So much of who we are is where we have been. William Langewiesche
My father and his business partners developed Rio Del Mar, California near Santa Cruz, beginning in the 1930s. His niece’s husband, an architect, designed many of the first houses that were built there and the golf course clubhouse those early homes surround.
When I was a little girl, my parents would rent the last house on Beach Drive for several weeks each summer. I remember the cramped narrow staircase with the dark creepy painting on the landing wall. The picnic table in the family room with wobbly bench, the one that I pitched off backwards at the age of three. The sand that came up to our back door.
I have always loved the water, but the beach was in my bones from an early age. There’s something about its vastness, its shifting shades of blue and green and its constancy that I find healing, soothing, comforting.
When the kids were little, and it was more complicated and cumbersome to travel, we often spent our big vacation in Hawaii. They entertained themselves for hours hunting for shells, darting in and out of the waves, building sandcastles, splashing each other, racing up and down the beach. What is it about salt water that exhausts you in the most marvelous way, making you feel spent yet sated, relaxed and ready for sleep.
I have walked on the beach on my worst days and never felt alone. Seeing the waves ebb and flow, feeling the sand under my feet and between my toes, watching the dogs and the other people, hearing the children laugh. The beach is full of light and movement. It’s hard to stay fixated on your own despair, difficult to avoid seeing joy, impossible not to recognize all the beauty that remains.
I have run on the beach to burn off my pent up energy, to get away from an unpleasant host, to clear my head, to let go of my anger, to staunch my tears, to prove to myself that I am still alive. To be moving alongside the waves on hard packed sand is better than any therapist’s couch. The sea has seen it all, held it all, survived it all. It is an eternal reminder that life is movement, life is energy. Sometimes you’re floating, sometimes you’re flailing, sometimes you’re riding high and sometimes you’re two feet under the water.
When I return home, I carry the ocean and its healing powers with me. I can conjure up the smells and the sounds, the warmth of the sun, the wetness of the sand, the birds flying overhead, the laughter of the children, the barking of the dogs. I leave the negativity, anger, pain, sadness and fear on the sand, knowing that the sea will wash it all away.