Saturday, July 14, 2007
It is the perfect day.
The air is so dry and clean it brushes my cheek like a feather. Closing my eyes, I breathe in deeply the smell of the salt water. The sound is sea gulls and lapping waves, children’s’ voices muffled and laughing. The sun is set to exactly the right temperature. The sky above is so blue and Grass Island across the water so green that it doesn’t look real.
The responsible voice in my head nags at me to study, to work, to write; I assuage her by stuffing a text book into my beach bag; this is a day too delicious for the computer, for work, for test preparation, for anything else but this. I wiggle back and forth on my blue faded beach chair until the aluminum legs settle snugly into the warm sand, my mind sliding into Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. How is it I have not yet read this book?
I am on a reading binge, sneaking reading in and behind and around all of the other things I really need to do. Reading and writing are normally like breathing; in balance and reliant on one another. Breathe in, breathe out, read and write. I realize from time to time, for reasons I don’t understand, I hold my breath, taking in every bit of mind nourishing oxygen and holding it. Reading is my breath in and I cannot seem to get enough, it has been a long stretch since I exhaled my words, but I give in to the habit without understanding or self condemnation.
My boys are no longer beach happy. The only form of summer activity that appeals to them is biking or boarding with their friends around town, “hanging out.” They are separated from me now in the way of boy-men, tethered by cell phone only. Cadence is still mine for now. Everything to her is a summer activity and she blows in the wind like a piece of dandelion fluff, ready to land wherever the day takes her.
She begins her trek into the tide pools, happy with the receding tide; the ocean obliging by exposing its tiny wonders in the muck and grass. I read with one eye in the book and one on her sun-browned back, spine curved into a C as she squats on the muddy bank to visit tiny crabs, snails and fish. There are two brown Cs now; yes, she has found a friend!
I force myself to be in my body as I read; to continue to smell and feel and listen and glance at the blue and green so as not to miss the perfection of this day. An hour has passed and the tide pool friend is gone. Cadence takes to the other side of our little beach where the crabs are plentiful at low tide and new friends are a possibility. Eventually, a little girl comes to find me with the news that Cadence is crying with a cut on her foot. I make my way too her, hushing the selfish voice in my head that did not want to put down my book.
We make our way to the lifeguards, Cadence with a Broadway performance of the damsel in distress. I know the event was quite satisfying, in spite of the sting, as the young men sat her in a chair, cleaned and dressed the wound and even wrote her name down in a notebook log. We make our way back to the water full of rocks and shells.
“Ow, Ow, Ow, it still stings,” she says stepping gingerly across the rocky surface.
“Do you want to sit on the blanket with me or should we leave?” I see the difficult choice running back and for the behind her eyes.
“No, I’m fine. I want to stay…Ow. Mom? Ow, Ow, I know you don’t like to get wet when you’re reading, but if you just come in right here to your ankles, there are millions of Hermit Crabs!”
My reader voice is annoyed and loud inside my head, determined to get back inside the cover, but I argue that I cannot be really in this day if I am not in this low tide muck full of wonder. “Okay, but where did your leave your sandals? You need to wear them or you are going to get more cuts on your feet.”
“I don’t know, Ow, Ow, I looked everywhere.” she sands like a stork, twisting the bottom of her injured foot up to examine.
“Let me look back at the blanket.” I say, trudging back to search. I stuff my book under my blue, faded chair to hide the temptation and find Cadence’s sandals under the beach bag.
She looks into my face as I hand them back to her, unable to see my eyes through the sunglasses, but she knows she has reeled me in somewhat against my will. Oh, so perceptive, she reels the line in tighter and I take the squatted C formation next to her as she proceeds to point out the difference between the tiny crabs and tiny snails. She shows me little clear gelled eggs beneath the surface that have a dark spot just off center and they roll around in your hand if you hold very still. She scoops up teeny weenie shrimp and fish too small to notice.
“There are Producers, those are the plants that make their own food like this seaweed, and Consumers, like these fish that eat the plants, and the crabs are the Decomposers, they are bottom feeders that eat the rotting stuff. Oooh, look, Mom, the tiniest hermit crab ever!” She holds her water-logged wrinkled palm for me to see the tiny dot racing across her hand.
“How on earth do you know all of that stuff?” I ask, truly impressed with her eight-year-old knowledge.
“School,” she answers flatly, “See Mom? I knew you would like it! And you hardly had to get wet!” Her eyes meet mine over the tops of my sunglasses and I am so glad she pulled me out of my endless inhale. As if she knew what she had done, she added, “I know Mom! You can write about it! You can say…And they finally found her sandals and as she quickly whipped them on she went cheerfully back to finding little sea creatures.”