Last Monday, I drove to Long Beach, Washington, by myself. In a car half-full of essentials to get me and my family through a week of fun and frivolity at the beach. The man I have been married to for almost twenty-two years has finally noticed that solitude soothes me and also, he wants me to finish writing The Novel. So, he sent me to the beach a full day and a half before bringing the children and meeting me there on Wednesday.
The cabin at the beach has no telephone, no television, and no Internet. I did have a radio with a talk-radio station which I turned on from time to time. My husband suggested I not broadcast that our house would be empty (available for robbery, just help yourself) for a week, so I didn’t mention I’d be going. Did you miss me?
This may be one vacation that doesn’t leave me in serious need of a vacation. That’s because the children stayed for three days, then left me alone for another twenty-four hours. Then I drove home alone–and despite the abundance of rain and traffic, I was in the car by myself and thus, did not return home frazzled and screaming.
While at the beach I strolled along the shore, scanning the sand for sand dollars. I always look at Long Beach, even though whole sand dollars are rare–and my patience and determination paid off on the second day just as I told myself that I’d have to turn around and head back. And there it was: a perfect, round sand dollar. I like to think that God tucked it there into the sand, just for me.
I also drove to the end of the Long Beach peninsula to a state park. I parked in the lonely parking lot, wondered if perhaps I’d be mangled by a crazed killer, told myself that was crazy and took off down the path where I encountered swarms of crazed mosquitoes. A half a mile into the 2.3 mile trek, I gave up and returned to the parking lot where I was relieved to find my car windows unshattered and the blacktop free of those who wish me harm.
I fired up my computer and added more words to my fledgling novel. I brought my total up to 28,500 words–far short of the goal, but fortunately I’m not close enough to my deadline to panic.
I rented a DVD for a dollar and watched “Bride Wars.”
I walked on the beach again. And again. But I never found another sand dollar. I did find a shore bird stranded on the shore. His black body contrasted with his white eyelids which he blinked. He rocked on his belly as if he were on an exercise ball. Once, he got enough momentum going that he stretched out his wings and flapped enough to fly six feet. Then he plopped back onto his downy belly and blinked.
I hope he didn’t die. I don’t know enough about shore birds to know whether he was running away from home or whether he’d been abandoned or whether he’d fallen from the sky like a meteor.
When my family arrived on Wednesday, I determined to be fully present with them. So, I did not write while they were at the cabin. I took them for walks on the beach. We took them thrift-store shopping, pinball playing, arcade-game playing, gift-store shopping. I taught them how to play “Spoons” and we played an outdated version of “Outburst.” (My categories would usually be something like “NFL Superbowl Losers” and “Television Shows from the 1950s that Melodee Has Never Heard of Before.” They’d get “Things That Start With B” and “Items Found in a Wallet Store.”)
We climbed 69 stairs to the top of a lighthouse. We climbed a long upward path to a second lighthouse. We went swimming at an indoor pool.
The last afternoon we carried paraphernalia to the beach for some old-fashioned sand castle building. The wind blew and blew–more ferociously than any other day of the week. No matter. Grace stood in her swimming suit at the edge of the surf. Zach and Adam dug and rearranged sand into a castle. I sat huddled in my beach chair, hood pulled over my hair, wind pushing sand into every seam of my clothes and every crevice of my bag. Magazine reading? Totally out of the question. (Oh, and we had kites–easy to fly kites–and it was too windy for them. The larger kite flew itself right out of my 16-year old’s hands–he ran over to report that he lost it–and then a boy up the beach retrieved it from the grassy dune.) The boys had a great time with their sand castle–and then we sat for an hour, bundled in our beach towels, waiting for the tide to come and destroy their architecture. And alas, the tide was too low to damage the castle. In fact, the next day, the castle still stood.
By the last day, there were two or three extra boys in the bunk room downstairs playing video games. (A neighboring family in the neighboring cabin.) Figures.
My family left on Saturday morning. I cleaned in their wake, vacuuming up sand, finding stray socks under beds, doing laundry, scrubbing toilets, washing floors . . . we stay in a cabin with a great price, but that means we have to clean up for the next guests. After doing most of the cleaning, I drove into town, bought a potato for dinner, then returned to the cabin for another stroll down the beach.
I read a book and a half, several magazines and enjoyed the feeling of silence and completely empty brain. Then I wrote another 500 words and slept fitfully.
I cleaned up the rest of the cabin this morning, loaded up my car, found my place in a long string of cars leaving the beach on the two lane road. Rain and traffic slowed me down, but eventually, I arrived home where I repeated the process: unload the car, clean and report for duty in the laundry room.
[I wrote this in a hurry because the family wants to play Spoons. I hope it made sense.]