The packed sand stretched out low and flat along the horizon. Tire tracks made lazy zig zags up and down the beach where vehicles had driven from one end to the other. The ocean, moist and vocal as a woman in the throes of something deeply erotic, welcomed me home once more.
I hid my giddy excitement from my camping partner. Like a puppy looking out the window of her master’s truck, I knew I’d be sprung from my iron cage soon – that I’d be free to chase the seagulls and grip sand between my toes. I didn’t want to seem childish to him, so I bit my lip to keep my smile in check and forced myself to stop bouncing in my seat. The smile he threw me called my bluff. He could see my ardor, even if he could not discern the source.
It had been over a year since I had set foot on the ocean’s edge. The last time, a mournful journey to relinquish the pain and sorrow of my divorce, was a trip that led me to a doorstep with wild daffodils clutched in my hand and wild notions in my head. Now, having come full circle from that flower-strewn path that ended with its own form of sorrow, here I was once more, on the cusp of something new.
Why is it that a precipice of earth and salt water always seems to mark the beginning and end of my life’s chapters?
None of this mattered on that overcast Friday afternoon. What mattered was the joy of the moment that stretched before me. An overnight camp on the beach with a friend and the virtual guarantee of a relaxed evening of laughter and fun. An evening of disconnecting from the electronic world and forging a connection of an earthier nature.
We parked the truck and set about putting up the camp. It was a simple affair, the most complex step being the digging of a fire pit. Once the fire was roaring and we were parked in our chairs with the first round of cold beers in our fists, my inner puppy began to whine.
While I was relaxed with my camping partner, I was not completely at home in his presence. The walls that recent experiences had built up around me left me guarded – constantly vigilant about the words I chose, the expressions on my face, and how much, if anything, of my true thoughts I revealed. I secretly wondered if I would be able to stop myself from playing in the water; a tradition so much a part of trips to the beach that I instinctively packed extra pants to wear while the first set dried. And when that puppy whine began to build inside me, I stuffed it down with beer and reminded myself that 41 year old women did not frolic in the surf like careless canines. Well okay, most 41 year old women don’t do that.
Or do they?
After a campfire dinner, a hazy sunset, a few more beers, and the addition of some whiskey that my fellow camper surprised me with, the puppy broke its leash.
I was staggering back over a sand dune, having successfully navigated peeing in the outdoors without hitting my feet or my pants, when I glanced up to get my bearings. I was standing on the rise of sand dune that ran the length of the beach. From my vantage point I could see the campfire, the dark outline of the truck, and the moonlight breaking through the cloud cover and shining on the water. With a shrug I knew the battle was lost and I called out to my bewildered camping buddy as I hurried past the truck, “Back in a flash!”
The cold ocean water met me as I nearly ran into the surf. As always, the waves of water at my feet called forth the waves of emotions locked deep inside me. The chill of the salt water and sand brushing my legs was as welcome and familiar as my mother’s embrace. I felt the tears before I could stop them and I whispered my usual greeting as the waves licked across me. In that moment, the world fell away – the man with the truck who was waiting for me, the men who sought to claim me, the family and obligations that waited at home, the expectations and memories, the ghosts and the past that followed my every step vanished, washed clean by the Pacific.
As the water washed away the clutter of my life, what I wanted – what I needed – became abundantly clear. This puppy needed to be unleashed.
I am not a woman who can be tethered. I wear no collar and serve no master other than myself. I am free to pursue what I want, how I want and I do not answer to anyone when it comes to what makes me happy. I need no justifications. I need no permission slips. I am free and intend to remain that way.
I splashed a moment longer, thanking the sea for the magic of healing and cleansing this ritual always gave me. I stopped for a moment, turning my head toward the orange glow of the campfire, contemplating the dark silhouette of the truck whose cab housed my bedroom for the night. I thought of him and smiled, blew one last kiss to my Mother, and headed up the beach to the warmth of the fire waiting to embrace me.
The water had washed away my reservations. It had washed away my fear. For one shimmering moment on a Friday night in May, the walls themselves had been swept away. The puppy was free from her leash and running in the surf.