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Tue June 22, 2004
One of the best places to be this summer.
By Catherine McCall
Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Catherine's commentary.]
If you?ve lived in Southeastern North Carolina longer than one month I have a question for you: When?s the last time you went to the beach? If you can?t remember then it?s been too long. If a bunch of reasons are flooding into your brain right now like: it?s too hot, I don?t have time, I don?t have quarters, I don?t like getting sandy or getting my hair messed up by the wind then it?s been way way way too long.
Why do you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world only to take it for granted? Why not live in Toledo? (My apologies to those Ohio folks out there, but if you?re listening to this then I?m guessing you didn?t move to coastal Carolina for the no-see-ums.)
At any rate, now is the time to do yourself a major favor. Pull out the day planner and pick a day, any day. Mark it with a big X, like a treasure map, and write Atlantic or sunrise or shells or moonrise?something that helps you remember the purpose and the plan for the day.
Next, at the risk of starting a revolution and spawning headlines that read: Americans step away from their rat-on-a-treadmill work habits in record numbers,? I invite you to do something you may have never done before: Call in well to work. If your boss probes suspiciously, tell him you have an important personal matter to take care of?you don?t have to tell him you have plans to make a sandcastle.
Then set your alarm so you can get up before the seagulls, so you can hear the crickets strumming their pre-dawn cha-cha. Hop in the car and drive out to the beach, enjoying the absence of traffic on your way. I promise that you will not regret taking a walk on the beach at dawn; not once will you regret it, not for the rest of your life.
However, if you?re one of those anti-alarm-clock people then forget the sunrise and just mosey on out to the sand whenever you?ve had your coffee. The point here is to spend a few hours at the beach, not just do a quick drive by at Shell Island.
What? Your daughter?s getting married next month? Your in-laws arrive in two weeks? All the more reason to block out a morning, grab a hat and some sunscreen and disappear for a little while.
Take an anonymous stroll at water?s edge. Sit and gaze at the sea. Gather shells and spell your name. Watch the birds and the waves and the colors until you feel them carry you into a state of wonder, then float there. Let the ?thank-you?s? flood in and the ?have to?s? drain away. Be a companion to yourself and to this magnificent neighbor whom you?ve let slip from your everyday life. Remember that people drive hundreds of miles to spend a few days at the beach and you just have to drive across town?if you remember to take the opportunity.
Summer is the time to get primal, to get reacquainted with the ocean. If you?re a swimmer, go bodysurfing. If you aren?t comfortable in the water, let the waves massage your ankles. Feel the giggles and the whimsy awaken inside you. If sorrow rises up, add your tears to the earth?s?saltwater is the same everywhere.
Whenever you get yourself there, whether it?s at 5am or midnight or somewhere in between, make room in your life to spend time at the beach simply because you can?it?s worth it--and so are you.
Catherine McCall is a psychiatrist who lives and works in Wilmington.