A walk on the beach is soul cleansing for me. All my senses are engaged, and for some reason, at the first step on the sand, my brain can breathe. I have always loved the beach but didn’t realize its true power until later in life. That is a theme in my life; later in life is where most of my lessons and “clicked.” The ability to look back at the chapters of my life and see the lessons can only happen later when you have the maturity to recognize them.
I was never one to walk on the beach in my younger days. I was oiled up and lying in the perfect position to get the perfect tan. I had snacks and drinks, sometimes a radio, and good sunglasses so I could people watch. When asked by whomever I was with if I wanted to go for a walk on the beach, I usually said no. That would take away from my tanning time. My perspective has changed; although I still love to lay on the beach all day, I do enjoy the walk on the beach as well.
I am an early morning or late evening walker on the beach. During the day, you are maneuvering around kids with boogie boards and some building sandcastles. I love all of that but prefer to watch from my chair. Early morning is best for me. The coast is waking up. Only the die-hard walkers of the beach and shellers are out early in the morning. There is always a knowing nod to a passer-by because this is rarely social time. Most folks walking on the beach are there for health. Some of them for physical health and some of them for mental health, some are for both.
For me, it is mental health. I am actually not a huge fan of just walking. My mother has been walking 6 miles a day for 50 years, and it is her lifeline to feeling good, thinking through stuff, and cleaning her mind. I didn’t get this gene in my DNA. Since my Dad’s death, I have walked more with her in the past few years, and I get it. It is low impact, and you can choose to do it alone or in a crowd. She walks outside in nature and loves to take all of that in, which helps her process. I’m still not a huge fan, but I understand it better after spending time with her. (Although, I’m usually struggling to keep up with her).
Walking on the beach has a completely different impact on me. The sound of the waves, ocean, or bay is soothing. The dependability of their coming and going instills trust that I don’t have in my life. Always different if you really study them, but always moving forward. Yes, they also retreat, but I have always viewed that as gathering strength for their return. Waves are strong and fierce on the approach but show grace and mercy after they land on the sand and roll forward, much like the life lessons.
A walk on the beach involves sand. At times, annoying and hard to clean off. Sand gets into places you can’t even imagine. All those little tiny granules, almost microscopic when viewed as one, work together to serve a greater purpose. Not just annoying people when they go home to clean up. When you walk on the beach, your feet sink a bit. Dry or wet, the sand will give way to your weight. Importantly, it gives but still offers support. Sand will force you to focus on your walk, and it adds a difficulty that you don’t have when you are walking in the street. You have to focus a bit. The transition from dry to wet sand offers relief because it is hard to walk in the sand. Walking on the beach and through the sand adds a challenge to the walk. You feel your legs move differently, muscles react differently, your posture changes. I usually feel like I’m pulling something heavy behind me, bent over and dug in to reach my destination, trudging through the dry sand. Then you reach the wet sand, feeling accomplished, victorious, and if you are like me, ready for a drink and a chair. Sand forces focus on your steps and being purposeful. Once you find your groove, you can begin to focus on other things. Trust me, sometimes the walk to the wet sand is the workout for the day!
The smells during a walk on the beach are plentiful. Sometimes good and sometimes bad depending on how you feel about it, but always changing. The smell of the water, salty and sandy (and maybe a little fishy), open your sinuses and allows you to breathe clearly. Depending on the time of day, the mix of sunscreen and food. In the morning, though, you have the smell of a new day. I wish I could describe that, but you know what I mean if you are a beach lover. Maybe it is the act that I actually made to another day, but you can almost smell the sun.
The shells add to the beauty of it all—speckled colors of white, coral, and black like mosaics on sand canvas. The seagulls flying and cooing, with grace and beauty, skillfully swooping down for food or a quick bath. The occasional fisherman, fishing for food or fun, enjoying the morning their way.
Lessons from the Beach are plentiful for me. I know we all have those places that give us that feeling of center and balance. I hope that during this year you all find that place if you haven’t, and get to the place you often know to find your balance and clarity as often as you need to do so.