I didn’t know it was home until I was sitting cross legged in a college hoodie, sand sticking to the backs of my knees and peppering the skin of my calves. The waves were low and the shore dimpled, thousands of footprints from the day left behind. The sun had finished setting; lights along the arm of land we call Cape Cod blinked as natural light descended.
It wasn’t perfect beach weather; the best beach days never are. In fact, it was chilly enough to place a towel over legs and be grateful that the wine wasn’t that cold. It was lukewarm, actually, and poured conspicuously into plastic cups snagged from the top of the hotel refrigerator. We carried it onto the beach in a bright blue thermal lunchbox that somehow zipped over the cork at the top.
As soon as the bottoms of my feet sank into sand speckled with Atlantic shells, worries and discontent settled somewhere inaccessible.
I couldn’t remember a time my entire soul had relaxed so completely, so quickly. Worry, heavy on shoulders, dissipated and forgot to replay like a movie reel. Pressure, pumping weight from all sides, lost momentum and suddenly the space around my body and in my mind was clear.
I think we all have places like that, our sanctuary on the water. A place that will remain steady no matter how much you have changed. It had been a least a year, maybe two, since I had been to the beach that I grew up on. The only place in the world that gives me permission to do nothing but sip wine and wear shorts pulled from the top of the hamper.
“This is my home,” I said as I stared out over dark water and years of memories. God, how tragic that it had been two years since I had paid it a visit.
You should never abandon home for that long.
It is so easy to melt into the person I was before I grew up when I go to that place. A family home doesn’t need much to be teased to life again; a few key sensations and the smell of open ocean on the air will conjure hope. All I need to see is an awkward cart brimming with neon plastic buckets and a float shaped like an octopus, kids swarming at parent’s feet or sprinting to the distance. Mom and dad are always the same in that moment.
Likewise, If I hear a bag of potato chips open while I watch a family drag beach chairs, I am transported, and suddenly it is not necessary to be responsible anymore. I can be seven, 10, 12, or 16 again. Twenty-three is a distant impossibility, an age so far that it is not tangible. When I am in the place that hasn’t changed, I realize that I haven’t changed so much, either.
You wouldn’t recognize me walking down the street, but if you walk by me on the beach, you will see that I am open again. Not hard, busy, and focused, but entirely aimless and content with tide pools and silence. My soul cracks open wide, and all it takes is one step in the sand, one breath of the air, to take me back to the place that taught me how to sit quietly.