I have been making long treks to the beach this summer. Living in the far reaches of Dutchess County makes day-trip beach travel either ambitious or leaning slightly toward instability. I choose ambitious but its open for discussion. I have a tiny, speedy vehicle that does well on gas mileage, some riveting, bass-bumping tunes and time on my hands. The beach is 2 ½ hours from my home, but I am in such need of it, I don’t worry about the amount of time it takes to get there. I need to be surrounded by the elements, the earth, the wind and sky, the water, the fire of the sun. The smallness of me out of my element.
Earlier in the summer I went to the beach and attempted to open my arms to peace and calm. Only I don’t open my arms to this. I currently don’t even know how this is done any longer. I tend to open my arms to grab and squeeze the life out of something, even if only for a second, like a bear-hug all full of aggression and passion and full-force constraint, or... maybe calming support? That’s how I like it. I can’t seem to find a bear that will repay the favor and squeeze the life out of me until I can’t breathe momentarily. And, well, I don’t mean any of this in some kinky, weird, asphyxiation-type thing, it’s more that I like to live big sometimes, and sometimes I need to just be stopped, or squeezed, or held against something to know that I am still here and accounted for, that I can stop making so much noise, I am heard.
No worries, I'll get there, if I don't scare away all the little bears first. I'm sure there's a grizzly out there that would be more than happy to hold me down. I’m also very physical and passionate and all wrestly and unsettled at times. I don’t want or need hugs all the time or even daily but occasionally I do need a great big, knock the wind out bear hug. There are stranger things to want I'm sure. For now I have the ocean to knock me around or engulf me.
I walk down the beach struggling through the concept of me. What does it all mean? How can I find my way? When can I stop worrying and just be? I am walking, plodding really, as my heels sink into the shoreline and I work to lift my legs and move forward. The shells and tiny pebbles, make it difficult to move with any amount of grace and elegance. I am walking as though I am wrestling my own ankles. Each step heavy, heels sucking into the sand and grit, and the next step requiring force to pull out of this struggle and stronghold. Every step my ongoing fight between vulnerability and strength. All at the same time, I continue looking for shells, or stones to admire and collect, humming a little, processing a lot. Smiling randomly. Sighing loudly.
Suddenly and without warning, I am at the far end of the beach which is loosely designated as a nude beach or at least widely relegated. I continue walking while entirely avoiding direct contact with the naked bodies that seem to be multiplying and converging into a compressed mass of flesh and free will. When the bronzed and taut and muscular nude man strides calmly next to me and says, “It’s a beautiful day for a walk, isn’t it?” I attempt to answer, “Yes it is” but my eyes are down trodden and my voice seems to be coming out of a pot of molasses gravy, thick and glutinous, heavy with phlegm. I continue walking and trying to make sense of how I ended up ignoring every known healthy convention of how to recognize signs of abuse and addiction. I start to review recent run-ins with ignoring standard practice social interactions, and then I realize, a naked, bronze, taut man just walked by and smiled and spoke to me- do I really need to spend any longer processing the past 20 years of my life? Ummm. No, I suppose I don’t….
This beach is symbolic and it’s not lost on me. This is the beach I played at as a small child in a world I had no control over. I have this need to be here to feel quieted and safe. This desire to play where there are no controls or controlling omnipresent shadows looming over me. I want so badly to play and smile and jump over waves as though this is the biggest job for the day, the week, the rest of eternity….? I suppose I have attempted to plan my summer around the notion of play, well that was the plan anyway... Parts of it were very playful and other parts reminded me how at times, even for a small person like myself, with occasional bouts of larger than life posturing, I have very little power or control over so many circumstances. This beach, however soothes me and brings me calm. It reminds me that I am small and there is time. And earlier this summer it brought a taut, nude, bronze, bright and cheery hello, in addition to a few beautiful shells and clear stones and perfectly round, alabaster pebbles….