Monday, December 15, 2008

because sometimes words fail

I have spent countless hours walking on the beach during my time in Charleston, solitary walks that I would not trade for anything on this planet. They are always wonderful, always renewing, and I always leave feeling better. Today instead of my normal neighborhood Folly beach, I drove out to Sullivan's, my Charleston beach of choice. And I am so thankful that I did. I wish I could describe this to you. I wish I was good enough of a writer to make you understand what it felt like. Instead, a handful of poorly constructed and woefully inadequate phrases come to mind;
-the glassy water of a giant lagoon in the middle of the beach-so still it acts as a giant mirror, lending to the optical illusion that the sky just keeps on going, right down to the ocean and beyond
- the way the air changed the second I reached the actual ocean-how in just a few feet it became crisper and cooler and fuller somehow
-huge, cotton candy thick puffs of sea foam that reflected the waning sun
-the endless sand-how even with the mansions in the distance you feel like you're in the middle of a coastal desert
-a fog or mist that hung over the sand and blurred everything in sight, a mist so pervasive it even softened the sun, making it seem less like the living world and more like something out of a dream
-that salt air smell that I can't even attempt to describe. I just kept thinking of how when you're little, you have this idea and I'm vaguely remembering it as having something to do with the book, "The BFG", but you have this idea that you can bottle up air, screw the lid on tight until you open it up one day somewhere far away and let it surround you, even though the source of the air may be millions of miles away. I wish I could do that. I wish I could find the biggest jar in the world, carry it out to Sullivan's Island and fill it with that ocean air, not just any ocean air, but distinctly Charleston ocean air. I would close it tightly, and wait to open it until I really needed it, the way I always seem to need the ocean whenever I'm really upset or afraid, and then I'd unscrew the lid and no matter how far away I was, for a moment at least I'd be right back on that shore, breathing in that beautiful salty breeze.
-the sunset over the shore-how sunsets in Charleston just seem bigger, like they take up more of the sky or something. I know it's illogical, but I have never seen a sunset like a Charleston sunset, and I'm not sure I ever will.
-the way I could walk barefoot even though it's December, how good the damp sand felt under my feet-all of the shells and sand dollars left by the tide

-how on walks like the one I took today-I really wonder what I did to deserve this, how saintly I must have been in a former life to have been able to spend four and a half years here, where daily I am surrounded by the kind of natural beauty that some people only see a handful of times in their lives. The one thing I keep telling myself is that I'm lucky that it hurts this much to leave, because that means that Charleston isn't just a vacation for me, Charleston is home. It will always be home. I have had four and a half years of ocean and rivers and tidal marshes. I have had four and a half years of the kind of beauty that for all my reliance on words, really puts them in their place. Because, yes, as a writer it pains me to admit, but sometimes words really do fail. Luckily I happen to own a camera.

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