The clouds streak across the grey sky, obscuring the sun’s light if not its heat. Sea-birds squeal and call as they glide over the wide patch of coral-studded sand. Purple flowers pop in the clusters of green leaves that form a line to separate the grass from the advancing beach. The waves rumble at the shore in a soft rhythm like a drum swell to fill the silence every few seconds. And I sit on the cabin porch in the thick. humid air, looking over the scene when I’m not staring into the darkness behind my eyelids.
This is a day “off” from work, the one full day of a visit to the resort at the north end of the island. I’m on leave from military responsibilities, though they still hover over my mind like a swarm of the mosquitos and gnats that nip at my exposed skin.
Work duties may be on hold, but that doesn’t mean their voices remain silent. One of my programs requires more attention–something unimportant but neglected too long. Mysteries and technical difficulties loom over one of my aircrew duties–and another program that falls under my purview. We’ve asked for aid and channeled our questions in the right direction, so now we wait for additional details. I have personal responsibilities calling for attention, and my transition to retirement, put off as somewhere forever down the road, approaches next year with the inexorable passage of time.
The waves crash in their unchanging pattern, one after another–splash… splash… splash…
“Later,” I tell the myriad concerns. “It’s a beach day. I’m taking a day off. You should too.”
I hear their laughter as they continue their slow, constant pace.
Commitments pepper my mind like a nagging wife, while my actual wife sits on the porch with me, chortling and giggling at hilarious videos on her smartphone. The woman I love is happy that I have this time to relax, happy that I have no timetable or schedule or task calling for my attention. “You probably need this,” she said as we made ourselves comfortable in our home for a day and a half.
I need to get caught up on weeks of writing courses I’ve neglected. I need to keep up with planning for the National Novel Writing Month events kicking off this week. I have to post something to a blog I’ve ignored for weeks, or perhaps finish one of a half-dozen drafts and concepts I’ve jotted down in various notes.
We snack on sandwiches of turkey and Colby-jack, food brought from home since everything on the resort is so pricy. I look over the groceries in the kitchen—more than we need—and the gym duffel full of too many clothes for the short stay.
We dragged plenty of bags into the cabin last night, a couple pieces at a time, one trip after another from the minivan.
I always seem to bring too much. “What if we need this? What if we want that tomorrow?”
Urgent news from home occupies my thoughts. My mother is in the hospital, and needs a pacemaker. I’m on the other side of the world, unable to do anything but pray and wait for news. Suddenly some of the “important” things in life lose a little bit of their precedence.
Wave after wave, worry after worry, tiny little turmoils and troubles that fill the background noise.
My smallest son, age six, proudly displays his catch–this time a water bottle full of hermit crabs, scrabbling and scratching over each other trying in vain to find freedom. “They can’t live in there, honey,” Mom tells him. “You need to let them go.”
“Oh,” he says with barely a tinge of disappointment. He dashes off in the direction of the repetitive rumble and disappears behind the slope of sand that leads down to the water’s edge. The concerned parent in me knows that his older brothers are looking out for him, watching to make sure he doesn’t go too deep or too far into the blue water.
To be young and fearless once again… but that would mean forgetting the truth: some concerns and fears are protective, instructive, the result of experience or maturity, an acknowledgement of reality. Some worries are voices to which we do well to listen.
The buzz of cicadas fills the air, and the noise of the sea dies down. The slight breeze falters, gives up, as if the oppressive humidity is too much to push through. The children return, their hearts light, their voices loud and silly. Water rushes from a hose to sweep away the sand, and then it becomes a puddle in which they splash and play while “drying off.”
It’s a beach day, a day of rest, free from concerns and cares. We’ll roast marshmallows and make s’mores over a bonfire at sunset, then wonder in awe at the array of stars filling the night sky. In the periphery of our attention, in the background of my mind, the waves will continue their perpetual, rhythmic chant.
“Tomorrow,” I’ll tell them, like I always do… and they’ll laugh as they rumble ashore, one after another after another.