I was born and raised on a peninsula connected to a peninsula so I have spent most of my life very close to the ocean. If you have never seen the ocean, I don't know if you'll be able to understand and I have no idea to what you could compare it.
My childhood home was on a street part way up a long hill that rose up from a deep inlet known as a basin. During WWII many ships would anchor themselves there, completely hidden from enemy ships that might be travelling along the east coast of Canada. Every time I left my house, I could see the deep salt water that constantly changed, reflecting the mood of the sky. On stormy days, it would turn a deep shade of gray and would toss about as if seething with rage. On clear days, it would be the most calming shade of blue I have ever known...either having a surface as smooth as glass or one that danced lightly as gentle breezes teased it to life.
It became a part of me as if the salt water mingled with the blood pulsing through my veins. I thrived on it, needing it like I need my very breath. I declared at a very young age that I would always need to live by the ocean and swore that if I couldn't be on the east coast, I would have to live on the west. Visits to landlocked places made me somewhat uncomfortable and had me yearning to return to the shore almost immediately. It was a very stifling feeling.
I have lived in several different cities in other provinces around the eastern coast but returned to my native shores to settle almost 3 years ago. I don't live as close to the basin as I did as a child but I am minutes away from the southern shore that is punctuated with soft sandy beaches licked by refereshingly cool, sparkling waves of pure heaven.
If you have been reading the rest of my series of blogs regarding my journey away from pain, you will know that I have been laid up and in excrutiating pain for the past year. I am currently recovering from spinal surgery known as "discectomy and decompression". These first 10 days following the procedure have found me absolutely pain-free but has left me with some numbness and heaps of crushing exhaustion. I am encouraged to walk as part of the recovery process but have a long list of don'ts to follow as well.
Yesterday, I convinced my husband to put the top down on our convertible and drive me to some of the beaches I mentioned above. Only since my surgery have I been able to sit upright in a vehicle. For an entire year, I had to have the seat reclined as far as it would go which limits the view. I felt as though I had been held prisoner and was finally tasting freedom.
I had my hair tied up leaving tendrils whipping around my face as we cruised along the coast on a spectacular, sunny Saturday. I could feel my heart beating and felt the warm kiss of the brilliant sun overhead mixed with the cool breeze that filled my senses with the delicious scent that only comes from salt water meeting sand and rock. I was alive...really alive. We pulled into one beach and parked behind a dune. At first I was afraid to remove my sandals fearing that I wouldn't feel if I stepped on something sharp but about halfway down the smooth stretch of sand, I kicked them off and had my husband hand them to me as we continued our walk.
Over the past year there were days when I was actually feeling well enough to go for short coastal drives with my husband and we'd park alongside the water so I could just drink it in. I always insited my husband get out and walk because I couldn't. It would almost be an insult to me to have him stay in the car when he was perfectly capable of making the trek that I could not. I would crane my neck up to peer out at him and it brought me a type of vicarious joy.
But yesterday was different. I finally joined my husband and we walked slowly up and down this small, secluded patch of paridise. The water was quite cold in contrast to the warm sand but I walked close enough that when the gentle waves graced the sand I was on, I was ankle deep in it. If my incision was more healed, I would have been walking knee deep, jumping at the incoming surges of sweet, salty liquid sunshine. It was enough for now though. I revelled in the moment and will always remember it as the first real step back into life.
As my pace slowed, my husband suggested we return to the car and pop into a nearby store for some refreshment. I begrudginly followed but once in the car, pointed out that walking was more beneficial than sitting so I won the first of that type of debate in what seemed like a vast amount of time. So, we backtracked and pulled up to a more popular beach, visible from the main road. Although dotted with more fellow beach goers, it also had its own benefits.
There were young, beautiful people mingled with older, more seasoned beach bums. My husband could enjoy the bikini-clad beauties without feeling the guilt of leaving me in the car. I was more than okay with his wandering eye because I can admit that it was a temptation almost impossible to resist. That wasn't the only reason for my silent consent. I had selfish reasons of my own as well. There were more than a few bronzed gods strutting around with their abs so taut, you could bounce a quarter off them. For the first time in a long time, I was able to harken back to a time when I would have been the girl drawing a look or two as my long brown hair cascaded over my warm, tanned back. I was able to wear a bikini in those days too.
Although there was a woman of at least me age and probably twice my size wearing a two-piece with all the pride of a teenager. I personally wouldn't subject the public to that much of my skin but kudos to her for having the nerve to do it. I wish I was as comfortable with my body. She did add a bit of a giggle to my day of perfection as she openly gaped at a hard-bodied, shirtless young man as he stretched out on a patch of sand very close to the one she was occupying. "You go girl!" is the phrase that kept coming to mind.
This beach was a bit longer than the first one so I was becoming tired and my ever-vigilant husband began to notice I was starting to slow down more and more as we covered more ground so I reluctantly meandered back towards the car feeling exhuasted and rejuvenated at the same time. The salt water had given me a much needed jolt and I felt invincible.
When I returned home, a different type of salt water brought me another type of joy. My sister had called while I was out and was thrilled to hear that I was out doing what I had been longing to do for so long. When I returned her call, I told her about my excursion and she began to cry. "You sound like you again." were the only words she could choke out and after I hung up, my husband added, "You were gone for a long time."
Both my sister and my husband had admitted to what I knew all along. This past year has been just as tough on them as it has on me. I wouldn't suggest trading places with any of us. The other thing I realized yesterday is just how far I've come in the last 10 days. I may not be all the way there yet but the road to rehab is far more rewarding than the path that led me to the surgery.
I would love to hear of other things that inspire people as much as the ocean does for me and I strongly encourage people to visit that thing as often as possible.
Photo by Puddle Duck