the nautical flags and how they spelled “Jones Beach State Park Keep Your Beach Neat.” There were thousands of lady bugs on the beach that day, and we brought some home to our garden later. We visited the beach year round. One of the coolest things to see was the beach covered with snow after a storm.
I know I’ve written about this more than once, but writing the novel was an enlightening process. While it was a work of fiction, there were things in that novel that touched on experience (write what you know?) and the idea that reality may not always be as straightforward as we’d like it to be.
Our perceptions of things can often leave us questioning our own senses. I had some unresolved questions when I started writing, and I was seeking answers that would never really come, but that in the end, didn’t really matter. I stood on the beach one morning, after the kids were in school, and thought about my own unresolved questions. I looked up into the beautiful blue sky, and from the depth of my soul, I uttered the words “I wish I knew the truth.”
Some words are just words. Sometimes you speak things without having anything happen at all. But then there are words that carry energy and wishes, desires from deep within.
When you speak such words, they do have power, and they connect somewhere with an energy we only catch in glimpses from time to time. Such were those words… Almost instantly, something rushed into me, a thought, a feeling: You already do. You know. The funny thing is, after that, truth came in oh-so-many ways for a while. When you lift your head out of the sand to question things, you sometimes find more than you’ve bargained for.
In my case, I realized just how unequal the balance of power in my marriage had shifted, and that the man who professed to love me really didn’t even like ME. He loved the idea of me that I allowed him to hold. Me-in-a-box, and that box had become suffocating. It took time to break free. It took many, many trips to Jones Beach, at any time of the day. Biker Church, as my friend Rosie and I called it after going on a Sunday morning to one section of the island where there was always free parking, and finding it crowded with bikers. I often took my camera with me, or my cell phone, on those trips. It wasn’t all sunshine, either. There were trips where there were helicopters overhead as bodies were dug up on Gilgo Beach. There were times when the sun wasn’t shining, and it was frigidly cold. Even in those times, there was a sense of peace I could find nowhere else. It became a daily thing for a while… Drop the kids off, do whatever else I needed to do, including the karate classes I never mentioned to the husband, and then go to the beach and stare at the water and the sun and the sky. Since I’ve moved to Florida, I’ve only been to the beach once or twice. There are other things here, other beautiful places that fill me with peace and joy. But the thing I miss most about New York was the sense of solitude on the beach during the times when it was bare. The ocean has gifts for those who seek them.