Beach Runs

A wet, white afternoon and a beach run at high tide.

I saw a dead gull that the sea was looking to reclaim.

So often on these beach runs I see dead birds. I used to take photos of them until I realized it was upsetting my kids. I thought it was romantic. Romantic in the sense of Keats and Wordsworth. And spiritual, in the sense of the freedom one is supposed to attain meditating on one’s own death.

I don’t meditate on the birds. But they are a reminder.

Some days the wind is loud and my joints ache. And I remember the afternoon I had to turn back after barely a kilometer because I knew something was wrong. It turned out to be a deep vein thrombosis in my pelvis.

I never lived anywhere long until I moved here. Now the beach conjures up frustratingly fragmented memories of my kids playing a game with their father – drawing big semi-circles within a circle to conquer territory. You would wipe away the evidence of the other person having claimed it.

I don’t know if there is a metaphor there, but it is a fact.

My youngest hated to walk barefoot in the sand. As far as I know, he still does. My oldest fills his shoes with sand everywhere he goes. And their father and I have wiped away that big circle that once enclosed us all three.

The first time I ever walked on an icy beach was the winter my grandmother sent me a package. I took it to the same stretch of beach to open it. I never told her about the customs fee I had to pay for her sentimental value /monetary value conflation. My grandfather had died, and she was preparing to die. She wanted to make sure I got a brooch and a necklace, and a ring she believed was much more valuable than it was.

I meditated on her death that afternoon, crushing the ice in the tide pools, trying to find the horizon in all that white. I meditated on family and ties and broken ties and time.

And I went again,  many years later, when she did – finally – die.

On the morning of July 23, 2011, there were no dead birds on the beach. But a head of lettuce. A potato. The absurdity was profound. I cried on my run.

My husband and I had our first date on this beach. And intended to get married here, but the roof on the chapel caved in two weeks before our ceremony. We laughed, and on our wedding day, I walked down an aisle that I had never seen before.

Maybe that was a good thing.

The beach is always there.


2 Replies to “Beach Runs”

  1. I love this!! It is so powerful, so beautiful. It is surely a book of meditations, or something. I want to be able to pick it up, read it, and read it again in a year, and another year. Beautiful, Ren. Truly beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much, Di. It is so good to be writing again – to find my way back you it – and YOU. Miss you. And, yes, I need a new book project now. Thanks for the little-not so little nudge.