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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cycles of Tides, Cycles of LIfe


For the past several days, I have been taking a short walk on the beach every afternoon. For the most part, the tourists are gone, and with children in school, well, it’s quiet and feels like home, like when my best friend, Mary Ellen and I were teenagers basking in the sun, baby oil and iodine slathered over every inch of exposed flesh to intensify our tans.

Yesterday afternoon at 4:00, the sun was shining on Meadows Drive, despite a weather forecast that predicted rain. So, I climbed into my Yukon and drove the beach, or almost to the beach. As I made the left turn onto the East Beach causeway, rain began to fall and big drops splattered my windshield. As I got closer to the Old Coast Guard Station, the rain intensified and I turned around and came back home, where no rain was falling and their was no evidence that any had fallen at all.

I’d been working on my memoir for most of the day, so I returned to making the necessary changes for me to alter its structure to include Parrish’s almost continuous difficulties along with the events and stress of the last few years of Clint’s life. It takes more work and a different focus to incorporate the two, but it’s necessary for the book to make sense, to tell the entire story. It’s the only way I can make the reader understand the tightrope I walked between the two most important people in my life. 

I’ve been mining old journals for content in order to make the chronology work. Reliving that time, reading and processing what I recorded in my notebook is exhausting and exhilarating at once. I made a timeline of the first five months of 2009, and began to see how it would work. After years of thinking my story would be told in two separate memoirs, I am finally convinced, along with some encouragement from Rosemary Daniell, my writing mentor, that both stories are so intertwined they cannot be separated.  

Having already begun the first three chapters, I am working to integrate Parrish’s many crises into the events I had already written down. It will work. I know it will work, and I am more excited than ever to be writing this book, and I just might be overcoming some of the fear I have experienced around the writing of it.

At 6:00, I drove back to the beach and parked at Massengale Park. There was sun and a cool breeze, so I kicked off my sandals and walked to the water’s edge and dug my toes into the wet sand and wiggled them around. Then I turned north for my short (with respect for my knee and back) trek from there to the Old Coast Guard Station and back. No shells to pick up, only light rafts of wrack washing ashore. 

Each time I go to the beach I am flooded with memories of Clint and Parrish and the rest of the family when life was uncomplicated and unsurprising. Long before we ever considered that Parrish might develop a severe mental disorder and Clint would have an operation from which he really never recovered, sunbathing and swimming and shelling and walking to Gould’s Inlet and back were standard weekend activities. Even when our lives in Macon were filled with work and other responsibilities, we drove to The Island as often as possible, just to be on that very beach. At summer’s end, we were all tan and healthy and happy.

There is something about the dependability of the tides. We have experienced spring tides for the last few days. That happens when the earth and moon are aligned and the waters of the oceans bulge in their direction, creating higher tides than usual. Our spring tides have been augmented by heavy rains and a northeast wind that pushes the waters farther in to shore than usual. So, the high tide water line is almost in the dunes. 

The steadfastness of the tides and their predictable cycles of lows and highs creates a sense of stability in me. Knowledge that they ebb and flow in a regular fashion combined with the sheer energy of the ocean grounds me in the fact that life is so much more than I. Perhaps the regularity and constancy of their cycles quenches my longing for a sense of permanence. The chaos of my life for the last ten years has been unpredictable and painful and at times so unbearable I contemplated suicide. In my muddled and disorderly and confused depression after Parrish’s sudden death, I lost sight of the fact that the ocean is practically at my doorstep and is always open for business. There is no limit to what depression and loss can cost. But, at last I can walk on the beach and breathe in the strength of the ocean, soak up some vitamin D and be infused the negative ions that are so soothing to the soul. I am content in the the very knowledge that it will be there tomorrow, waiting for me, be the tide high or low. 


Copyright 2015 cj Schlottman



5 comments:

Janice Applegate said...

Beautiful, Claudia. I look forward to reading your book. As a side note, Steve and I went swimming in the ocean a few weeks ago and it was deeply pleasurable for both of us. It was downright healing for me, and I hope to do it again soon. Maybe we could even do it together.

Judie said...

I went to the beach this afternoon to just sit and read for a while. I barely got a couple of chapters in when the rain began, and I had to run for the car. I thought I could just sit in the car and read for a while, but the rain wouldn't allow me to even crack a window for some fresh air, so I reluctantly began the drive home. I've been to the beach very little this year because of the horrible heat and humidity. The drive home was horrendous, raining so hard I could barely see. I'll try another day.

Ujjvala Rahn said...

Claudia, your words are the voice of the shore.

While the ocean being "open for business" was not so affecting, this line will go in my journal of writing I love: "The steadfastness of the tides and their predictable cycles of lows and highs creates a sense of stability in me. Knowledge that they ebb and flow in a regular fashion combined with the sheer energy of the ocean grounds me in the fact that life is so much more than I. Perhaps the regularity and constancy of their cycles quenches my longing for a sense of permanence." Beautiful.

Jenny Bonds said...

You are gifted my friend. What blessing to know you are in the right place and doing what you are meant to do at this time in your life. Love you!

Susan Anderson said...

It makes me happy to think of you back there, living in the place where you clearly belong.

Hugs to you.

=)