“There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it,’ said my mother. ‘Put yourself in the way of beauty.”
– From the book “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed
I couldn’t believe how quickly the nine days passed. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised: time always moves differently at the beach. I arrived on a Tuesday evening after a long travel day. There was the pre-dawn taxi ride to Newark airport, the two-hour flight delay, the six-hour cross country flight, and finally the hour and a half drive over freeways and winding rural highways to get to the beach.
The day after I arrived, the rain rolled in. Rain that lasted for three days. So much rain, the low-lying plot of land next to my grandfather’s house filled with water and formed a large pond, playing host to a flock of Canada geese that glided serenely across its surface.
I tried to stay on east coast time, going to bed early and rising before the dawn. For the first few days it worked, my internal clock naturally nudging me awake before sunrise. But as the crash and clamor of New York City faded into the tranquil quietude of the fog-wrapped inlet, I couldn’t help it: my body naturally slipped back into what could only be described as “beach time.” Just in time for my return to New York.
I almost didn’t make the trip west. The days before I came here were consumed with sorting through and purging my belongings, checking items off an ever-growing to-do list, and preparing to leave New York. It’s nearly impossible for me to believe that by this time next week, I will be settling into a new life in Savannah, Georgia. At the end of next week, I will move into a new apartment, attend graduate school orientation, and be on the precipice of starting a master’s program.
Aaah. Just writing those words gives me a stab of anxiety. I know I’ll be fine; I’ve navigated big scary life changes before (and documented them on this blog). But this feels different. This feels like taking a purposeful step into the future, one that’s full of intention. With this program, I’m committing my time and resources to developing my voice as a writer. And I’m committing myself to finishing the memoir I’ve been trying to write for years.
When I arrive back in New York, I’ll have a mere five days to finish packing and discarding my belongings, saying my goodbyes, and getting ready to move. Five days. The thought of it sends my brain swirling into overdrive. There’s so much to do that my mind can’t contain it all, so instead, I choose to push those thoughts aside and simply enjoy the view.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my grandfather’s dining room table, drinking coffee, watching the sunrise valiantly break through cracks in the thick white fog that hangs over Case Inlet. A small stack of photographs rests nearby. After days of poring over old photo albums, these snapshots are the last handful of images I have left to record on my iPhone camera. Mostly, they’re photos of my mother and I, dating back to my early childhood and teen years, many of them taken right here on this beach.
My mother is everywhere in this place. It’s why I wanted to come here, busy as I was before my impending move to Georgia. In this little corner of the Pacific Northwest, I hear her laughter reverberating off the rocks of the beach and dancing along the shore of the inlet. I feel her in the wind that rustles through the evergreen trees; see her in the snowy apex of Mount Rainier that every so often breaks through the thick layers of grey clouds to say hello.
I wonder what she’d think of me now, as I prepare to embark on this new adventure. I can’t know for sure, but I do know I’m glad I came here. I didn’t know until I arrived how much I needed this time. Time to breathe. Time to reconnect with the place that raised me. Time to honor those who’ve gone before me and whose spirits still reside in this place.
And this morning, I needed to see that sunrise valiantly break through those clouds. Like a beacon of hope. One that said, “Hey kid, you’ve got this. You’re going to be OK.”
And now, here I go.
Until next time, friends.