The Prompt:

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

As the car gets parked, I’m agitated.  Antsy.  Anxious.  I’m thinking of the walk that always takes too long.  I’m silently willing anyone with me to be quick about getting their things together so we can GET THERE NOW.  I am visualizing the stopping point, breathing through my nose to calm the excitement that’s jittering around my stomach.  My soul is already out there and I’m not listening to anything going on around me.  Precious minutes are lost with a final inventory and impatience breaks out in force all over my face.  I point my chest forward and set the pace, always faster than anyone else would have chosen.

It roars at me as I approach; a percussive din stirring in my chest a feeling so deep

that I think I might cry.  With harried anticipation, I speed up, barely careful not to stub my toes on the uneven and sun-bleached boards.  In a supreme test of will, I manage, only barely, to resist the siren song tempting me to drop everything and run, flat-out, ahead.  Just as my heart is about to burst through my ribcage, the weathered esplanade gives way to sand and my objective is reached.  I am at the beach.

Here, I stop to take off my shoes.  I bury my feet momentarily and  incline my face toward the sun, allowing those tears to sting and leak through the closed line of my eyelids.  On this spot, I breathe my soul back in, reuniting it with the body it had skipped ahead of the second this idea became possible.  It is all autopilot now as we find The Spot, and I hastily lay my things down and strip to my two piece, running with abandon for the waterline.

After my first plunge in, the frenetic joy slows down and mellows into sun-baked delectation.  I pop open a Sam Summer, ease my body back onto my towel and delight in the feel of the sand settling underneath my weight.  As if on a battery charger, my skin absorbs the suns rays, browning in contentment, the tiny hairs on my arms slowly bleaching out as the minutes tick past.  The knife-fight of my thoughts slows and stops, soothed by the supreme white noise of the waves.

The beach DOES THINGS to me.  It calms me, tranquilizes me, centers me; it opens its arms and welcomes me, washing me clean and cauterizing my traumas.  It’s immensity and age strike me dumb and it is the only place where I feel connected and unbroken.  As grains of sand scratch over each other and move in the breeze and the gulls call overhead, time slows for me and I breathe out all the bitter and the poisonous.  Cancerous doubts and misgivings seep away and leave only my quieted mind.  My life and all its days are AWAY.  The beach, the seaspray, the salt in the air, they are HOME; every minute, every experience, every chore leading up to the moment that I can walk in that front door and be where I belong once more.

This year wasn’t really much for largesse.  I feel like much more was taken out of than given to me.  The one gift that stands out, however, is the one that I gave myself, and that is the large amount of time I was able to spend on any one of a number of beaches this summer.  With no job to worry about returning to, an uncertainty of the road ahead and a breaking point having been reached, the beach was even more Divine than usual, it’s effects like a white-wash for my soul.

Sitting here now, rocking in my chair by the window, I can close my eyes and feel the sun’s rays on my face, and almost trick myself into believing that the sounds from the highway are waves crashing 10 yards from my toes.  The illusion is broken though by the base of the TV of the tenants below me and the turkey in the refridgerator waiting to be dressed and the looming deadline of getting this piece posted…..It’s only an apparition, a mirage.  Like my Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, only the real deal will do.


18 thoughts on “Gift

  1. Wow…the Ocean is an amazing place to me. I am still haunted by the memories of my time near SF a few years ago, and standing on the beach at dusk, hearing a lonely foghorn droning in the distance.

    And again, near Malibu a couple of years later, and then on the shores of the Great Lakes (seen most of ’em…) I feel connected, yet small. A reminder to not get too big for my britches. It’s a friendly reminder, but one I need to hear from time to time.

    Your writing fills my soul, like the tide rolling in. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. i feel you. i grew up on an island and now live in the desert. and as soon as i cross the bridge to get “home” i find myself hanging out of the window, like a dog with its tongue trailing in the wind, breathing my life back into me.

  3. Holy shit, that was fucking fantastic! You sure didn’t waste much time from “Could I be a writer?” to “Behold the glory of language magnificently expressed!” I’m reading this again right now.

  4. Oh, I hear ya, sister. I was just at the beach today, when we went to Newport, RI. We head to the beach in the winter all the time – obviously it doesn’t have quite the same effect as being there in the summer, but still. There’s just something about it.

    1. I LOVE the beach in the winter too! I have a very fond memory of visiting a beach on the south shore of LI in February with a besty. I got a nosebleed, watched it snow, fed some deer and cried. A totally pure afternoon.

  5. washing me clean and cauterizing my traumas

    Oh my goodness.

    I have not spent nearly as much time on beaches as I wish I had. So the few memories I have of them are magnified. And yet when I remember them, it feels like this.

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