Back from the Beach, Back to School

Attention conservation notice: Not a whole lot of narrative coming your way here.

I got back from Tybee last Sunday, got ready for school on Monday, and started on the fall semester on Tuesday.

Note to self: a beach vacation is never a bad idea, but being mentally still at the beach is not the recommended state of mind for the first week of the fall semester. All the signs are good for a perfectly decent semester, but my head is still in Tybee.

Did you know when you play in the waves all day, waves rock you to sleep at night? Three people in our party (that I know of; maybe there was more) all had the same strange sensation on lying down after being in the ocean for hours. When we laid down for bed or for a nap, we all felt like we were being rocked by waves, gently moved back and forth.

It was very like the feeling of the room spinning when you’re lying in bed drunk, only far more pleasant and not nauseating at all, and not spinning, but like being rocked in a cradle or hammock.

Anyway. I’m here but I’m still there, hearing gulls, walking in moonlight, watching dolphins breach and swim.

I’m glad I finally learned how important vacations are. They aren’t just for playing and resting and eating. They lift you up out of your life and show you your world from above so you see the topography of your life rather than just the limited landscape you see from ground level.

I’m home to my familiar soft bed, warm cats and sweet-tasting mountain water that tastes like springwater right from the tap. And I can see clearly I am on the computer too much, not interacting with my fellow humans enough, not moving around enough, not getting enough dirt and air and sunshine. Not getting enough life out of life.

But I’m home and familiar ways call to me and inertia sucks me back in, hazing up the heart’s vision that became so clear on a fairly ordinary, fairly touristy little Georgia island.

The ocean really has magic in it, as does a proper vacation. As does a walk on the beach with a dear friend as she braces her heart to end a relationship and you brace yours for your own battles back home.

I hunger for a dose of music, irrationality and emotion. I’ve been listening to Kate Bush’s Aerial lately, disc two. It’s about birdsong and summer and death and the ocean, and there’s something in it that I need. Some vitamin absent from the diet of my ordinary life. I want to lick it like a salt lick.

Speaking of my ordinary life… I type this from the NEMAC computer room, where I am hoping I am not interfering with somebody’s science as I sit here writing about oceans and magic and sand. I am trying to do the right and brave thing, which is to bring the beach home with me, and its lessons, back to my everyday world.

When I rose up and over my life, I saw the things I need to do and change. But it’s hard to pack magic in your suitcase and bring it home.

Walking in warm sun has a lesson: it’s good to stretch legs cramped from desk-sitting that used to run miles and do yoga, and that ache for reconnection. The full moon over a dark ocean has a lesson: seek music and mystery to find this place again, even far from the shore. Rushing waves have a lesson: facing the unavoidable, as there are so many things in life (death, change) sure as a coming wave to hit you as you stand powerless to escape them.

The ocean is a source of both fear and pleasure, food and death. What a strange place it is. No wonder people seek it when they are tired or questing.

You can take a wave, even a big one, gracefully if you know how. Me, I am all about the best practices.

This blog is best when my life is best, and my life is best when there is a battle going on. The game has hardly been afoot since I quit math and science for journalism nearly two years ago, and my life has grown tasteless with inertia.

It’s not that changing my life-focus wasn’t the right thing to do; I still believe it was. It’s just that now without new worlds of math and science to do battle with, all my battles are done. There is nothing to do but fight that last foe, myself. My own ordinariness. A dread battle indeed.

It’s easy to dream of taking back my fitness, being again the one up at six every day, running eleven miles for fun, meditating daily, doing yoga, disdaining sweets and second helpings. (Really, I used to be disgusting, and felt health and youth surging through every cell of my body like electric honey. Caring for your body, wedding yourself to it, really doesn’t make you live longer. It just makes your life unimaginably more delicious.)

I was an eleven-miler and a meditator once, but much has intervened since then including the mere passage of years that has grayed my hair and made my knee and shoulder stiff.

Bad joints run in the family and at 39 my left shoulder and knee ache when they get a chill. Just yesterday I had to move away from a classroom AC unit blowing cold air on my shoulder and making the bone ache.

Arthritis runs in my family, as does the severe, chronic pain it causes which so cruelly torments my mother, a demonic daily and nightly companion stealing her sleep and her ability to walk and stand with comfort and command.

Must I really fix my bike, ride it, rollerskate at the park, renew my gym membership, travel overseas, find time to write interesting things, hunt down new clients and break into new fields? Must I really be brave and interesting in order to be brave and interesting? To be other than ordinary and happy by my own standards, does it really have to take so much god damned work?

I always knew the answer but the beach just put the answer in my hands, real and immediate as the rough brown-green sand dollars I found on the ocean floor. The battle against the ordinary needs to begin, and soon.

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