Midweek Musing: On the restorative power of the beach.

What is your place? The place you go to breathe, to relax, to shake out the days you want to forget, connect with yourself in a moment of calm.

My place is the beach. Specifically Seacliff and Brighton beaches in Adelaide. Here I spent summer afternoons with Nanna, parents, sisters and cousins as a child. Then I got old enough to come to the beach without parents, and would walk the beach or hang out at the nearby park with friends after youth group on a Friday night.

And in the years since then, it has been a place to go, not far to go, but 'away', to that broad open sky above the ocean that leads to anywhere. Away from the stresses of work, essay deadlines, dishes and cooking and cleaning. Away.

Open the car door and the air smells different, of salt mixed with seaweed and sunscreen. Top of the stairs, kick of your shoes; descend into the warm embrace of the sand around your feet. Walk awkwardly across the soft sand towards the wet shoreline, to walk just where the waves switch from flow to ebb, soft water, some days bitingly cold, others luke warm, washing, soothing, beckoning. One day I will actually wear my bathers and dive in, as I long to every time I am there. Too many reasons why I don't to list them here. But one day, I will dive in, sweet sensation of full immersion and return to the air. I will swim, feel my muscles stretch and work; I will float, held aloft in that clear glassy blue.

Mostly, though, I walk. Barefoot on the sand or in walking shoes on the wide path above the beach. Walking is so life-giving. I prefer gentle exercise, so walking is my usual choice, being free and accessible as well as something I enjoy. My body appreciates the stretch, the connection to earth, the expansion of lungs with fresh air. My soul appreciates the movement, the closeness to creation. My mind appreciates the freedom to roam, to not think at all, or to stumble upon a poem or idea.

Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags
my Edinburgh walk
I love living in a city at present, in Edinburgh, that is eminently walkable. I walk every day with purpose, to college, work, meetings, gatherings with friends, run errands. I walk some days with no purpose other than to walk. Then I usually take the path around the volcano, walk through the park beneath the imposing crags, past lakes, up above the city and the firth of Forth for delicious views. This, like my beach at home in Adelaide, is 'away' within easy reach, feeling like you have left the city behind, when it is just at the foot of the hill.
dry creek bed
from my old walk to the park

I used to enjoy walking a path through my suburb to the edge of the national park and sometimes into the park as well, during my season as minister at Belair. The path wandered through parks and little hidden wildernesses, and again, within minutes of leaving home, I was 'away'.

But I love walking the beach most of all. Any beach will do, really, but my beloved beaches at home are the best. Any beach will give me the moodiness of ocean and expanse of sky, the taste of salt in the air and feel of sand under my feet. 'My' beaches give me connection to memories, family, friends; hold my story, have received my dreams as I have walked at gazed towards the horizon.

The beach, these beaches especially, restore me to myself like the embrace of an old friend, laughter with my family, or a favourite piece of music. These beaches restore me to myself like nothing else does, speaking uniquely to my soul in its own language.

It is a sacred place, a place in which I know I will encounter the Sacred, and be met, away from everything else in order to return to it all in good spirit.


Heather said…
I hear you! This beach is wonderful! Ahhh.. just reading about "beach time" brings a deep sigh to match the sounds of the waves; those waves that (mostly) gently lap the shore on these gulf beaches. Not a lot of crashing; just the sounds of the sea breathing. Soft sand between the toes. The sea air tells you that it's rest time. The seagulls and salty smell bring memories of holidays. :-)
Love it.
Glenys said…
I quite like looking at the beach but my beach memories are of awkwardness and awful sunburn. I dislike the sand between my toes and the salt on my skin after swimming. But the lake.... ah, that's another matter. There I lengthen my view, contemplate the presence in the pelicans and swim and swim and swim as thoughts take shape.

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