The Beach

I love walking on the beach. My thoughts go all over the place: From the opening paragraph of another book I could write, to deciding whether it’s worth stopping to write down the words of the opening paragraph of the book I could write, to the last time Forrest tried to nurse, which was eleven hours before he died, to memories of Peter, his father, and me walking on this same beach, which I’d forgotten about, to missing Brent because I love how we laugh together all the time.

Some people avoid being alone. For me, it’s comforting and necessary. This is my second solitary walk on the Ocean Grove beach today. I did stop to jot down that paragraph I was thinking about. Because I just finished a new batch of songs, I’d like to write about how they came to be so I don’t forget, and because some people might be interested in that.

Right now, I’m scribbling on a crumpled piece of yellow paper I found in my pocket. (I’ll type it out later). I’m standing by the edge of the water, which means every minute or so I have to back up so my Nikes don’t get wet.

This morning it was raining like it did all weekend (I got here Saturday). This afternoon, it’s warm and sunny so I’ve taken off my hat to feel the heat on my face. Sometimes when I get to the beach I start to cry. Not from sadness, from relief. It’s as though all that water and those waves are scrubbing me off, taking away all my tiredness and worry. One of the things I thought about today was how lucky I am. That can make me cry too. Here I am with time to walk on the beach and think about things. I wondered this morning if a father, let’s say, who was an artist before he had to move his family to a refugee camp in Eastern Europe, still took the time to wonder about his circumstances. Did he still think about how he would draw it or write it? My guess is, he would, but it’s a whole lot easier for me.

Saturday night I read Art and Fear, a book by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I read it in its entirety before every workshop I lead, something I’m doing this weekend. I recommend it to all my students too, although I’m not sure anyone has ever read it. At least they’ve never told me they have. Ted and David write about creativity – why we do it, why we quit doing it, and what inhibits us along the way. I don’t think they ever talk directly about fear, but they suggest that that’s what keeps many of us from digging deep and getting our creative work done. I agree. On page 92, near the end of the book, the authors talk about books that artists write that describe their process. They end with: “Every artist could write such a book. You could write such a book.” When I read that last sentence, I knew it was the book I wanted to write and will. That’s what the paragraph I wrote on the beach this afternoon is for.

Now, I can hear the ocean and the wind from my third floor room. Feeling the moisture, seeing the ocean, and walking on sand has done me a world of good. The Methodist Tabernacle at the center of this town is ringing its bells. 6:00. Time for the day to wind down. Time for me to eat again.

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