The last few days have been a “far cry” from the usual routine of most of my days. On Saturday, Jenny, Lyla and I left the ” inland” to spend a week at the beach. Will and Miss Claudia were just behind us and carrying as many provisions as we were. A lot of things happen in a week, so we all packed accordingly.
Elizabeth City is less than a hour from the Atlantic Ocean. Miss Claudias’ sister, Mary Ruth, has a cottage that she invites us to use and for the last two years we have taken full advantage of this wonderful gift. . . of days spent by the sea.
What a different world lies, just a short ways off, from the rabbit patch. First, there is the ocean, vast and powerful. It roars and the earth roars with it. As far as one can see, there is water and we are apt to imagine the distant shores beyond . I imagine sending a greeting to my dear friend, Cobs, who lives just across the ocean. I wonder , what if the clouds passing by could tell me what they had seen as they drifted along. I look at the shells scattered in the sand, and collect a few, to keep for an hour or so. I will toss them back to their rightful home, before I leave. As I examine them and feel their slick surface, smoothed by the ages, I ponder who else might have held this same shell and where did they come across it? The ocean stirs up thoughts, as well as sand.
It does me good to know there are some mysteries left and will always remain, in this world.
The “early service”, by the sea, does not include robins and mockingbirds, nor roses, nor rabbits. I have had the company of a lovely, but shy, tuxedo cat. He watches me from a distance, and seems curious . . .but does not venture an inch closer, on any given day. He seems to be at home everywhere, but nowhere in particular. There are noisy gulls and little sandpipers gliding on the ocean breeze. Their announcement of morning seems more like an alarm, than a song.
There are no lawns, at least by my definition of a lawn. Sand is everywhere . Wild grasses grow in wispy patches and are always doubled over by the constant wind . There are some stalwart flowers, that manage to bloom, in the sandy soil . There are the brightly colored “Joe Bells”, named for a sea captain, who loved them enough to strew seeds as he traveled the coast decades ago. The lantana flowers bloom too and seem to thrive. These flowers must be quite versatile, for they also grow in the shade, along the edge of the young woods at the rabbit patch. I am very partial to the lantana. The blossoms are clusters of multicolored little flowers in lavender, pink and yellow at the rabbit patch, and have a citrusy, spicy scent. They bloom from late spring to the first hard frost, whether you fuss over them or not.
Kites fly everywhere here, almost on their own. I see them tied, to porches, unattended and left to their own devices. Lyla loves the kites, especially. Beach towels, in every hue, flap wildly, strung on makeshift lines, hanging on for dear life. On the shore, there is a trail of umbrellas in the brightest shades of every color. . . and it does not matter which direction you go, you are likely to see cottages in colors like salmon, turquoise or mint green. What a colorful place! . . . even in the absence of roses.
Having grown up on a farm, I learned how to cook pork, beef and chicken a variety of ways. I have always been satisfied with plenty of fresh vegetables as side dishes served with a slow cooked roast, yet at the beach, it seems I ought to be frying fish and potatoes. I think of what sauces could be concocted with fresh dill and lemon. One day, this week, I will try a recipe using oranges and coconut, that is a family recipe, from Miss Claudia. I think it is the salt air that puts such notions in my head, for the salt air has a specific scent. It will be the first indication, that you are approaching the coast. Chances are, you will smell the ocean, before you see it.
A typical day here varies, depending on who you are. Will and Jenny take Lyla to the beach every day, not long after breakfast. The afternoons are for napping or in my case, reading. Often, Will and Jenny take Lyla to some activity designed for tourists with children, in the later afternoon. I opted to decline any invitation, unless it involves ice cream or bakeries. Meals are light , though I am itching to “leave my mark” on this kitchen. Bacon and eggs just aren’t satisfying and sandwiches aren’t either, for such a domestic heart.
The short walk to the shore is hot. The sand burns your feet, so you must wear shoes. Only a few families share the beach with us, but in the distance it looks like a “state fair” in either direction. I like to walk down the shore. I declare a landmark, so I can keep my bearings straight, for at the ocean, distance is as sly as time. If I am in a dreamy state, as I walk, I am liable to walk further than I meant, for there is the long trek back, to consider. . .and truthfully I am always in a dreamy state at the ocean.
I do not believe my brain can perform a single calculation, while I am gazing at the ocean. I can not think about my “shoestring budget” or selling the rabbit patch. It is as if a force of nature, such as an ocean, keeps you suspended in the moment. As I walk the path, where the ocean meets land, not a single thought will pop in my head. I notice the little shells and feel the cool spray of the heaving, curled ocean water. I listen to the waves colliding with the earth. I look at the sky and note what sort of clouds are present, but that is it. . .as far as my awareness goes. I am completely and thoroughly in a very “unworldly” trance “.
It is odd and beautiful, to traipse a crowded beach and yet feel such solitude. For while I tread through sand and sea, I have no questions . . .and that may just be the purest form of peace.