Least grain

December 20th, 2009

“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

We are weekending at a shimmery stretch of coastline known as Crystal Cove. It is one of my husband’s most sentimentally favorite places. We spent his 40th birthday here ___ years ago. It was the site of our first family vacation, when Georgia was nine months old, the disbelieving dawn of my awareness that I could leave the house for more than an hour at a time.

Back then, it was a week of firsts. Georgia crawled for the first time, putt-putting in a forward sway across the putrid shag carpet in our beach rental. We shopped nearby in Laguna Beach, where I stepped inside a clothing shop for the first time since giving birth and let a wise saleswoman cajole me out of my baggy sweat pants and back into a facsimile of me. I carried my cranky girl twice daily down the lonely curve of sand and saw for the first time how she dropped straightaway to sleep to nothing but the sound of the ocean.



That discovery alone saved our lives every day and night for the next four years.


And now it is a weekend of returns and repeats. The cove of beach cottages has been lately reclaimed and restored, and although it lightly approaches the Disneyfication that passes as some kind of global standard of entertainment, it as raw and real as only the ocean can be. My younger sister, a recent transplant from Texas, now lives nearby and, more than that, genuinely occupies our lives. Enough proof for me that in this ceaseless cycle of comings and goings, there is a perfect order and rhythm that can never be foretold.



On the beach nearby us was a young couple with a tantruming two-year-old wrangling out of their clutches as they tried to slather him with sunscreen. He roared and wailed above the pounding surf. I can see now how in the life of a two-year-old nearly everything is an outrage and an imposition; nearly everything is foisted at them with the rudest of good intentions. Now I understand the screams, although for most of that year Georgia and I went nose to nose in mutual mortification.


Today I heard the waves, the same old waves, anew. The ocean tells us over and over to accord ourselves with the rhythm of life, with the movement of life, like grains of sand on the beach, lifted up and carried back, sunken deep and then roiled forward again, staying nowhere, flung through air and water to what is but the next temporary abode, the impermanent address, and that it is only in this change itself, this perpetual unrest, holding nothing, that we can ever find true rest.

All that and hot dogs too.

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  1. We use the sound of the oceans for sleeping here as well.

    Beautiful post … I’m breathing heavy thinking about the relaxation of the ocean. Much like riding a bike, if you grew up near the ocean you needn’t see it to feel it’s rhythm … but nothing is more profound than being there in eyesight.

    We’re planning to take the twins there in a couple weekends. It will take 4 hours to get there. They are 19 months. Do you think we’ll escape the tantrums?


    Comment by Shawn — August 20, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  2. we are back from our seaside escape and one tantrum which entailed fork flinging in a crowded restaurant. i was so angry that i forgot satch was strapped in the highchair and as i attempted to snatch him from the chair for a “heart to heart”, the whole chair came with him. it was like one of life’s little reminders to “respond NOT react”…a lesson i must obviously learn again and again.


    nevertheless, it was very grounding to be by the sea.


    Comment by Wendy — August 20, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  3. aaaahhh… the ocean cd… yes, that worked on our first (8 years ago)… but thankfully now with the 11 month old, he sleeps a solid 10 hours with just a brief rock in the glider and a kiss goodnight on the forehead. we are truly blessed this time around.

    Comment by John — August 20, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  4. The ocean is my true home.
    And for the reasons you captured so well here, it is my teacher and solace both.
    How I needed these words this morning. Thank-you.

    Comment by bella — August 20, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  5. Nothing, nothing, nothing like the ocean. It relaxes me just to think of it.

    Comment by Mary P Jones (MPJ) — August 21, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  6. The only ocean that ever worked on mine was of the Led Zeppelin variety. Whatever works!

    Comment by Mama Zen — August 21, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

  7. Enjoy your escape! I've haven't been down that way since college. I'm sure it has changed much and not at all. I would love to see those restored cottages though I hear reservations are difficult to get.

    Comment by Shalet — December 20, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  8. Yes, reservations are impossible to get. We do not have a reservation at any place I'd like to stay, but I am practicing being the least grain in a dormitory house with strangers. I must vacate my idea of a vacation whether I like it or not.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 20, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  9. As a prairie girl who didn't see the ocean until the age of 12 or so, I've always felt a tinge of fear in that 'shwoosh shwoosh' sound.

    Witnessing the carnage of the tsunami in Phuket, where the world was literally picked up, thrust forward and turned upside down, has certainly done nothing to abate my fears.

    The ocean frightens me still; I wish it weren't so.

    Its power, its impermanence, its rawness and realness, the things unknown in its depths — I strive to conquer my fear of these things, in the ocean, and in life itself…

    Comment by Lana — December 20, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

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