Thursday, January 2, 2014

Salt Water

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
--Isak Dinesen

For the last few days, this has been my view.  That isn't enhanced.  It isn't altered in anyway.  It was taken with an Iphone and the glory was captured in miniature...but the beauty is so stunning, it comes shining through without effort.

I'm at the beach.

I was born in Pensacola, Florida.  
As far as I can tell, I spent only a couple of years there and then moved around to various locales in Iowa, Illinois and finally California with my family growing up.  I attended college in California's central valley and have lived pretty much right around there my entire adult life...but I've always had a tug, a strong one thats just keeps getting stronger, pulling me like a magnet, to the ocean.

I've always loved the ocean -- enjoyed our honeymoon in Bermuda -- but never could explain its magic.

It was calming, soothing, refreshing, invigorating, beautiful but most especially healing.

When Patrick was sick with leukemia, he had 60+ days of no detectable white blood cells.
He was not hospitalized but he was house bound.
He could be around no one.
He was isolated and by association so was I.

At first it was no big deal...I wandered around with Patrick in my car and would find empty parks.  Zip him out of his car seat, let him swing and play by himself, and hop back in.  Usually that effort would wear him out and he would nap, I'd listen to music and I would muse on the starvation of the soul without connection to others.

I became acutely aware of the poison of solitary confinement.

I related to castaways alone on an island.

I felt imprisoned when truly the only prison was in my mind.

And then I stumbled on an idea...I could take Patrick to the beach.
While the other two were in school, I would pack a picnic, drive an hour and a half and head to a lonely strip of sand with Patrick.
The sea gulls would be our welcoming committee.
The waves our hometown band.
The sand and shell collecting and castles and other creations would be our distraction from white blood cell counts and the language of leukemia.

It worked.

Like some sort of alternate universe, at the beach, we were healing and whole.
We were refreshed and vitalized.
Baptized in a way.
Over and over again.

Slowly, those 60 days chipped away...Patrick's counts got better and he could be with humanity again.
Most especially, preschool!

We've visited the beach in good health and in celebration many times since.

But, when my mom got diagnosed with lymphoma and didn't want to deal with the horrible news...I headed to the beach.  I put on my same T-shirt, made my same picnic lunch but this time I had a little companion named Caroline and she made the joy of the beach all her own.

I can't explain it's majesty.

I try to think of people who are land bound and have never seen the surf:  
never felt the waves tickle your toes, bury them and reveal them all in one fluid motion.  
I try to imagine never knowing this healing balm but I can't.

I like to think that my beach connection was created at birth, on that panhandle long ago.

All I know is that when I am a marriage, in good times or in bad, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, the beach is my steady companion, constant and unyielding, always comforting.

Its rhythm, its cleansing presence, its energy is now a part of me.

I'm getting closer and closer to finding a way...demanding a way... to stay here for bigger and bigger chunks of time.

It will take sweat and tears, I am sure...other gifts of salt water...but I am willing.

My new year's resolution: find new beaches.

I can only smile at the opportunity of 2014 and share my grateful heart.
Life is rich with ordinary magic.
Find yours.


  1. Oh Beth, what a lovely story of emotion and happy that you have realized the power of place when we need to heal, think, or simply, be. Happy beach-finding to you this year!

  2. Your words: "the power of place" remind me of Abraham Verghese's quote: "Geography is destiny." He wrote Cutting for Stone which is an awesome read...but the power of place in that book and now that you mention it, right here in this blog, are definitely powerful. You are so so right. Thanks for taking the time to comment! :) And Happy New Year to you!