Ancient Thoughts


We humans like to believe that we are sophisticated, advanced, modern. We like to believe that we have left our ancient selves behind. We are no longer tied to the changing faces of the natural world, we tell ourselves. We live in a world of technology and science and modern advances.

Why is it, then, that when the sun sets into the western ocean, so many humans gather on the shore to watch in awe? What is that sense of wonder that comes over us as we watch the golden orb sinking into the ocean?

I don’t know.

All I know is that every time I see the sun set, I want to capture it, to photograph it, to paint it, or to find the words to describe the magic that it seems to be showing us.

We humans like to tell ourselves that we are creatures of reason, of rational thinking, of fact. We do our best to believe that we are subject to the laws of physics, but not to the laws of magic.

We think that we have left behind the primitive worship that our ancestors gave to the forces of nature.

But.

When we step into the arms of the ocean, we humans lose that sense of rationality. The rocking, soothing, calming waves remind us, I think, of cradles and rocking chairs and the loving arms of our parents.

We are magically soothed.

Humans flock to the sea. From every far flung corner of every continent, it seems, we rush toward the sea when we need to rest, to be calm, to find a sense of peace.

Doesn’t that seem to be the most primitive drive? To find ourselves back in the place from where our earliest ancestors emerged? To return to a salt water origin that we all knew before we were born?

There’s just something magical about watching the sun reflect off of the ocean. There is a kind of healing and rebalancing that happens when we find ourselves afloat in the ocean. It’s elemental.

I can’t describe it. I keep trying, but I can’t.

All I know is that there is magic here. Magic that reminds us that we aren’t, after all, so far from our true origins. We haven’t come so far from the first humans who stood on beaches like this one.

We still want to watch the sun set and moon rise. We want to feel the salt wind in our faces. We find ourselves compelled to gather up the most perfect and beautiful of sea shells.

I love this about us. I love the fact that just beneath our carefully applied surfaces, we’re still only one small step away from our most primitive and basic origins.

We still live, whether we like it or not, in a world that is ruled by magic.

Perfect, beautiful, natural

Something about the sea


I don’t know what it is about the sea.  I don’t know why it reaches out to us and grabs us and pulls us in so completely.

A gull on Assateague Island.

All I know is that every time I smell the salt smell of the ocean breeze, my lungs feel more open. My heart feels stronger. I can feel the blood moving in my veins.

I feel more myself when I am in the ocean’s arms.

When I see a gull, swooping out over the rolling waves, I almost believe for a moment that I too can soar away as far as the winds can carry me.  I almost believe that I can be that free, just for a little while.

It doesn’t matter what beach or coast I am on when I find myself in a spot where I can see the ocean at last.  As long as I can touch my lips with the tip of my tongue and taste the briny tang of salt and seaweed, I am home.

A winter day on the Massachusetts coast.

The ocean in winter is spectacular.  Cold and so sharp.  The beautiful gray of the water merges with the icy gray of the clouds. A study in monochromatic beauty.  I wish so much that I could live in a place where I’d see the ocean racing in every winter day.

But the ocean in summer, on a sweet July evening, in a place where the blue ocean meets the crystal sands.  Nothing in life is more alluring to me than that.  The spiky shards of beach grass poking up through the white sand, the restless movement of the dunes.  The incredible sight of a sailboat passing in the twilight.  Almost too pretty to be real!

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I would give anything I have to one day live in a place where I could watch that motion every single day.

Ah, but if wishes were horses……..

For now, I will have to content myself with occasional days at the beach with friends, walking in the surf, watching the gulls, finding sand dollars, daring each other to dunk in the freezing waters of high tide.

For now, I will count myself lucky to live as close to the Atlantic as I do.

For now, I’ll have to keep dreaming of one day owning that beach house.

It feels like it will never end…..


Winter.

It keeps coming at you, even when you think it is finally done.

Last weekend was the start of “Daylight Savings Time” and at long last, I am coming home in the daylight hours.  Spring must surely be on its way.  St. Patrick’s day is coming up fast, there are daffodils for sale in all the local groceries.

Spring must be near!  Time to think of seedlings and lawn care and bug spray.  Time to think of flip flops.

Except that it is snowing tonight.

Big, fat flakes of fluffy white poison, floating down and coating the deck once again.

Spring? You coming?!  Of course you are!  The vernal equinox is only a few days away!  Time to think of chicks and bunnies and peeps and pastel colored sweaters.  Time for renewal and rebirth and lambs and tulips and Cadbury Creme Eggs!

