I have been struggling lately with the space both physical and mental to make time for writing. I have a lot of excuses for why that is. But more than not, I think the reason I haven’t been writing is largely the same as the reason I ever did: it’s scary.
Writing prompts are short themed sort of micro essays that give you an opportunity to free write on a suggested topic. No pretense, no fear, no editing, no excuses: just write.
Today I decided to take 10 minutes out of my day to try this prompt by Dina Relles at Literary Mama. I am grateful to the Charlie Brown special on the television, the baby’s nap, and a one sided and protracted Monopoly game that conspired on this rainy day to make this possible. Today’s prompt centered at what bubbles up when you return to a place that holds memories for you.
So I thought to myself, where else do you go in the summer? Come join me at the beach….
As a young girl, I never worried about the tide coming in too far or too fast. It was a foolishly held belief that is possible only when you are very young that I would somehow always be able to find my footing. I watched the top of the rock carefully to see how far the water was rising and looked for my mother on the shore. At the beach, I felt small and free. I would float amidst the seaweed and motor boat oil that drifts to the top in protected waters. When something like water that is meant to be free flowing is surrounded mostly by land, the feeling that a beach should have is largely an optical illusion. At the shore, you should stand at the edge of the water and feel as though there are no limits, no land. Everything is dangerous, yet possible. For children like myself who grew up on the shores of Long Island Sound, you buy into the flawed principle that life is entirely full of safe harbors. That we will always be swimming where we can see land. Until you can’t. The disorientation of adulthood, of realizing that our hearts almost always beat outside our own bodies and fully without knowledge of safe harbor on the other side of the expanse that is life, is utterly terrifying.
Now, as an adult with my own children’s hands held tightly in my own, I see that shadowy lump across the water for what it is: the promise of the unknown. The only guarantee we have on this journey is uncertainty. The motor boats rev their engines and the bar in the distance plays a cover of Dave Matthews’ Crash. The lemon ice mixes with the sand on my lips creating a savory yet sweet and gritty paste that I hastily run my tongue over. It is comforting to know there are certain things you can always count on, like the way sand manages to find its way into every crevice and orifice of your body, and the way it tastes. Amidst the endless brightly colored throws and buckets and discarded cigarette butts, there is a blanket of children’s laughter that wraps itself around me and takes up nearly the whole expanse of tiny shoreline. I look down at the flesh and curves of my babies beside me. I pray that they will not fall victim to the flawed expectation that shelter provides: to the assumption that there is one likely outcome and that passage through protected yet murky waters will necessarily prove safe.