It’s been raining today on the island. I went for my morning walk a little later than usual. The girls had asked us to wake them up so they could go for a run while Neal and I took our walk. Not the best idea, in retrospect. I found myself getting pulled into a long conversation about the day. As expected, the girls are less than excited about the prospect of a rainy day.
I find myself going down a familiar path; trying to make them happy and help them discover the gift of a rainy day; not the easiest task with two sixteen year olds.
I feel my mood changing and I stop on my tracks. It doesn’t have to be this way today. The girls are old enough to be alone and find their way through this morning. This is their big chance to practice that independence they’ve been talking about lately.
Today, I’m making a different choice and decide to go my way.
When I’m on this island, every moment is precious. I put my raincoat on and head for the beach. Not many people here today. The water is rough and soon my shoes and pants are wet. Fine by me. One less thing to worry about. Off with the shoes. I usually walk barefoot anyway.
Waking up on the first morning of our vacation, I was greeted by the view of the sunrise over the harbor. Mary Oliver’s words came to mind:
“Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning and
spread it over the fields . . .Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.”
I sat for meditation as the sun traveled up the horizon, its warmth increasing, coming through the open window. After meditation, Neal and I head to the bakery; a ritual we repeat every time we visit. We wake up early, go to the Old Post Office Bagel Shop, grab a cup of coffee and head to the beach for a long walk.
There are very few people on the beach this early in the morning. Some faces are familiar – having crossed paths with them before – most are friendly; we smile and wish each other a good morning as we walk by. Older people appear to be more inclined to making eye contact and smiling. Sometimes, we cross paths with someone who’s lost in thought, lips tight, looking away, removed. We all bring our stories with us.
Today, we meet a young man from Chicago. His dog decides to adopt us and walks with us, so he too joins us for a while. He shares that he visits every summer with his family. His wife’s mother has been coming here since 1948. Read more
“The beach is truly home, its broad expanse of sand as welcoming as a mother’s open arms. This landscape, which extends as far as the eye can see, always reminds me of possibility. It is here I can listen to my inner voice, shed inhibitions, move to the rhythms of the waves, and ask the universe unanswerable questions.”
Joan Anderson from “A Walk on the Beach”
Having been born in a small country surrounded by water, I spent much of my time, as a child and young adult, by the sea. I deeply appreciate Joan Anderson’s words.
The beach is truly home for me, especially in the early morning or early evening hours; when the tide is coming in or going out and the light is gentle. The crowds have retreated or not arrived yet, and only a few people are around, breathing in and out with the waves and enjoying the peace. My soul mates – of sort.
I recently returned from a four day stay in Block Island, RI. This time we stayed at a B&B near the center of town so we didn’t take the car with us. Block Island is small and walker / biker friendly. Having to walk everywhere, made me see things, I wouldn’t have observed otherwise, and gain a deeper sense of the place.
Our walks to town and beach and back became walking meditation. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other, breathe and let my senses open up to the environment. The salty air, the cool breeze, the sound of the wind through the tall grass on the edge of the salt water pond, the smell of beach roses, the seagulls calling, bikers, walkers, children and a feeling of peace, of letting go and letting be.
The bed was near the window overlooking the fields. The cool, salty breeze would come through the window all night. I found myself waking up at 6 am to bird song and the morning light changing the view in front of my eyes. All I wanted was to get up and go. Neal and I would get up, put warm clothes on and off to the beach we went.
The tide was still low, the sand wet and cool. The sandpipers were hard at work already, chasing the waves, going back and forth with the rhythm of the tide, digging in the wet sand for their breakfast. They went in groups and moved in perfect harmony.
There were only a handful of people walking. Some would smile and say hello, others not. I got the feeling that we were all there to experience this moment, in our own way and let each other be. How refreshing.
Soon after the first day, I felt time stretching and slowing down. Waking up early and starting with my day, walking everywhere and being open to all details, made every moment more vivid, lively and important. My spirit was being restored and my energy and inspiration recharged.
One windy afternoon, we went kayaking on the saltwater pond. On our way out, we had to paddle against the wind. We were the only ones there. All was quiet and peaceful. Paddling against the wind required more effort but as we turned, the wind was at our back, bringing us ashore, gently.
Everything in life seems to be part of a cycle. In and out, back and forth, up and down, darkness and light. Sometimes we paddle against the wind, doing the best we can, resting here and there or struggling to stay afloat.
Eventually we arrive at our destination, turn our backs to the wind, and it’s smooth sailing from that point on. We’re brought back to shore, safe, and filled with a sense of achievement and exhilaration, our stamina restored. We learned something more about ourselves during the journey and pretty soon we’re ready to go at it again.
It’s all based on rhythm, our breath in and out, the tides, day and night, and the seasons. A garden sprouts and blooms, then withers and dies. It goes underground only to return glorious and more beautiful than ever in the spring. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Then, there’s the space in between, where we can rest and recharge. I guess, that’s what these four days were for me. The space in between!
We left before dawn, hoping to see the newborn sea turtles make their journey from nest to sea and onwards, the breeze, cool and damp on my skin, the ocean breathing in and out, the clouds, changing shape and illuminated by the sun sending the first light up the horizon deep purple, fiery red and orange, yellow and periwinkle blue.
The Sandpipers are scurrying, digging, making good use of their time, they don’t seem to be distracted by my footsteps.
The seagulls, gliding above the water and landing on the wet sand. I see the shape of their early morning catch dangling from their beaks.
Crabs are darting in and out their holes, a jelly fish lying lifeless – left behind – a solitary reminder of impermanence and what happens when one becomes lost and stranded, cut away from the source.
Initially we too behave like crab, looking for something, talking, laughing, asking questions, making up answers. Then, slowly, silence descends.
Quietly, breathing with the ocean, my feet feel the wetness of the sand my skin, cool and damp, my eyes following the ever changing light and colors on the horizon. I’m not thinking of the turtles anymore and their journey.
Today, they don’t appear but the sandpipers, the seagulls and the crabs are here with us. So is the damp sand and the ocean waves, the sun light bursting forth and the morning air. There are others, walking quietly, in their own pace.
We are here, now this morning, this moment how full and perfect it is.
Copyright ⓒ 2011 Yota Schneider – the art of pausing
“It’s peaceful,” my fifteen year old daughter said, “Almost, too peaceful!” she added. We had just come from a four-mile walk on the beach above. We were sitting on the porch facing the Atlantic. I was reflecting on our walk, feeling grateful for the expansion of beach and sky in front of us.
Right then, I was reminded . . . she’s at the stage of her life where the more the better. I have entered the period in my life where less is more and peace and simplicity are what I crave the most.
Two women, two generations, two different takes on life. I wondered whether she’s bored with my ways. I’m sure it happens often these days.
Peaceful is golden for me. Peaceful can be boring to her.
I love my daughter and I admire and respect her lively, curious spirit and authentic character. She’s beautiful, loving, fun, and curious.
I want to somehow transmit what I know and tell her to take it easy and feel the richness of every moment. I tell her but I’m not sure she really understands what I mean.
How can she? She’s at the beginning of her life’s journey and I’m way past the middle point.
She’ll have to find out for herself. I’ve given her all I could and now, I have to stay back and observe. I can’t rob her from the privilege of her experience and I wouldn’t want to.
These days, I’m coming to understand that, parenting, loving, co-existing have a lot to do with letting go and letting be.