“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.
Best of luck as you move and transition to a new home!
Thank you so much Pam!
All the best with your move and your master’s program. What an exciting new chapter in your life! 😊
I really admire the way you write–unflinchingly–on your blog about the difficult, painful and uncertain parts of life.
I’m currently facing the prospect of a big life transition/decision: moving, and leaving my mother living alone at 70…for her, the first time living alone in 51 years. Not doing it would mean staying in my comfort zone and avoiding my anxiety about my mom’s well-being.
Do you ever think about making the ‘right’ decision, even when there is no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ path to take?
I think I tie myself up in knots doing that, and when a decision is hard or a change is too daunting, it’s easier to subconsciously rationalize it as being the ‘wrong’ thing, or not the right time.
I hope you have a happy new year (in advance). May 2020 be a wonderful decade! This is one of my favourite quotes to start a new year…
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day” (Edith Lovejoy Pierce).
Thank you for your message, Grace! That’s a lovely quote.
Here’s one of my favorites, from Anais Nin:
“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right, too.”
Like you, I have a history of tying myself up in knots over the big decisions I have to make. But to be honest, I think I suffer far more when I remain in that tortured, paralyzed place of inaction, rather than when I make a quick decision that turns out to be “wrong.”
You’re an intelligent, thoughtful person, and I’m sure you won’t do anything rash or foolish. Trust yourself and your instincts and just go for it. You can do it. 😘
Wishing you a very Happy New Year. ✨
Thank you for your sweet reply. 🙂 Agreed — agonizing over a decision is exhausting and fruitless, and definitely worse than making a decision and seeing what happens.
Happy New Year!
Moving is always so scary! I am in between, having left New York and preparing to move to Charleston. Anxiety is normal. Nothing worthwhile is done without fear. I like to think of it as a friend rather then an adversary. Sending you so much love and good juju. A very Happy new Year sweet lady! ❤
You’re 💯 right. Thank you so much for your sweet message! I’m wishing you well on your own upcoming move. Change is good! Happy New Year friend! ❤️
I am just so happy for you that you’re starting this writing program. I’ve been following your story for a while now, and all I can say is you deserve this. I hope it will be a start to a joy-filled new chapter in your life.
Thank you so much for your kind words and well wishes! And thank you for reading along. I should be able to post with more regularity once I’m settled down south and in full time writing mode. Thank you again and Happy New Year!
Congrats on your move and the new chapter in your life. I’m sure it will be full of challenges but also joys. Enjoy the ride!
Thank you so much Amy! Happy New Year!
I love this picture of your mom. We grew up together in University Place, and reconnected when you were in college and we discovered that we both lived in Olympia. I was stunned and saddened by her untimely passing — I got a call from your brother-in-law because my number was in her phone. She touched me deeply in our later years. She was so honest. And beautiful. Her stories hinted at a rich life. I’m so glad that you are putting this all in writing. My best — Heidi Keller
Thank you for reaching out! Your message means so much to me, and I’m so grateful to you for sharing these kind words about my mom. I’m in Savannah, Georgia now, working on a master’s degree in writing, and I already know that my thesis project will be about her. If you’re willing to talk further, I would love to connect with you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime through this blog. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m wishing you well. ❤️
All the best,
I’d be happy to connect. I’ll send you an email. I love your blog and I’m glad you are going to graduate school. I waited until I was 57’sh. It was a great experience. It’s good to do it at your age. Best — Heidi
That would be great, Heidi! I look forward to hearing from you! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
All the very best to you for your new adventure! and a very happy new year! just love your pictures and news! xxxx
Thank you so much friend! Happy new year! ❤️