Don’t let the crashing waves get you down

July 3, 2017

14  comments


 

For generations, Southerners have flocked to what we consider to be “our beaches.” Stretching along the Gulf Coast from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Panama City Beach, Florida We make the trek every year, hoping no one else has discovered our spot of paradise. We easily recognize those who drove from far away to reach the beaches by their white legs and overhearing them erroneously call the Gulf an “ocean.”

 

I remember having to defend myself when someone in Atlanta, who was originally from Delaware, laughed at me because I claimed Alabama had a beautiful beach. “How could that possibly be true?” he sniffed. I gave up after a while, because I decided we didn’t need negative people like him on our beach. He’d probably call it an ocean anyway.

Once we’re on the warm sand, the sun makes it too bright to read, so we people-watch for a while, then try to nap, but are awakened by the thundering engines of boats pulling parasails that look like giant sky jellyfish.

 

We take a walk, eat a sandwich, but eventually begin to stare at the water. We can’t take our eyes off the layers of Green, turquoise, then dark blue. White foamy waves chase happy children as they run from the splashes.

For some reason, these days, sharks are showing up more frequently, but when I was a teenager, we swam in the Gulf without fear. If we went out far enough past the deep dark blue area, there was a sandbar where I could barely touch bottom and would bob up and down with the waves. It was almost deafening with the roar of the water churning around us. There were plenty of times we wouldn’t be paying attention and we’d be slammed beneath the surface by a giant wave, but being raised on the coast, we were all good swimmers and knew what to do. The first and most important rule was, “don’t panic.”  When I felt myself going under, I would take a deep breath, and brace myself to be plunged beneath the tumultuous surf into a new world of total peace. Below the waves was an eerie vacuum of silence. There, under the roaring crash of the surf, screams of children and squawking birds, I found a muted tranquility. Sometimes, I’d open my eyes and could still see the violent waves above, but where I was, there were only gentle, mesmerizing swirls. Eventually, I’d pop up, often in a completely different place and would have to swim back over to my friends. As a reward for not panicking, I’d often return holding a beautiful new shell for my collection, discovered while I was pushed to the floor of the Gulf.

 

I don’t venture out to sandbars anymore, but instead, sit and gaze at the beauty and power of the blue water. It serves as a reminder, that when things in the world are loudly swirling around me, not to panic, but instead, take a deep breath, and seek solitude beneath the storm. Ducking under the turmoil for a brief time can offer a soothing new perspective, and we often resurface to find ourselves in a new place. The Gulf taught me that sometimes, it’s okay to withdraw — to just retreat from chaos, drama and craziness. Taking a break every now and then to find peace is needed and we shouldn’t wait to be forced under.

Serving as both party hall and cathedral, the Gulf speaks to everyone differently. Feeling the power and majesty of creation, and being reminded to take time to be still, when all around us is swirling and slamming us down. We should seek momentary quietness and understand that we’ll eventually pop up in a new place. And maybe, while all is quiet, that’s the exact time, we’ll discover a treasure as beautiful and unique as a new seashell.

 

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  1. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be considered beaches? I love the Gulf, felt safer in the Gulf than at Myrtle Beach where we always went when I was a child. One of the most relaxing times I ever experienced was when we rented a house a few years ago on Cape San Blas in the panhandle. Since I’m careful of the sun now it was such pleasure each day to sit under a large gazebo right on the beach where we stayed. I had the sight, sound, smell of the beach and water, even the salt spray to cool me, while I watched my family and dogs at play. It was magical and I think my mind was clear and open to dreaming.

    Withdrawing from the craziness may be harder away from the beach that you write about, Leslie Anne, but this made me remember that it is possible. I won’t feel guilty for more and more time away from the world.

    Have you read Reeve Lindbergh’s books about her mother? I remember her writing about how Anne would sometimes be present bodily in a noisy gathering of family but she knew that her mother was actually far away in her own thought world. And that she wondered if sometime she would not come back. And one day she didn’t.

    I guess we don’t have to worry about withdrawing, as long as we come back, right?

    Lovely post and awesome photos!
    Dewena

    1. Thank you Dewena. I’d heard AML’s daughter had written a book, but have never remembered to look for it. Thanks for the reminder. My family loves the Cape San Blas area. Not so touristy with crowds! Myrtle Beach was the first east coast beach I ever saw and was amazed at how huge the tide was compared to the Gulf! Hope you enjoy your Independence Day!

  2. I fear our little secret is out. The world’s most beautiful beaches are filling up like crazy. Fortunately we live close enough for those quite mornings at all times of the year. There is no stress reliever like a stroll or just sitting with your feet just at the water’s edge. I don’t get in the Gulf past my ankles anymore. I have seen far too many pictures.

    1. Isn’t it strange how the safety of the water has changed so much over the years? Undertows are far more prevalent, and what is it with the sharks? Jelly fish used to be the worst creature we encountered.

  3. You had me at crashing waves…I love the ocean and I am sure I would call your beaches the ocean as well, but should I ever go, I will be sure to call it the gulf so I don’t look & sound like an outsider. Growing up in Boston we frequented the harbor beaches which didn’t have many waves and also the true Atlantic beaches which had the same type of waves you describe. Fortunately, swimming lessons were part our of education in the summer growing up so we also knew what to do when confronting the monsters. Safety is paramount… at least two more trips to the beach for me this summer…my happy place.

    1. You are so sweet, you can call it whatever you want! I made sure my boys had swimming lessons. It’s so important to now how to swim no matter where you live! Happy beaching!

  4. Oh, the beach is indeed my happy place. And, fear of sharks doesn’t bother me. We’re not on their menu. I adore being in the salty water and going home with sandy toes. It’s absolutely refreshing and rejuvenating. In fact, I think we’ll be heading there before too long as I need a little invigorating. Beautifully written!!

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