It’s always yourself you find at the sea

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Whatever you lose, like a you, or a me,

It’s always yourself you find at the sea.

–e e cummings

I lead a pretty charmed life. I have a great relationship with my parents and my sister and my child and my spouse. I have a job I like, in a career I like that lets me live comfortably. I live in a house I like, with a garden I like, in a neighbourhood I like. I have a variety of friends who are funny and smart. I have King Louie of Dogswald. My son is book smart and responsible and funny and successful at almost everything he sets his mind to achieve, and he’s not a belligerent hooligan. It’s mostly good to be me. But sometimes, despite all that, I feel like one of those DippyBirds. When enough anxiety condenses in my head, I hit a tipping point, mentally doubled over, and I just can’t. I have to go to the beach to regroup.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s always a good day to go to the beach: bright, overcast, light rain, warm, cold, flurries, hot, still, windy… all recommended beach weather. But like everything else, there are the WantsToDo things, and the GotsToDo things. On some days, I gots to.

The only thing there is on which to focus is breath, and sand, and tide. Often when I get there, I have to pace out deeper breathing. Breathe in for four counts, breathe out for six, and then as it becomes more tidal, eight counts. Or lyrical breathwork: Breathe in to the first few words, then breathe out for the next few.

“Seek the Lord / While He may be found / Search for Him / while He is still near” (Isaiah 55:6)

“Come with me, my love / To the sea, the sea of love / I want to tell you/ just how much I love you” (Philip Baptiste)

“With God / All things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)

“I hope someday we’ll / Sit down together/ and laugh with each other / about these days, these days.” (Macklemore and his pals)

“Do not ask ‘oh, what is it’ / Let us go and make our visit” (T.S. Elliot)

An hour or two (or five) of wandering at the water’s edge, and I’m restored. I walk until I don’t feel unwell anymore. At each visit, I hope that there’s sufficient time to finish the walk I need. I hope the beach has pushed off the unwell far enough that I get to have some beach hangover for a while. As an antidote for a head full of dark thoughts, I am grateful for the relatively short drive that gets me there. It’s 45 minutes from my driveway in Preston to Lakeland Center in Hamilton. Easypeasy.

The Great Lakes present something unmatched in so many parts of the world. I don’t have sea air, but I can drive in several directions and find places that have water all the way to the horizon. My default beach is Confederation Park/Van Wagner’s in Hamilton, and it’s often a reaction to a lack of mental health. So, I’m proposing a beach challenge for myself to be proactive, instead of always reactive.

I’m going to visit 10 (different) beaches before the end of the year.

I’ve made myself a list of achievable beaches, with help from such things as “Canada’s Top Beaches” and “Best Beaches on the Great Lakes” lists on the internets, and beaches that just appeal to me. Some of them are easy: The default is Hamilton/Burlington beach (check!). But there’s also the happy coincidence of proximity to somewhere where I have to be anyway, like the beaches that are a short walk from the Kincardine Highland Games and the Cobourg Highland Games venues. Some on my list are a fairly short drive – Long Point, The Pinery, 50 Point, Port Stanley and Grand Bend, Toronto Island, Golden Horseshoe beaches in Jordan and St. Catherines and Port Colbourne. Some on the list are a little further afield: there’s Sauble, Penetanguishine, Sandbanks, and Peelee Island. There’s so much shoreline within a day-trip of my house that this challenge seems like a good use of my vacation days. And we’re headed into road-trip season, right? And a beach trip overnighter? Not out of the realm of possibility.

OK then. Off to make sure the Beach Challenge Go Bag is ready.

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