My Gift from the Sea

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The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.—Isak Dinesen

Last weekend we packed beach accoutrements and headed south. We’d planned this trip a couple months ago and were excited to get the dogs to a sandy shore.

Before being cooped up for a four-hour drive, I hit the studio to savor a yin class and stretch my joints. Tim picked me up with three dogs on a pillow in the front seat and our bags and dog blankets in the back. I slid in under the pillow, propped up the pups, and we took off.

About 90 minutes in, traffic was heavy and we were getting “hangry,” so we stopped at a diner near Fredericksburg that had great reviews and allowed pups on the patio. After waiting over an hour for a soggy veg sandwich and limp french fries, we got back on the road disappointed with less-than-satisfied bellies.

The heavy traffic continued and I wondered where all these people were going. They probably wondered the same thing. We’d rented an AirBnB near Virginia Beach based on the large back yard for the pups to run. When we arrived a couple hours later than expected, the house was mostly empty since it was on the market to sell and the yard was missing part of the fence that backed up to the alley. Of course, that’s where the pups wanted to wander. Particularly Gizmo who only responds to his name when motivated by food.

Determined to save the day, we headed to Virginia Beach. Neither one of us had been there despite our two decades of DC living. We were exposed to a loud Christian concert festival happening along the boardwalk, numerous tee and taffy shops, multiple stores that promoted a free hermit crab with the purchase of a cage (made me sad to think of that crab’s future care), and lots of daytime intoxication.

We took the pups down on the beach (allowed in most places before Memorial Day and after Labor Day) and I’ve never seen Gizmo move so fast. He was born with knees that don’t quite connect in the socket. Although the vet says he’s not in pain, he walks, well, like a crab. Yet I was having trouble keeping up with him in the sand as his senior self kicked into puppy mode.

After wandering longer than our stomachs wanted for a restaurant with outdoor seating to accommodate the dogs, we found a Mexican-fusion spot with cushioned outside stools and exhaled. We had a lovely meal with fresh guac, black bean quesadillas, and a slice of coconut cream pie which the pups loved. The day felt salvaged. Once back in the car, the pups were excited and overstimulated. They jumped back and forth as Tim started the car. He turned to me and said that he was exhausted and felt like he’d been through a day at Disney World dealing with kids on a sugar high.

The next morning we made a spontaneous decision to head to the Outer Banks rather than returning to Virginia Beach. It was only 1.5 hours further south. We’d stayed there a few days at the end of our 2013 Tranquility Tour and knew it was more our scene—less tees with silly slogans and daytime drunkenness.

After a short drive filled with entertaining billboards, we headed straight to a cafe that touted acai bowls and then to Nags Head Public Beach where these photos were taken. Tim and I collected sea shells, ran with the pups, read, and softened into the day. There were only a few other people and pups on the beach. Secluded and quiet but for the sound of the waves and seagulls. I noticed a sense of freedom and expansiveness. The ocean holds so many stories.

In my early 20s I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea and it shaped my view of self, balance, and relationships. She encouraged simplification and solitude. Reminded readers to seek, but not cling to, special moments and to recognize the changing tides in life. Encouraged us not to yearn for things to stay the same or return to how they used to be. She opens the book with:

“I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular pattern of living, my own individual balance of life, work and human relationships. But as I went on writing and talking with other women, young and old, with different lives and experiences – those who supported themselves, those who wished careers, those who were hard working housewives and mothers and those with more ease—I found that my point of view was not unique. Even those whose lives had appeared to be ticking imperturbably under their smiling clock-faces were often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”

This beach weekend may have been far from perfect, but it offered an opportunity to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it. To experience simplification and a sense of freedom. To shake up routine. I read, wrote, snapped photos, sipped tea, paid attention to the sounds, and enjoyed time with Tim and the pups. At home I would have been much more connected to my laptop, tasks, and planner, basically the everyday.

A passage I underlined during my first 1997 reading is, “Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of the relationship is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.”

And that is my gift from the sea. Bisous. x