Monday, August 1, 2011

Lessons I learned at the beach

Two weeks at the beach and I read two books, Jazz, by Toni Morrison, and The Mermaid's Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd.

I wrote this untitled poem:

Bared soul/soles, exfoliated,
scuffed across scorching sand,
a smile frozen on my face.

Purified my pores with perspiration,
incinerated my worries,
doused my woes with a wave.

Scooped buckets of happiness,
constructed castles
pounced on sea jewels.

Collected enough salt, sand and surf
to take me through another year,

I did not write a lot at the beach, but I stumbled upon some revelations applicable to writers.

There were twelve of us crammed into a van for a scenic tour to the top of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Island for a view of the Caribbean. When the driver rounded the narrow mountain road, riding precariously close to the cliff's edge, a young woman behind me spoke out.

"Jesus Christ!"

I turned with a stern look,and I saw that she had her eyes closed and her hands folded.

"Jesus Christ!" was a prayer not a swear.

1. Don't jump to conclusions. Words can be misconstrued. Praise God, share the space, the waves ... and also generously share writing call outs, and your knowledge with other writers.
Most vacationing beach goers hope to come home with a suntan. It cannot be done in one day. Tanning is a slow process, and staying too long in the sun on day one results in a sunburn.

2. Trying to write a book in a week, an essay in an hour or a poem in a minute is as impossible as getting an even tan in one day. It can cause a writer to burn out.

We had one day of torrential non-stop rain. Storm clouds gathered, lightning chased beach goers inside, and thunder rumbled. Storms dump on all of us when we least expect it. After the rain you can almost always glimpse a rainbow, maybe not the complete arc, but a spot of color is a promise of brighter things to come.

3. Seek colors in a bland day; look not sky high but in unexpected places.

Caribbean time is a slow ticking clock. I commented to our native driver, a young man of thirty, that he looked twenty.

"That is because I smile a lot, and when you smile and are happy inside, it shows on the outside."

He dropped us at an isolated beach where Princess Di once swam. It was one of 365 beaches on the island. Can you imagine one beach for every day of the year? A woman in our group had to use the restroom. She walked to a snack shack which was supposed to be open. She discovered a female employee snoozing on the porch floor.

"Excuse me, I thought you opened at 11:00. I have to use the bathroom."

"The owner is late. No problem. Go pee in the sea," the woman said and rolled back over.

4. Think positive, take it easy, make do; find a creative solution.

While walking along the beach, a gusty wind stirred. A beach ball rolled past me at a good clip. I kicked the ball towards the beach in hopes that the child who lost it might retrieve it. But the ball caught another groove in the sand and kept rolling. By the time I returned to the hotel, that ball was long gone.

5. Keep your momentum going. If you get stuck in a rut, find another way out.

A flock of docile seagulls waited quietly for someone to toss a morsel. There was nothing to differentiate one from the other.

An orange beaked bird joined the flock and squawked and squealed and made itself known, circled the sea and wasn't at all hesitant to dive in for a meal.

6. Don't wait for it to happen, make it happen. Dare to be different. Make yourself and your work stand out from the rest. It doesn't hurt to toot your own horn. GO FOR IT.

When you stumble, don't stop, just put one foot in front of the other, pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard. Keep going.

Glad to be back home.


Susan said...

Oh Linda, that was a great post! Lots of insight there, on your part. Loved the rainbow in the sky and "go pee in the sea." hee hee Nice to have you back! Susan

Thisisme. said...

I just love the beach and your photos were great. I love the way that first photo was taken, of you looking into the mirror. I really enjoyed the poem you wrote - loved the words, especially the bit where you had collected enough to take you through another year - renewed. Great!

Sioux said...

Great pictures. The second one of the beach, with the couple way off to the right in the background, is incredible. That would be a great one enlarged and framed, I imagine.

And the photo of you, in the mirror: look at the you--not the reflection--and you'll see a young girl (in her 20's?) with her head straining forward in anticipation. (Look at it. I'm not lying or brown-nosing.)

Claudia Moser said...

Your first photo is so amazing, you look relaxed and pensative at the same time. Your lessons are great, worth taking them down!

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks Siuox and Claudia. The sea really does relax me. It is unbelivable how my hair, skin, wrinkles and worries can be tamed by sea breeze and salt water.

Debora said...

I think Ponce de Leon missed it. He sailed over the sea looking for the fountain of youth when it was right beneath his ship! You do look so relaxed, I'm glad you got your 'elixir' for another year. My favorite lesson is 'go pee in the sea.' I'd have been tempted to do it,if I had a change of clothes. Second fav is the seagull analogy. Thanks for the wisdom and welcome back!

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Debora,
Oh my yes, you have that right. The fountain of youth IS the Caribbean Sea.

Lynn said...

Loved all your thoughts and the pictures! Nice.

BECKY said...

Linda, you were definitely in paradise! AND I thought the same thing as Sioux! No kidding! I didn't have a particular age in mind, but just that the right side of your face looks like a young woman! It's really cool! Glad you had such an awesome time.

Lemon Lane Cottage said...

Such timely advice especially as summer seems to roll on and on. Soon enough winter will be here and we'll be longing for a suntan. Glad you had such a refreshing time.

Tammy said...

You just brought us all back some souvenirs, and they are real gems. :)

Val Thevictorian said...

Glad to see that the restroom comment did not keep you from taking a dip. I knew a girl who wouldn't swim in the river or ocean because "Fish pee in there."

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I'll be sure and follow you! My family and I are going to Destin next week. Please pray for us! ;)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Excellent advice all. You certainly made the most of your trip!

Gerry Mandel said...

Just want to let you know that guys read your posts too. Beautifully said, Linda. As usual, your writing reaches deep within. My comments, however, are superficial. Such as my idea for you to get a t-shirt that says, "I Peed in the Sea." I need to dig deeper for meaning.

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. Gerry, I was FLOATING in the sea! It was the other gal who had to pee in the sea. She was from NY and she was very indignant about it.

K9friend said...

Oh, I love St. Thomas. What a beautiful place! Sounds like you had time to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. The perfect vacation!


Jean Jeannie said...

Every one to their notion said the woman as she peed in the ocean. Welcome back -- thanks for taking me to the coast with you on your trip and thanks for tagging along on mine.

I loved the references to the cleansing nature of the sea. I'm with you, girl.

Janet, said...

Sounds like you had a great time at the beach(es). Thanks for the good advice, too.

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Love this. The pictures are exactly right for it too. Beautiful!