It’s been about three and a half months since I was at the beach. Missed the whole summer crowd thing on purpose. I’m here this week for a special reason: It’s the first anniversary of my dad’s death. He would want me to be here with my mom, and he’d want me to enjoy this oceanfront condo that he bought just a few months before he died. It is a nice place. But it would be nicer if he were here to enjoy it, too.
Yesterday afternoon, I took a walk along the shore. I found a place where the sandbar reaches out into the ocean almost to the end of the fishing pier. At low tide it’s possible to walk out to a point past most of the breakers (just don’t get caught out there when the tide turns). It’s an interesting view of the sea–unspoiled by people in high-rise condos, and if you let your imagination adjust your perspective, you can almost believe you’re on a private island beach. Although it’s not silent, it has it’s own blend of quiet. The wind and the breakers graciously cancel out the squealing kids playing in the water, the loud radios, and the annoying cell phones. I was only passing by the right place at the right time; and because of that synchronicity, I found a treasure.
Today, a relentless south wind has taken over the beach. No walking this afternoon, unless you’re one that appreciates a mouthful of sand. No pathway to a secret sandbar refuge. Still, I haven’t missed out on the opportunity for treasure; but today, the treasure’s all in my head, in my thoughts, in an unspoken wisdom meant to be discovered and celebrated. Again, I was at the right place at the right time for the find. Looking out across the beach from the balcony of the condo I could see the wind dancing in the sand. A whirling dervish. A clever swish of a collision by breeze, sky, sand, and saltwater. An image of playfulness immune to heavy grey clouds above and thunder in the distance.
The treasure came and went in less than five minutes.
From the start, the wind was mistress of the moment. In one instance, she prompted a rush of beachcombers and swimmers to salvage their whipped-up sun umbrellas and tents and get the heck away from the shore. The stampede left a real messy trail of indistinct footprints to the nearest public boardwalk. Within a minute or two, the beach was deserted, left in a wreck, abandoned. And the mistress was free to dance in the sand without being upstaged.
She moved with powerful grace; and the sea billowed and the sand shifted in her shadow.
It only took about a minute for the beach to be healed of its scars. In the blink of an eye, the messy trail of footprints had dissolved, evaporated into center of the dance. All became right again. It was the treasure of a single moment. I wasn’t sure how my witness was significance; but I believed it was somehow.
Tonight, my witness has made its way through a maze of thoughts and emotions. I’ve thought about what Daddy might have said if he’d been here to walk out on that sandbar with me yesterday or here to watch the wind dance this afternoon. I’ve thought about the brevity of human life. I am mindful of the footprints blown away by something bigger than ourselves and the illusion of control we think we’re capable of. I am mindful of the unseen synchronicity that puts us in the places and moments that are meant to be, and I wonder how many times I’ve been oblivious to the miracle of a crossroad, a goodbye, or the face of a stranger. And, finally, I am amazed by the journey of a single soulful moment through one’s mind and memory.
Before I turn out the light on the day, I’m thinking of a poem that seems to be an appropriate accompaniment to my witness. I think my daddy would agree.
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
–Alfred Lord Tennyson