I am sitting on a sandy slope, which opens in front of me to a sandy strip, which stretches for miles along the water’s edge in either direction. Many people pass by me as the hour creeps along. An older and younger woman – Mother and daughter? Adopted? Big Sisters? – walk quietly towards the water, spread a blanket and sit close together. A woman is looking for her dog. Did he pass me? She runs in the opposite direction. A group of all-ages kids, no adults in sight, come sauntering through, all walking with different emotions at different speeds. One boy comes back to encourage a reluctant girl. “Take your shoes off,” he tells her. “The sand won’t bother you as much that way.” A family of 8 (SIX KIDS?!) arrives, hollering excitement, older ones barreling towards the water, younger ones in tow, holding Dad’s hand. I wonder about each person. I wonder at the many marvellous ways to enjoy, to employ, this little corner of the world. What brought them here? What did they expect to find? How did they come to be with who they are with? How did their version of what a beach should be get formed?
What am I doing here?
I am not supposed to be sitting on this sandy slope, buttocks getting numb as the minutes wear on. I am supposed to be helping to set up camp at my campsite. I am supposed to be useful, efficient, and calm. I am supposed to be enjoying this beautiful day, this place we drove and drove to get to.
I am none of these things, and more.
I am full of lament, regret, and agitation.
Why am I here?
Why this moment? Why this place? Why this trip at all?
At various times in my life the beach has been different things. It has been for swimming and sand castles. It has been for suntanning, magazines and gossip. It has been for drinking, dancing, skinny-dipping, and running. It has been for long walks and deep talks.
Now, it seems, with a small child and a long distance to travel, that looking is what it’s for.
Feast your eyes. Look with your heart. Take it all in. Breathe deeply.
I have had so much trouble slowing down, letting my world get smaller. Here is just another example.
The universe will always give you the lesson you most need. Often over and over. Beating you over the head with it if you need it to.
Until I am ready to listen.
I realize that, with all the options in front of me, with all the plentiful versions of the human experience of this one place, this one representative schema for all possible places of enjoyment, recreation, nature and togetherness; I realize that just by gazing upon it, I can absorb the healing into my soul the same as at any other time in my life.
I don’t need magazines, gossip, friends or perfection.
Every stage of life looks different. Every life looks different.
There is no supposed to be.
Except I must go help to set up camp.