January 30, 2012

Of Seashells and Memories

Of Seashells and Memories

I live at the beach, but until now I have done my running on the paved sidewalks and trails near my home. They are level and flat and and they take me by the ocean and the river – so it is always beautiful and I can’t complain. But I have found myself more and more often wondering about running on sand – I see people do it all the time…so why not…I do love the ocean.

Let me start by saying this: running on sand is nothing at all like not running on sand. I may be able to say more about that later. I don’t really want to say harder or not harder, but definitely not the same thing.

This morning was my first real attempt to run what has become my regular 3 miles on the the sand rather than on the road. It took almost an hour. Why? Not because I am so much slower in my actual running, but because because when you actually put me on sand I am like a distracted child. I want to look at the waves. I want to stop and put my hands in the water. And mostly, I feel compelled to stop and pick up a collection of perfect little seashells and well-polished beach glass. By the time I have reached my turn-around, I am thinking – I must have gained a pound from the bits and pieces of the ocean I am bringing home.

But it’s more than that. Something happens to my mind at the beach. Maybe we all have a place like that – where automatically your mind turns in and your thoughts seem to expand and ideas and dreams intermingle to become something new. Sometimes for me they are so compelling, I get lost in them – and I wander off like in a dream. I think that some runners – real runners – get this experience from running itself.

I return home and empty my pockets. My house is full of decorative dishes and glass jars where my kids and I place the things we bring home off the beach. I can’t tell you for sure, but I know that some of these shells I collected more than than 2 decades ago – some may even date to my own childhood. They are part of the history of my life – the bits and pieces of beaches I have been on. These are the memories that I carry with me.

I can look at some of these shells, rocks, and other objects and they are not just a thing, they are a thought, a vision, a bit of me from days or months or years ago.

In a way, I think, we are all beachcombers. While we may not pick up a physical object, we pick up a bit of wisdom here and there. Put it in a pocket or a drawer or on a shelf. And maybe if we revisit it one day we find it wasn’t just a shiny thing in the sand but rather a real lesson with meaning for now.

I place the shells in a dish and I grasp around in my mind for some of thoughts that drifted through there over the course of the last hour. I jot a few down for later. The only one that stands out now is “darn my legs are going to hurt tomorrow.” But I know this too – time often adds a new dimension of perspective to what we know, think, or see today. Today the shell is a shell, but tomorrow it is a memory of the first time I ran on the beach. So too the random thought of today is the wisdom I need next week to get me through a new task or a difficult situation.

And some of them of, of course, will just remain as pretty little objects or random thoughts – which is also perfectly fine.

Happy Monday to you!


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