Tom and I are visiting his mom who lives on Tybee Island, GA. We come every year to visit her and to get our “beach fix.” I have been to many beaches, but none draws me back like Tybee. The island remains untouched by fast food chains and high rise resort hotels. It is small enough to ride bikes from one end to the other and from ocean to marsh. We bike for milk shakes in the afternoon and margaritas in the evening. I love to bike for food.
At Tybee the tides dictate the day. They must be consulted before venturing very far. Rip tides are common. Going to dinner by boat is cancelled due to it being “dead low” tide. You can get stranded or worse on Little Tybee, an island that exists only at low tide. The ocean here is unpredictable and often dangerous. She demands my respect.
So, for my 5th year in a row, I find myself being with this beach, versus on it. I feel that subtle difference. This beach is a teacher and I am her willing student. Hers, of course, are not new lessons. Nothing is new, just restated. Sometimes though, when It is restated, I remember.
I offer to you what I learn and relearn every time I am here.
SOME THINGS YOU JUST CAN’T KNOW…
The thing I love about Tybee is the beach changes dramatically with the tides. At low tide little islands emerge from the sea, inviting us to explore them. We just have to walk or swim to get to them. For the last two days, Tom and I have explored these temporary islands. The newly exposed sand is unpredictable. Some stretches are like walking on concrete, sending shock waves up my spine. Other spots are soft, treacherous quick sand reminding me of a Johnny Weismiller Tarzan episode in which he rescues Jane from her near death. Then there are the deeply ridged areas that just plain hurt to walk on (I tried to tell myself it was like reflexology, but it isn’t.)
As we traverse these newly presented sand masses, checking the tidal pools like treasure chests full with sand dollars, sting rays, crabs, or flounder, my attention is captured by the amazingly beautiful terrain. The contours and colors are works of art. I am inspired and in awe. Natures art. It is simply breath. Tom and I discuss theories of a higher power being responsible for this beauty and/or the natural elements of water, sand and tide creating this art independently and exclusively. As our conversation wanes, the origin of this beauty no longer of interest, we drop our need for intellectual conclusions, that drain the beauty of a sunset, and enjoy not knowing.
COUNT ON CHANGE…
Continuing in the same vein…or ocean if you will…walking these low tide exposed beaches is a moment in time that will never be repeated. I will never walk on the same land mass again. Tomorrow it will be a different walk, with different pools and mounds. Different sea life resting in the deep pools, waiting for the tide to rise again to carry them back to the ocean. Tonight, where we walked will be ocean again. Our footsteps long gone, unnoticed and unimportant in the life of this island. I am comforted and distressed by this knowing. And, truth be told, what I feel about it doesn’t matter. It will still be different tomorrow when we walk, whether I like or not.
In one of the deeper channels we floated. Heads back, arms out. Tom started it. I found him floating (he was so relaxed it was a good thing he was face up or I would have been scared). I have always loved to float, it is the ultimate letting go. I grew up on a lake in NJ and raised my kids on a lake in western PA. I discovered, early in my life, floating was the antidote to stress. There were many dynamics to manage in my family of origin; watching my back (because no one else would), keeping the peace, and hearing the unspoken so I could avoid the ensuing ship wreck. The lake always saved me. When I got on the water I let go. I trusted the water had me, and it always did, as long as I let it have me. (If you resist the water you will sink AND if you don’t breathe while you float you will sink as well-good to know.)
So today, on this magical, space-in-time island, I knew I wanted to float. I knew I needed to float, to allow my body to yield to the water. I needed to let go of my management of my life, my expectations of myself, of others, my illusions of control, my disappointments. I walked into the water, my mind taking a minute to adjust to what it needs to do-get the hell out of the way- and laid back. A minute later I am floating, breathing deeply, arms out, head and neck held by the water, floating. I feel my yield in every cell of my body, I find my faith in the water to hold me, to not let me go or drop me. I trust the water. It has me and that is a really good feeling. My body needed to float so I could remember.
When I put my feet to sand again, my shoulders are dropped, my back looser, my breathing easier and my body satisfied. It is necessary to feel well held in order to let go.