Sunday, August 23, 2009


In the Summer of 1955, I drove with an uncle and cousins to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At nine, I was beginning to see things through a new lens. With no filters on the brain, my senses were on hyper alert and activated ten miles away from the shore.

Our windows were down as we drove east and the smell of salt was already thick. I wanted Uncle Milton to hurry and drive faster so I could run into the waves and return to my favorite spot on earth, the sea. In retrospect I was taking notes back then, memorizing every wave, every heartbeat, every suspense filled ghost story. The sea and I were old friends and I knew I belonged to it.

When we parked the car under the house on stilts, we were given the tour: Sand shower. Steps to the beach. Stairs going up to the house. In mere minutes, bags were unpacked and swimsuits were on when I saw something I will never forget. I looked up and someone had opened a door to a small balcony off my bedroom, the ocean waves and wide sand beach were before me, a picture perfect painting that would never leave me. The gentle breeze coming in the small room, the overhead fan clicking like a metronome and the sound of breaking waves took my breath away. The beach house was fragrant with the smell of tanning oils and summer's salty humidity.

I raced out to the water and it welcomed me like a long lost child. I felt a freedom take hold and knew I would always love this place, this Eden.

I spent a week there, walking up and down the beach with my cousins, drinking coke-colas and eating sno-cones. Nothing would ever replace that time. I was melded to the beach.

Since that time some fifty four years ago, I've been to beaches all over the world, but no beach would ever come as close to paradise as that one. No picture would ever replace the one in my memory of my small room's doorway.

Since that time, I haven't smelled salty air nor heard the rush of waves crashing so loudly even a mile from the beach. Could it be we have polluted our air to such an extent our senses can no longer pick up those waves or smell the ocean air? Am I left with only a memory to remind me of those sounds and smells?

I cannot be sure of many things. But if we have lost our sense of smell and of hearing, if we have polluted our air so that salty breezes leave no trace, we have lost the best parts of the planet's body; we have edged her sights and rhythms out of existence leaving us terribly alone. It is the sadness of homelessness, the longing for home once more.

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