“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
They’re making changes to the beach house. Glenn told me about them on the drive in from Sea-Tac airport, as we coasted in and out of the carpool lane, trying and failing to beat the crush of holiday traffic and all the people fleeing the city, bound for barbecues and bonfires somewhere pretty with a water view, somewhere – I’m certain – not as pretty as our place with a water view.
We made the left turn off Grapeview Loop Road sometime after two-thirty and there she was: Mt. Rainier, standing tall above a sparkling blue Case Inlet and that familiar bank of evergreen trees. We have a saying in Western Washington when the weather is good: “The mountain is out.” The mountain was out, and I felt better about my somewhat optimistic decision not to pack an umbrella.
The beach house was the same but not. The built-in wooden cabinet that used to house Grandpa’s liquor bottles, assorted pens, knick knacks and puzzle books had been pulled from the wall, leaving behind a blank white space that only made the already bright and airy living room feel even more open and inviting.
Gone was the railing around the deck, with its slack and dirty rope threaded through splintered wooden posts, replaced by something solid, secure and decidedly modern: squares of sinewy metal framed by handsome polished maple.
Above the bar, a cheerful sign proclaimed: “The beach fixes everything.” As I settled my tired, up-before-dawn body into a seat on the weathered old porch swing, the breeze off Case Inlet gently tickling my skin, I had to agree.
Every time I return here, I think about a letter my grandfather wrote to me just before my college graduation in 2003. He predicted great things for my future, told me I could do and be whatever I wanted, and asked that I not let too much time pass between visits. “Don’t forget where you came from,” he wrote. “The beach never changes. ‘Tis only we who change.”
I used to take issue with the second part of that statement. Of course, the beach changes, I had wanted to scream during the dark periods of loss and upheaval that left their dirty thumb prints all over the last decade. Change was everywhere here. The strange new neighbors. The gaudy, imposing mansions springing up on what used to be vacant land. The laughter of loved ones echoing off the rocks and out into warm summer nights now confined only to my memories.
And yet. Every day without fail, the tide goes in and out. The mountain still appears, with the sun, above the tops of unchanging evergreens. Every year when the weather turns to autumn, a flock of Canada geese arrive and take up residence on the neighbor’s lawn. And the granite formation better known as Grandpa’s “magic rock” still stands on the beach like a strong, silent beacon, though Grandpa himself can no longer swim circles around it at high tide.
I think my grandfather was right: the beach hasn’t changed so much as it has reflected the change in all of us. This beach is certainly different than the place I remember from my happiest childhood memories. But that’s because I am different. And as the persistent drumbeat of time marches on, perhaps the biggest change I have experienced is the recognition that nothing is meant to remain as it is. That in this enormous, beautiful, rapidly unfolding thing we call life, the best lesson we can learn is to appreciate everything and cling to nothing.
The beach never changes. ‘Tis only we who change.
Until next time, friends.
“nothing is meant to remain as it is. That in this enormous, beautiful, rapidly unfolding thing we call life, the best lesson we can learn is to appreciate everything and cling to nothing” – yes! I’m currently going through some big changes myself and it is bringing anxiety issues up that I thought I’d dealt with years ago. Your post was a timely reminder that change is an inevitable part of life, even though it’s hard and scary sometimes.
“Appreciate everything and cling to nothing.” Very well said.
I live near beaches, so I can identify.
I have not experienced your play of ‘War Stories’, But I have read of your strengths and weakness you have shared of in your blog, your kindness and honesty, (‘Extra Dry Martini’ Straight up with a twist’ indeed Sarah’) and in this I can honestly tell you that you are every bit alive, your inner garden is beyond spectacular as proved in your writings Sarah. Always you are in bloom, you sorrows have proven wet, yet such beautiful flowers, in a valley of which this your garden is set, surrounded upon three sides by awesome snow capped mountains, more spectacular than even the Grand Tetons casts under awesome vivid hues as sunsets. And to the west there is an inlet, where seals and otters come to chance a visit a look into the eyes of a beautiful spirited landlocked mermaid who sometimes comes to hand wave the sea and live new life. Sarah you’re by far the best most honest and talented writer.
I am going to have to write of my own past, my Memoirs will read like a Stephen King novel and be every bit of the honest truth. Memoirs are extreme hard to write and or publish, because they cut so very deep. But if we keep the past as locked away, even in three lock boxes or our chested hearts, they can become as a illness, even as a black hole. As pain of pasts must be healed, or ebb and flow away as the tide, and haunting electric phosphorescent blue of cresting waves and skyward hand tossed sea shimmering downward like falling stars upon summer nights… For myself it is going to be a healing but painful as all hell, as I write and rewrite and delete and rewrite, oh will I ever post or publish of my past… but I cannot write it any other way but of their darkness dealt and truths of it. And if I do not write of it, well my health after six decades of locking it all within witnessed trough the eyes of 4 yer old little brother hiding under my own beds warn quilt, well it is now a matter of health waning.
But it is so damn hard, so painful. As there were the murders and crimes of evil monsters, and who am I to have to keep their dark secrets locked within me, within this heart and cranium; do you have any Blog or Book suggestion on writing one’s own memoirs?
‘Oh do I need a tide pool to soak my heart and feet, those toe healing little vivid green rock clinking sea anemone.
Thank you as always for your kind and heartfelt words, friend. I am still at the beginning of writing a book length memoir, and it is oh so very painful. But the pain of not writing is even greater. I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”
In terms of books to help you, I think you’d like Steven Pressfield’s style. His book The War of Art is fantastic, and his follow up, “Do the Work,” is a wonderful companion piece to keep at your side when working on a long form project. I referred to it often when writing War Stories.
Specifically with regard to memoir, there are two books I like: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr and Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. Old Friend is largely a practical handbook full of writing prompts that will help jog your memory.
I try to look at writing a book like writing a movie or a play. If you try to tackle it all at once you’ll get overwhelmed. Just write the moments from your life, one scene at a time.
Wishing you well. Be brave, and be kind (to yourself, most of all).
As always I LOVED reading this! And I love what your grandfather wrote. It is so true. There is something so calming and constant about the ocean. You can always count on it, even when it is at its most volatile or calming. I am glad you got to go back! ❤
Beautiful ! your story, your pictures and your Grandfathers saying xx
Its true “Tis only we who changes”. Nature filters herself as the uncapped time sails speedily,but she will continue to amaze her children with her ageless beauty, thats what she is, and no matter whatever we try to cover and destroy her sanctity, she will filter all of them when we will be solely responsible for our extinction.
Dear Extra Dry Martini,
It has been quite some time since i read any writings online but as i was going through my inbox, i stumbled on this. I must say it is beautiful and timely. So casual but definitely words of my season. Thank you for writing this! Sharing this now with a friend now. I love how words are like magic 🍁
On Sat, Jul 7, 2018 at 12:15 AM Extra Dry Martini wrote:
> Extra Dry Martini posted: “”And I asked myself about the present: how wide > it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.” – Kurt Vonnegut > They’re making changes to the beach house. Glenn told me about them on the > drive in from Sea-Tac airport, as we coasted in and o” >
What a lovely thing to say, Sonia, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate you sharing. ❤️