Next up is a week-long camping trip with the family and visits from grandparents. To keep up with everything, I'll be taking a blog break through the end of August. I hope to be back in September with the renewed energy that the start of a new season brings.
Before I sign off for a while, I'd like to share (very shyly) some of the writing that I have been doing in a Writing Circle this month. Once a week, a group of women gather in the moderator's living room and write for an hour straight. Then we read our work aloud (this is the terrifying part for me every week). There are some truly astonishing pieces of memoir, poetry, and fiction that I have been privileged to hear read aloud, and I feel so lucky to learn from these women.
Here's a piece that was inspired by three paint colors (see if you can pick them out), a photo of two little girls squinting into the sun at the beach, and a postcard of the idealized beach vacation, circa 1950:
Sometime around June, after the first wildflowers have faded, I start to hear the siren call of the sea. I'm sure most inlanders who live only a few hours' drive from the shore feel it too. It's the pull of dark mango sunsets and violet evenings; slow, free days spent in full sun with nothing but a bathing suit on; the breezes pushing worries and responsibilities far away. At least that's how the beach felt to me as a child, unburdened by the tasks of packing up the mildewed tent and piles of sleeping bags and endless mountains of squishy hot dog buns and jars of yellow mustard and pickle relish. That was my mother's job, of course.
When I was growing up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, my family spent a long weekend at the beach just about every summer. It was a cheap vacation for my struggling parents. My father would pitch a tent right on the packed sand. Despite my mother's best efforts--a basin of water and a towel placed at the tent flap for our sandy feet--the sand, as sand does, would creep into the tent on the soles and between the toes of little feet. The wet sand clumped and then dried. At the end of the day, when we walked into the tent to plop down in our sleeping bags, our feet made a quiet zip, zip as sand was trapped between hot flesh and cool plastic. When night fell and we drifted off to sleep, human sounds subsided and the rhythmic waves--always there beneath our playful screams in full sun--filled the tent, our little world. I fell asleep touching the sand through the tent floor, asborbing the echo of the waves hitting the shore.
At first light we'd emerge from our tent to the quiet waves. Shedding pajamas and donning damp bathing suits, we'd race to the water's edge. The ocean had left us treasures in the night to discover: yellow seaweed with strange rubbery leaves and bulbs that looked like hollow balls; broken sand dollars; a plank of sodden wood. I searched for seashells and watched hermit crab holes bubble and fill as the waves touched my toes.
The sensations of being surrounded all day and night by salty water and sand are still so clear to me decades later. But one memory seems more like a dream, though evidence exists to the contrary.
One morning my mother led us out into the waves. We waded out until the water reached my chest and I felt that I would be pushed by the gentle swells too far offshore, where the water was deep and green. But the water gradually became shallow again as we faced the horizon, and I could see the sandy bottom clearly. My mother reached down into the sandbar and pulled out a perfect sand dollar, like an ocean bone alive against her palm. As my mom sifted through the sand again, I did the same, and we found sand dollar after sand dollar, enough that day to fill a pickle jar.
That jar full of sand dollars still exists somewhere, stored in my father's attic or garage, the remnant of a perfect day of discovery in which my mother had performed the magical feat of plucking rare treasures casually from the sea floor. I could not look at my mother again without a sense of awe.
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I'll be dropping in to view my Flickr contacts, so I hope to see evidence of your summer adventures. I'd love to read about what you're up to, so please drop me a line or leave a comment to keep in touch. Have a great summer!