Except that the weather channel is predicting another snow storm on Tuesday.

I know that spring will come.  It always does, right?

But…..you know…..like, what if….I mean, it could happen, right?  What if this is the year when it never arrives? What if we are stuck for eternity in the icy slush of mid-March in New England?  What if the grass never shows up, the crocuses are locked for good beneath the layer of frozen muck?

What if the days don’t get warm, the birds don’t start to sing and the Red Sox decide to stay in Florida all summer?

It is nights like this that truly test the faith of a person like me.  My bones are cold. My toes are begging to be free.  My heart is yearning for the sound of distant thunder, my nose for the smell of warming earth.  I want to hear the peepers! I want to barbecue some sausage! I want to light a mosquito coil and rub on some SPF 50.

And its snowing.  A lot.

I think that I will go to bed, pull the big pile of fluffy blankies over my head and dream of this:SONY DSC

It has to come eventually.

Doesn’t it?!

I am….a hoarder.


What a horrific realization.

I am like those sad, sad people on TV. The ones who mean well but simply cannot let go of certain cherished items. They collect the special objects that they crave, endlessly organizing them, moving them, putting them in little boxes and saving them up.

Eventually, they fill their homes with those precious items.  Piles of baby shoes, mountains of picture frames, continents of old newspapers.  Before you know it, they are sleeping on a stack of pink towels, eating breakfast surrounded by a tower of unused Christmas ornaments.  The family gets worried, an earnest psychologist is called in to help, and the TV cameras begin to roll.

I realized this morning that I am scarily close to having my moment of televised shame. Oh, the horror!

It started innocently enough, but I’m sure that every hoarder says the same thing. See, Paul and I just got back from a three day boat trip with friends on Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. It was, in a word, paradise.  I’m pretty sure that when I die, my personal version of Heaven will be almost an exact replica of this trip. (OK, the boat might be bigger, and have a more private toilet, but other than that…..not much difference!)  We were with people we love.  The weather was hot, humid and breezy.  The boat rocked gently day and night, and the calm, cool water of the ocean felt like silk on our skin.  We ate delicious foods, drank cold, crisp drinks and we laughed more than we have in the past six months.

Part of the pleasure, for me, is that on deserted ocean beaches, surrounded by the sounds and smells of the Atlantic, I become someone new.  Hesitant, out of shape, anxious me breathes in the hot salty air and begins to melt away.  Each molecule of briny summer wind that enters my lungs goes to work and does it’s magic.  Within a moment, my back straightens, my muscles tighten, my eyes open wide to take in the silvery glimmers that race across the water. I turn into my dream self.  I jump off the bow of the boat. All by myself,  I swim to shore and walk the rocky beach. I don a swim mask and fins, and I fly around the rocks and swaying underwater forests as gracefully as a sea sprite.

Every time I visit a place as idyllic and as restful as this one, I gather little mementoes. I want so much to hold onto the feeling of “ocean” me! I want to enfold the moments and absorb them deep into my cells to keep them always with me.  So I find little treasures as I walk my favorite beaches, and I bring those treasures home.

And therein lies the problem.

This morning I woke up and decided to sort through the treasures from this trip.  I pulled out the one small ziploc bag that held my little gifts, and poured them onto the coffee table.  Beautiful!

I picked up my best piece of beach glass- cobalt blue!- and held it in my hand.  Just touching it filled me with the memory of the hot sun pressing on my shoulders as Wendy and I strolled along the tide line. Carefully, I gathered each little piece of polished glass and put them in a small pile.   Next I turned to the beautiful pieces of wampum, admiring their smoothness and the pearly sheen of purple on each surface.   I sighed with pleasure. I decided that before I added this stash to the rest of my beach treasures, I would organize and clean them all.  Every little treat that I have found and saved on beach walks going back for 40 years.

I started to gather them all and wash them off.

All of them.

All three glass dishes, both big woven baskets, the two big shells in the bathroom, the little dish of colorful stones.  I decided to organize them a bit. Stones here, scallop shells there.  The clams, the oysters, the whelks and the mussels. Limpets and sand dollars and pieces of wampum.  By the time I was finished, my entire dining room table was covered with my precious memories. It took me three hours, but I found each one a special place to be displayed, and carefully put them out.  Want to see?

A few more vacations like this one, and I’ll need an intervention for sure!

But aren’t they beautiful?

Post Script: One hour after writing this post, I found TWO more containers of beach treasure!  You should see my wampum now.