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it takes an ocean not to break

I think sometimes I was a mermaid in a mythic former life, beginning to shrivel and die a little inside when I'm too long away from water. I live within sight of a river, which helps, and cross a mighty bridge almost daily that soars so high, high in the air that some days the clouds sit low beneath it, and it's very possible that what lies on the other side is a secret city in the sky. Which means I might also be a bird or a seraph (though more of the "burning one" species than the angelic sort).

But even wide rivers across the feet of verdant hills and secret cities in the sky lose their appeal for a mermaid after awhile, and eventually, the sea is the only thing that will do.

The unintended hiatus of the last few months is an indication of how much has been going on, this thing and that thing, a teetering stack, everything piling on to a heap that would crush even the strongest person after a while. Haven't we all known that mountain that can only be carried, not climbed? We identify with Atlas for a reason.

So the salve for such heart weariness is those sacred places that refill us, let us set aside that damnable mountain for awhile and just rest and rejuvenate and remember what it means to be light and airy (and fishy, if you're a mermaid). And my sacred place -- one of many, truth be told, because a person can't have too many sanctuaries, really -- is a wide expanse of mercurial sea hidden at the end of a secret road and marked by the gravestones of three long-dead giants.

We arrived just after a storm had swept through (and indeed, had swept over us an hour before as we wound through mountain passes), sky clear and blue, the air warming and calm. We paused just long enough to unload our stuff and throw together a quick little lunch wrapped in dishcloths, then headed straight for the sand. And for the next few hours, we did nothing but sit in the sun with our tiny feast and spend a whole lot of time just watching. Watching the waves, the birds, the clouds, the people, each other.

And after, we sat on the little porch of our little cabin, drinks in hand and books in laps -- books that never quite got opened as long as the sun was still sinking to the horizon -- and we watched some more. Talked about this life, this wonderful life, what it took to get here and could we even believe it and how we are defined by the places that nurture us.

Then it was time for feasting. An easy accomplishment at the coast, really -- with a good view, even a bowl of cereal could be called a feast. What, then, to call our meal, with its varieties of meats and sausages and cheeses, crusty-soft baguette and sesame-encrusted loaf of Sicilian, fresh mushrooms and carrots, and juicy grapes so sweet we rethink our commitment to chocolate, all with the ocean waves rolling on soft sand a couple hundred feet from our door?

We usually stay longer during our summer break, but this trip was no less regenerative for being shorter. We had warm and cool, sunny and rainy, cloudy and clear, but not a lick of wind through any of it, which makes just about any weather bearable, if you ask me. (The only time I like wind is if it's positively gale force while I am safely ensconced inside someplace cozy and warm with a book and a good light and hot chocolate at hand.) We saw seals in the water and slept in a bed beneath an open window, had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and took pictures of pretty-colored rocks.

Mermaids love pretty-colored rocks.

And bless the dear folks who own and run the cabins where we stay, who call us family and treat us that way, always making sure we get our reservations (even when we're a little tardy in scheduling them) and give us first dibs on our favorite cabins. When we're there, they let us know about cancellations during the busy season, in case we want to snatch up a last-minute getaway, because even though we try to come out every three months or so, we'll never pass up a chance to visit more.

The cynical person would say it's good business to treat your regulars well, but I like to think they recognize a mermaid when they see one.

title taken from "Terrible Love" by The National

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Reader Comments (4)

Sigh. So lovely. I must go down to the sea again myself here pretty soon.

Jun 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDarkemeralds

Darkemeralds: Yes. It's such a profoundly simple thing, water meeting land, but so powerfully connective.

Jun 29, 2012 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterBitty

You know I know! Maybe I was a mermaid also.... My skin is totally dried out and begging for the ocean! Can't wait to make it happen in 8 more too long months! Also, I have to say thank you for sharing your super special place with us a few years ago when we were able to go there for ourselves. I really enjoyed your pictures and the memories they brought up. I'm looking at a picture in my living room of the view right now...cause every prairie home needs a little ocean in it!

Jul 4, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Tammy: You were most definitely a mermaid, no question. Only a mermaid would understand that even the prairie needs a little ocean view.

Cannot wait for March!!! You say 8 long months, but I say ONLY 8 months. :)

Jul 9, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Registered CommenterBitty

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