My sister Deborah and I spent the day in Ocean City, NJ on Saturday. We love the beach. We really love the beach in winter. Nature tends to challenge our resolve by turning ugly when we plan a seaside get-together. But it was sunny and close to 40 degrees. Perfect for walking and talking.
We talked incessantly. We always do when it's just the two of us, cramming months of thoughts and feelings into a few hours. The experience is often dizzying. Sometimes gut-wrenching. Always exhilarating. We are only a year apart in age and grew up in each other’s pockets. It’s tempting to say that I know her better than I know anyone except myself. But it’s less cerebral than that. I sense what’s going on inside her. Standing next to her, I feel our energies blend together, effortlessly, like two flavors of soft ice cream swirling out of the machine. When we were kids, our mom used to dress us alike and people often asked if we were twins. I always thought it was a dumb question, since we didn't look at all alike. But sometimes, looking directly into her eyes, the connection is so powerful that I wonder if they were onto something.
Ocean City is where we connect most often. We spent countless summers there. Spreading our wings in the sun while the song of the sea taught us about love. These days our ritual involves meeting at Who's on First? for superb coffee and fresh-baked scones, followed by an excursion to buy jewels at The Flying Carp. When we have time and expendable income we'll stay for the weekend. And sometimes our guys join in. But mostly we just spend a day together and make the most of it. Which means walking the beach—no matter what.
The pull of the ocean was strong for me on Saturday. Deborah and I had talked at length about her desire to "live big". She spoke of endless skies and open spaces, of living unconfined, of being paid to travel and teach what she loves. I kept thinking about Georgia O'Keeffe. How she'd simply take off in a desperate search for breathing room. For her, the ocean and the desert offered one and the same thing: expansiveness. I realized that was what I craved on Saturday: space to breathe. Winter is always a time when my life contracts, shrinking against the cold and the dark. Lately an insane work load and limited finances have heightened the effect.
But there, on the shore, the gilded thread of horizon stretched unbroken. Waves gave in willingly to gravity's irresistible pull, breaking once, twice, three times before reaching their destination. The winter sun glanced off random shells that puckered the sand like dark buttons on a suede pillow. Over and over, the ocean drew itself up and released its energy with absolute abandon. Again and again, without apology. Faithful to its calling. Unwavering in its purpose. As we stood watching, I felt my breath deepen. The tightness in my chest ease. My soul open.
Deborah said she loves the ocean because it's ever-changing. What I love most is its unwillingness to compromise. The ocean makes waves because that's what oceans do. And regardless of what we call it—living expansively or refusing to be "small"—that's what she and I are after. Knowing our reason for being and pursuing it passionately. Without apology.