Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On being alone.

I took a walk on the beach early this morning.  (It’s funny how, for me, walking on the beach is so much different than walking almost anywhere else…funny how willing I am to get up early and take a stroll, where at home it feels like such a chore, and honestly, I often succeed in talking myself out of it entirely!).  It was low tide, chilly, grey and cloudy, and the waters of the Pacific Ocean were incredibly calm, lake-like…and though I walked for close to an hour I saw less than a dozen people.  These are the people I don’t see often, because, as my dad used to say, I am generally an owl (a night-person) and they are obviously larks (morning people)…and those two species don’t see much of each other, except in passing, at a Starbucks, around noon.

A couple of those people were clearly out for their habitual early morning exercise; outfitted in tight-fitting spandex and those cool, bright Nike running shoes that flex like accordions, huffing and puffing like physically fit people do, instead of me, who would be gasping for air at their pace!  A couple of those people were beach combers; heads down, wet pockets bulging, eyes fixated on each fragment of shell, searching for treasures which I try to pass by now, remembering the box in my basement still filled with sand dollars from years past!  There was one lone surfer, sitting on his board in the swells staring into the grey distance, patiently awaiting a break.  Two trucks were parked with empty boat trailers, indicating that a couple of dory boats had made it out even before me.  And there were a couple of dog walkers; carrying wet tennis balls with those ingenious wand-flinger-things and plastic poop bags sticking out of their pockets.  

What didn’t strike me, until I returned to my perch on the dune with my warm, taupe-colored coffee and watched these early morning larks from afar, is that they were each alone.  No couples, no families, no groups…just solitary larks.  That is not what you normally see on this beach, not midday; instead it’s usually families (shoes slung over shoulders, kites and buckets in tow), lots of couples and friends (hand holding, dune-climbing and chasing each other with threats of cold splashes in the ocean), groups of tourists (hats on and cameras around their necks) and fishermen coming and going in teams of two or three.  Even the surfers tend to come in packs.  But for some reason, early in the morning, this morning, it was the solitary folks who had found their way to the sand. 

That seems kind of sad, to most, I think…there is a definitive loneliness we associate with being alone…but each of the individuals I passed by this morning seemed pretty content, in their way, in the quiet of the morning, before the day had really awakened.  It didn’t feel sad…it felt, actually, peaceful. 

Maybe these larks, these early-risers, have found this secret time (to me it seems like a secret, because I am always surprised to share the morning with anyone up that early!), in the wee hours of the morning, to disconnect from an otherwise well-connected world of cell phones and internet and televisions…and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my smart phone and my ability to stay connected and reconnect with family and distant friends!  I am a total Instagram-aholic…and rarely a day goes by that I don’t peruse Facebook to see what people are up to…and the same for email and texting and talking on the phone!  It is crazy to think of all the years I didn’t even have a home phone, let alone a cell phone, a computer or any other way to keeping in touch!  I used to travel, on the road, alone, all the time, without a cell phone…?  What?!  How in the world did I keep in touch with anyone without a phone?  Or without the almighty Internet?!

…but maybe, we’ve all forgotten how to be alone, how to appreciate alone-ness…and so we instead associate a dreaded, avoid-at-all-costs, loneliness to it…  Reminds me of kids who have lost the ability to be totally creative in play, for who without video games there is “nothing to do”!  I don’t know…but it was a nice, quiet morning on the beach…and I enjoyed sharing it, in a sense, with the other solitary folks who had found their way to the sand. 
A grey, chilly morning. 
Tomorrow, well, honestly, I might just set the coffee maker for 9 and sleep in a little…!  But, I might wander out early and into the aloneness again.  For now, I am going to post this on my blog and then link it on my Facebook page…Instagram an iPhone picture…and then maybe call Mike and text the girls…maybe even Facetime with Harper!!!  Because I can!  

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