for release Friday July 4, 2003
by Melodie Davis
I can hardly believe I spent the first 13 years of my life without seeing an ocean. Of course, I know there are probably billions of people (think inland China) who have never seen an ocean. To my parents' credit, even though we lived in the Midwest, they made it possible for me to swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific by the time I was 15, and then moved within an hour of the Gulf of Mexico by the time I was 17. So, now, living about four hours away from the Atlantic as an adult is a gift to be savored. And the ocean is a place to be visited as often as possible.
In my office is a non-descript, rather poor (gray cloudy day) photo of my daughters enjoying the Atlantic. It is one of those long horizontally-oriented things back when those wing ding Advanced Photo System cameras were new and all the rage. But I still like it because the girls are horsing around and have their arms spread out wide for the picture as if to say, "Come on in, Mom, the water's fine."
I need the ocean like some people need skiing or running or chocolate. When we drive to the ocean, we cross bridges over inlets and bays, and even if the day is hot and the air conditioner is working overtime, the only thing to do is roll down the window to sniff the salt water, hear the gulls circling overhead, and feel the brilliant sunshine (on a good day). There is something so elemental about the ocean. Author Anne Morrow Lindberg writes about the primeval rhythms of the seashore-about listening to the constant roar of waves and looking out as far as the eye can see to the horizon, and almost imagining that one can see the curvature of the earth along the horizon.
Anne Morrow was the wife of the famous flier Charles Lindbergh; her famous and beloved book, Gift from the Sea, was initially published in 1955. I first became acquainted with it over 25 years ago and it is still one of my favorites. She writes about how at first when you get to the beach, you are so tired and wiped out by all the hurry and whir of just getting there that you only have energy to plop yourself down in a beach chair or flat on the sand, and just lie there and vegetate. And that is okay. You may go with great intentions of reading this or that book or catching up on writing notes or even writing in your journal, but at first it is important to just totally unwind, relax, let it all go.
This is assuming you aren't chasing after little kids and carting a ton of their paraphernalia to the beach. Lindbergh was of course wealthy and she was able to go to the shore each summer for a time while her husband stayed back in the city, working. Kids require even more energy. But even then, there comes a moment, after sunscreen and last minute trips to the bathroom in wet swimsuits have been taken care of, when the kids get wrapped up in building a sand castle or going for a walk with Dad or another relative, and you have a chance to just rest, absorb, and let go. After you have been at the beach awhile, after your "busyness" has ebbed away, the ocean is able to fill you back up again with joy, with energy, with new or calmer insights for your busy life back home. Lindbergh writes (slightly paraphrased), "Is this what happens to woman? She wants perpetually to spill herself away. All her instinct as a woman-nourisher of children, husband, society-demands that she give. Her time, her energy, her creativeness drain out ... Traditionally we are taught, and instinctively we long, to give where it is needed, and immediately. Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim" (p. 45, Gift from the Sea, Vintage Books, New York, 1975). Lindbergh talks about how women need time alone and apart to be re-energized for the constant giving that is drawn out of them, and adds that the church has also functioned as that quiet centering time for many women. "No wonder woman has been the mainstay of the church. Here were the advantages of the room of her own, the time alone, the quiet, the peace, all rolled into one and sanctioned by the approval of both family and community. Here no one would intrude with a careless call, "Mother," "Wife," "Mistress." ... And in that hour ... the springs were refilled" (Lindbergh, p. 54).
So if you are lacking proximity to an ocean, get thee to a lake, stream, creek, or anywhere there is a body of water. Maybe a bathtub. Even just a roadside puddle. Peer down deep into the water. Look at fish or crawdads or watch dragonflies. Study the tadpoles or moss and just get lost in wherever your thoughts take you. You don't have to wait for a trip to an ocean to experience God's great and good gift of water, and how it is made to replenish us not only when we are physically thirsty for water, but when our souls are thirsty too.
If you have a beach trip in your summer or other time for reading, write for the free novel, Lucy Winchester, by Christmas Carol Kauffman, as long as copies last. Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 936 words; end material = 105 words
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