Every day the sea
blue gray green lavender
pulls away leaving the harbor’s
—from “Tides” by Mary Oliver
This morning I laid in bed and gazed out of the sliding glass doors that overlooked the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. Orange, blue and lavender layered the November sky. I laid tucked under the sheets, holding hands with Andrew and following the in and out of my breath. Good morning, sea.
I listened to the sound of the ocean, the waves crashing on the shore. When I need to feel grounded, I go to the mountains. When I need to feel free, I go to the beach. I think Andrew and I were both craving a sense of peace. We found it in the ebb and flow of the sea, in the endless walks we took along the shore several times each day, in watching our dog Molly chase sandpiper birds and plunge her black and white spotted chest into the sea’s salty waters. Free and unabandoned, she let her wild mild lead her. I think dogs were put on this earth to teach us humans how to let go.
On our first night at the beach, Andrew and I walked behind Molly, hand-in-hand, our pants cuffed above our ankles. We walked toward the setting sun, a ball of orange thatslowly slipped below the horizon. Andrew always reaches out for my hand—on the couch while we’re watching TV, in the car on our way to our next adventure, in bed while we sleep. Our hands always seem to find each other. Hello, I’m here. I love you. Andrew is always there. Present. With me.
During these three days that seem to go by too quickly, I am in the present, living in the moment. I do not think about this past year or the future that will come. It’s as if it’s all been erased from my mind. Here, nothing matters. I read my book and hours slip by. We sip mimosas and stare at the ocean. We play a guessing game of time.
It feels like 8 o’clock.
No, it’s 6:30.
It’s always earlier than we think.
When I’m here, I don’t wear makeup, even though I’ve brought my staples: mascara, concealer, lipstick. They sit in my bag untouched. I do not smear on concealer to cover the purple circles under my eyes. It’s just me. Raw. Uncovered. Natural. Authentic. No masks. No camouflage to hide my fatigue. No red lipstick to make me feel more put together than I sometimes feel. My hair is a mix of sand and sea and salty air. I do not waste time styling it. There are grains of sand between my toes. I wear yoga pants cuffed past my ankle and a hooded sweatshirt. Bras are optional.
Atlantic Beach, this place, it’s special to me. The first time I came here was 2011, 10 months after I left my ex-husband. Back home, my world was falling apart. I came here to escape it. Three nights. Four days. Just me and my dog, Yoshi. My rock. My anchor. It was late April. We watched every sunrise and every sunset together. We explored seaside towns and drove with the windows down, taking in big gulps of sea air. I was inconsolably lonely. What I remember most about those days was how quiet it was in our hotel room. The silence was deafening. I didn’t speak to anyone for four days. I ate meals alone in my hotel room. Slept alone under the cold bleached sheets. Woke up alone to my room aglow in the morning’s sunrise.
And yet, it was also one of the most nurturing times in my life. I came there to heal. I was taking care of me by allowing myself to toss aside all the rules I had written in my head about how I thought my life would have been or should have been. And I gave myself the freedom to wander, discover new places with Yoshi, get in the car and see where it leads me. What I found was so much beauty and peace. I vowed on that trip that I would never share this place with anyone else. It was mine and Yoshi’s sacred haven. Bringing someone here would create memories, and memories meant I’d carry them with me forever. I couldn’t endure another heartbreak. No, I couldn’t risk it. I was so afraid that the next man I allowed into my life would only bring me pain—just like all the others.
I remember crying almost the entire four-hour drive home. What did I have to go back to? An empty house. An empty heart. I didn’t want to leave behind this peace I cultivated over the four days. I didn’t know how to take it with me. When I came home, I climbed into bed and turned on the TV. Oprah was interviewing Shania Twain about her failed marriage.
Four months later, Andrew and I went on our first date. Five more years pass and here I am, happily married, connected in mind, body and spirit with Andrew and grateful for every moment I have with him. Several times a day, he’ll say or do something to make me pause and think I love this man deeply. He loves me deeply. Yesterday it was when he put his hand on my thigh when we were driving to the coast. This morning it was when we were lying in bed, holding hands, with the sun’s morning rays illuminating our hotel room with white light. I told Andrew last year, when I first brought him and our dog Molly here, how special this place is to me. I shared with him all of my favorite places, and together, we discovered new ones. We ate in a new restaurant that’s now our go-to, wandered in different parts of town, explored the edges of the coast. We honored my old memories, but also made new ones. This is no longer my place; this is our place.