My day ended on Friday with a few of my students performing an impromptu and largely unintentional intervention. They gathered around my desk–again, unintentionally–and randomly offered some stern advice that I needed to take a breather, that Spring Break couldn’t come soon enough. They even offered that my tension had worn off on a few others, including themselves, and that just wasn’t good at all.
I agreed with them. How could I argue? It had been a stressful week: club photo shoots, senior superlative voting, teaching at Towson U on Tuesday/Thursday, the end of the quarter approaching, two book projects nearing completion, Lines of Love soaring (such a wondrous thing, that), and my own writing emerging from some inner depth that couldn’t wait a moment more for some light in my daybook.
Throw in a few lacrosse practices, gymnastics sessions, Brownies, birthday parties, and Love and Fishes (all good, mind you–every part of it for my girls)…Yeah, you can see how it all came together in some kind of critical mass situation.
They were right. I was beat, and I needed some kind of retreat, a return to innocence, in the words of Enigma. The weekend seemed quite busy, though, with gymnastics practice Friday evening, and then a long drive to Ocean City for the OC Twisters Beach Party Invitational gymnastics meet. This would be Holland’s last meet before States in mid-April, so it was a big deal.
Trips to Ocean City have always been refreshing for me, a sort of rebooting of the soul in my return to my piscean roots: the water. But I saw little respite with this trip; the meet was Saturday night in a small gym about 20 minutes outside of Ocean City, and we would have little time to enjoy the beach. I just felt like the entire experience would be the antithesis of what I needed. Instead of providing some much-needed R&R like my kids told me I needed, I feared that it would just tease me, being so close to the water with no time to enjoy, especially in the solitude that I crave whenever near the shoreline.
We packed the Jeep and were on the road by 9:45 Saturday morning. A few stops for gas, food, and of course the bathroom breaks for my kids, put us at the Francis Scott Key Family Resort a little after 1 p.m. Check-in wasn’t until 3 p.m., though, and suddenly we found a few hours of free time to head into Ocean City.
We were all so hungry, so we stopped at the Bayside Skillet for a breakfast-for-lunch meal that topped out at $75 (welcome to Ocean City–who says it has to be summertime to blow a lot of cash in mere minutes?). We still had plenty of time to relax before we checked in (and the open-gym time for Holland wasn’t until 6:30), so we headed for the beach. We pulled over on 77th Street right by the dunes, and headed straight for the water.
And there it was, waiting for me as always. True, dependable, devoted, loving, ever-faithful.
The sounds of the waves pushing and pulling the sand along the early spring shore found me first as I made my way along the sandy path, with each side roped off to discourage further erosion of the natural barrier of grasses and sand bars. My heart fell in rhythm with the ebb and the flow of the water’s pulse, and I could not fight it; I could not resist the luring toward the waves as my eyes met the beauty of the outgoing tide. With it went my stress, my tension, all of my worries from a week that suddenly seemed too distant to recall, too distant to worry over.
I stood before the waves, lapping at my feet, sinking in the sand as I succumbed fully to this return to innocence. And it was in those moments of cleansing, of absolute clarity, that I allowed the memories to fill me.
I smiled as the pulse of the ocean was the soundtrack to my experiences along these shores. I remembered vividly the early morning walks before sunrise, the late-night runs with friends, shoes in hand. The solitary moments with guitar, listening to the rhythm of the waves and building a jam around their lead. The many-hundred walks along the cliffs fossiling. The photos, the sketches, the solace.
Just like that–in seconds, all of these experiences returned to me, a collection of memories with the underlying theme of love running through them all. Some of them were from decades ago when I was much younger; others were from our last visit just a year ago October. All of them, though, were pegs in my memories of what has mattered most in my life, all captured through the wonderful and terribly simple art of creating experiences.
These grains of sand that swirled around my feet, as the roar of the ebb-and-flow played on and on, nibbled on my toes like little reminders of the things that give us hope: love, of course, but through the relationships we build with others, or even through greater spirits that guide us along the way. “Plugging in” to the ocean’s life force this weekend recharged me with the energy and focus I need to carry on in this final week before Spring Break, where new and refreshing charges await.
We left the ocean and returned to our motel room, and then proceeded to the Invitational, where Holland placed first All-Around for the second consecutive meet. Then today, before leaving for home, we spent a few hours at Ocean City and then at Assateague, where I somehow transcended the experiences from the previous day. We combed the beach, looking for shells and other sea relics, as an early-afternoon mist enveloped us in its warm, humid cocoon. We felt protected, shielded from the less-than-natural elements that awaited us back home.
These were not experiences to leave on the beach. They joined the other memories within us, and I have no doubt that, on our trip back in a few months, they will resurface and bring us a much-needed warmth and energy to carry us beyond the stresses of day-to-day living.
Before we left the sand and the shells and the pulse of the water’s ebb and flow, I turned to face the waves just once more, close my eyes, and offer thanks for the faith in such memories, as well as for the love of good friends.
When you put the two together, it’s a powerful surge of belief that tomorrow always holds promise–for you, for me, for all of us. ❤