The intense azure blue of the lagoon looks like a surreal painting on the horizon as I crest the hill to Mt. Tapachaou, not the real, honest to goodness colors of my world. It's so strange to be back, in the place where Matt and I were free, unbound by small needs and big responsibilities. With three small toddlers, we visit the beaches where we roamed, hand in hand, feet bare, sipping beers at sunset and then climbed into our 4-W drive SUV and bounced home, laughing, for a late take-out dinner, on our own, free of anyone’s schedule.
Now, encumbered, happily, contentedly encumbered, but tied down nonetheless, the beach has an element of chore. The sand-covered bodies, the sand-covered tongues that induce helpless tears, the happy chasing of the waves that require us to chase, to watch, to be always alert. There is no room for restful contemplation of the beauty or quiet enjoyment of the steady crash of the waves. They hold joy and beauty still, but also fear. Every so often, one is larger than the others, and we have to be ready for the moment when little feet are swept out from under unexpectedly, when sand shifts unsteadily beneath them and they are disoriented and scared.
Our time, as plentiful as it is, is not our own. It is theirs. They love the beach, but the schedule is tight. Before we go, the sun must be passed its burning zenith and on the way down, its intensity softened by the turn of the earth and the low horizon clouds. After an hour, maybe an hour and a half, we have to leave. They must be rinsed of sand, dried, and clothed in soft, clean clothes. They must be fed. They are tired and cranky. The decisions we once made, to ignore our hunger, light a small fire, and watch the brilliant stars map the sky over the Pacific, to sit in quiet companionship with our bottles and our love and the sea, are no longer ours to make.
There is some sense of loss. A feeling of longing lurks between the coconut palms and skitters across the sand with the tiny crabs. Some echo of the people we were lingers, the possibilities, not better, not worse, just different. Then, the coin of life flips, glinting in the sun, and there on the reverse, is the gain. Their laughter as the surf breaks and foams over little toes, over and over, an endless amusement. The perfect little footprints in the sand formed and washed and reformed in tidal cycles. The shrieks of joy over seashells found, waiting, wet and pearly, tiny treasures half buried by nature, turned to shrieks of terror when one small spiral house still contains its original owner. The wonder, the curiosity, the energy, the pure new-minted enjoyment only children possess.
They are like the tide. They wash me clean, leave me bare and raw and ready for each new day. I have always loved the ocean, the smell of salt and life and power. Nature at its strongest. Life’s cycles evident in each breaking wave. It’s their smell, their power, their pull. I love it even more now, with my little merbabies as guides.
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