Long ago when I was a ballerina in Virginia, the ocean was never far away. After the ends of performance runs, when we had a short lay-off, we would spend days by the ocean or the Bay playing in the water, relaxing at the sea’s edge and dancing in the sand. This time signaled a short re-load, a refresh, a reset. The days seemed long and glorious and there was no schedule. After the sun started to wane, a cook-out would inevitably ensue and the fun would carry-on. After a few days we would go back to work, but sun drenched and ready for the next ballet.
Then when I lived in Washington, DC, the year’s work led up to a showcase by the students on the last weekend in May. This required weekend rehearsals and didn’t allow much time for a quick trip out of town to appreciate the new, enticing May weather. But the yearning for the ocean and the sand, the sunshine and its sparkle on the water, the friends and familiar places, sprouted on the first warm, spring day and grew until it reached its peak in the days after the performances. Finally, then there was a short lull at the ballet school that allowed for a few days to sneak away. The craving for an afternoon of Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs started around that same time and was never satisfied until those same quiet days in early June when a drive down to Southern Maryland and a few hours picking and eating crabs with friends and Old Bay felt like heaven and zen and eternity.
Later, when I was in graduate school the cravings and longings came at the same time even without a performance to punctuate the time. There was always a lot to wrap-up at the end of the spring semester that left no time for get-a-ways. Still, I was always monitoring the calendar for the day that would be best to jump in my car and head Southeast for the coast. Luckily graduate school presented a lull in June as well.
The beaches of the southern mid-atlantic region in the US represent for me a mix of vacation and visits to old haunts and to old friends, to favorite restaurants and to my favorite ocean. It’s a place that allows for reflection and quiet. It’s a sentimental mix of old memories, new memories and delicious fun. But most of all I think it is a part of a cycle that evolved and created my way of re-setting. Everyone probably has a reset button, or maybe we all should. Blue Crabs, the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia are mine.
This presents a tiny quandary for me. This year I am in Germany, very close to the due date for our tiny but huge new adventure. Still true to form, May has come, the sun is shining and the days are warm. The flowers and trees are bursting with life and like always, little by little, the yearning has appeared. I still find myself wanting to scan the calendar for the day I might escape to the seashore…except this year it’s not possible. I feel the craving for the salty air and the sparkling sea, the taste of Old Bay and the feeling of the smile that appears when I am standing facing the ocean and listening–I can literally feel the suns rays warming my shoulders while the surf cools my toes. I can almost taste the blue crabs and salty fingers and hear the laughter, but it’s all about 4000 miles away. This experience is my seasonal reset, but this year I can’t follow my instincts and run off to the beach for a pow-wow with the ocean. Without these yearly mile markers, how will I reset myself for the next adventure?
It continues to be interesting to me, that we are more a part of nature than we like to admit. That we are not so far from the seasons and the trees, the earth, the water and the air that surround us. We are cyclical, seasonal and alive and we continue to need some of the same things at the same time each year. The light and darkness, the length of the days, the warm and cool air, all send us signals. They enliven our reflexes in the same way that a bird knows when it’s time to build a nest and lay eggs or the buds of the trees know (usually) when it’s safe to come out.
Usually I answer my questions at the end of a blog post. But this one has me a bit mystified. Everyone says that having a child and making a family is completely unlike any other thing. It is indescribable and you can’t know it, no matter what you hear about it, until you do it. And so I think it’s likely that life has changed forever. Surely now there will be new reset buttons and new ways to refresh, new ways to mark time and feel at peace.
I have stood at the edge of the great unknown many times in life. I can say with confidence that it never gets old, but also that it never gets familiar. It remains the great unknown.