A Year by the Sea
Silence is a good friend. It allows for the natural progression of things. Still, I remain nervous, anxious as ever to fill the void as I used to with interesting questions, chit-chat, sweet nothings that nice girls like me were taught to utter. I sure did have that nice girl persona down pat. Now what takes the place of nice?
On Being A Woman
The frothy white caps appear as a ruffled chorus dancing across the surface of the sea, spitting, hissing, kicking all the way, acting very much like the woman I’m becoming, not content unless I’m tickling the rocks, slivering up the shore, embracing everything in sight. Catch the ocean as the tide rises and you will find yourself amidst a force that gets its strength from ebb and flow, that teaches the worth of filling up and emptying.
A fog horn pulls me toward town and the beach. Once here, I walk gingerly, barely able to see my hand in front of my face. When I round the bend in the road where there is usually a clear view of the sea I can only hear the surf and follow the sound of the water’s motion, picturing her foamy waves, soon plunging my feet into the damp sand. Trust takes over when one is in the fog, making me think about each step, demanding that senses be finely tuned. Just now there is no past, no future, only the present.
On Being Whole
I finger a piece of beach glass that is in my pocket and realize that it was once a part of a whole. Now it is cracked and broken, but time has softened its edges and it has become a new thing all on its own. This glass is a nice metaphor for a woman who has evolved through various passages, integrating the soft and hard sides of her personality, now beginning to relax into understanding what her life is all about.
(After a month of houseguests) For now I am glad to have my time and space back. Tonight I shall open a can of soup and dine happily alone. I am learning to sponsor myself, no longer the servant but the master of my own time and destiny. It’s all about intention—knowing when to open the door and when to close it again.
(After taking up clamming) I’m learning that it’s not so much what I do to make a living, but who I become in the process. Simple labor is smoothing my edges, teaching me not to crave work just because it might make me special or wealthy, but rather a job that pleases my spirit, makes me a more pleasant person, and meets my immediate financial needs.
On Being Me
(Before a family reunion) I look at the clock, Two hours before they arrive. Oh God, let me be graceful. As I gaze about the patio at the flowering perennials that endure year after year, I do myself a favor and recognize that I am no more or less like the perennial that provides the bulk of the lush backdrop to her family and those around her. It has taken years of growing and expanding to become as colorful and abundant as I am. I’m not some hothouse flower, forced into bloom, but rather a ripened woman who is getting to know what she’s about. Why then should I fret over the young seedlings?
On Being Human
(While making a sand sculpture) Just as we are finding various pieces to create the perfect mermaid, so we must dedicate as much time to carefully putting together the pieces of our own lives. An artist has endless possibilities when the medium is sand and water. But so it is also with human sculpture. We are as malleable as the mermaid in the sand—unfinished men and women making new creations out of our old selves.
Maybe separating from my husband was the sanest thing for two confused people to do, coming coincidentally as it did at menopause. Hmmm, men-o-pause, a pause from men. Perhaps all women in long-term relationships should consider it. Primitive cultures insist on it, knowing a woman needs to regenerate, not unlike starfish growing a new arm or the molting lobster becoming stronger and larger within its new shell.
On Being Stuck
All is quiet, eerily so, a dead-end world, yet bright and beautiful. I walk toward the sound which, on this winter day, appears as a open field, a seascape frozen in place with icy strips decorating its surface, looking like white caps on a restless summer sea. I’ve never quite seen it like this, a normally restless body of water now a silent picture—a still life—the ocean frozen and still like my marriage. The danger, I think, is not admitting to being frozen— keeping dissatisfaction a secret, so that one day you end up sitting in the middle of a frozen surface not knowing when the ice will crack and thaw.
© Joan Anderson. Excerpted from A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson. Used with permission.