On a Beach Walk: No. 54 (Soundscapes)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

How many layers of sounds do I hear as I walk? What if I could magically turn off all the sounds here; then bring them back one by one? In what order would they appear?

From the depth of silence, I would first return the sounds of the waves because they are the beach’s heartbeat. Ever present – always steady – sometimes louder – but the sounds of the sea serves as the conductor of the steady symphony I experience as I walk in this place.

As I stand facing the water and feeling the laps gently caressing my feet, I can hear the tiny bubbles of foam. That air trapped in the water being released into the atmosphere. Maybe that’s my transition sound.

Then comes the wind. The wind can greatly vary in its presence through direction and speed. The wind can pass my ears as a roar of a passing train. It can also be a soft whistle – or even the calming sound and feel of a gentle touch. But wait – the same wind sounds different depending on the direction as I walk.

The next layer would be the birds. As a whole, they are not a noisy lot. The seagulls squawk, but not constantly. The pelicans are stealth as they effortless soar just above the water’s surface. I occasionally hear the tweet of the sanderlings as they fly by.

I don’t hear insects or the sand crabs but it does not mean they don’t create sound. Nor do I hear human traffic or construction – but that may be a different soundscape.

I could add the sound of my feet. That steady bass drum that only I hear as I walk – or the splashing with each step as I walk through the passing water.

People would be the next sound. This time of year numbers are few. Humanity’s auditory presence is not constant – actually infrequent would be more accurate. The sounds in peak season would be different with the kids romping, teens playing beach volleyball, and radios blaring.

A soundscape at home in Ohio would be different than here. Would it be rural or urban? In a meadow or the woods? By day or at night?

Maybe I would start with rustling leaves; then add the gentle waters of a babbling stream. Insects would then buzz followed by birds chirping. Nightfall would remove the buzzing insects and chirping birds of the day, but replaced by the crickets, followed by the chorus of croaking frogs, then the occasional screeches of owls and the howling of mammals.

No matter where nature’s symphony plays, what if one of the sounds were eliminated. A concert with missing instruments. A piano concerto with missing keys.

I think about the lyrics in a Nat King Cole song – Mother Nature and Father time.

Every robin is my brother
They sing their songs to me
The tiny black-eyed daisies
The mighty red wood tree
There all my family

Then why do I feel so lonely
Like a king on an empty throne
There’s one thing that’s missing only
A true love to call my own

Won’t you listen mother nature
And listen father time
Please help me to find someone
To fill these arms of mine
Mother nature and father time

I wonder how many pictures can a soundscape paint? Thoughts of soundscapes are more complex than I imagined – but thinking about soundscapes is a good reason why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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On a Beach Walk: No. 40 (A Return)

foot stepson grey sands with waters nearing it

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

After arriving, unpacking, grocery shopping, and a supply trek to Costco, today is my first full day of our respite as snowbirds.

It’s good to return to life as my alter ego – the time without appointments – a time of minimal commitments – a time without the feeling that I have to do something – a time when I try to leave my daily burdens behind. I’ve carried some of life’s baggage with me to this place – that’s what life does – but it’s different than a year ago.

It’s good to see the fine, off-white sand from the balcony for the first time since a year ago.

It’s good to see a seemingly endless vast view of water that will help me discover metaphors for future walks.

It’s good to have the first struggle with the fine, soft sand on my way to the water’s edge.

It’s good to feel the packed sand at the water’s edge that will serve as my pavement for the weeks to come.

It’s good to begin my daily walking routine as I move eastward for the first walk. On most days I will get over 10,000 steps before noon. I hope for a day-long trek before leaving.

It’s good to see the string of shells marking high tide. Each year we’ve focused on different shells, but because we have enough, we will give preference only to the unique shells we encounter.

It’s good to feel the water moving across my feet. It’s a bit brisk at the moment, but I’m confident a truly refreshing temperature is approaching.

It’s good to see my first group of sanderlings – the small birds with the fast-moving legs in their ongoing hunt for food at the water’s edge. Their presence always makes me smile.

It’s good to hear the sounds of the beach – the water coming ashore – the whistling of the steady breeze – the squawking seagulls – and even the air traffic from the nearby naval air station.

It’s good to smell the freshness of the sea air – that hint of salt with a skosh of marine life – a different scent than the air of my inland home.

It’s good to see the pelicans effortlessly gliding just about the water’s surface, then redirect upward only to turn around to dive after unwilling prey below the surface.

It’s good to know that some days I will see a group of dolphins passing by on their hunt for food.

It’s good to know that the sea will probably show me many emotions on its face – those emotions varying from placid calm to raging anger.

It’s good to start the process of letting the sand jettison the old skin from the bottom of my feet. If the past is an indicator, by the end of the stay my feet will have a warm glow.

Let the exfoliating begin because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Random Reflections

Before moving on to my regular posts, thought I would put together some random thoughts from last week.

Last week, my MIL’s older sister (from Detroit) was visiting her daughter (in Denver). She was able to change her flying date and destination for $15. Unbelievable, so thank you Delta! She arrived in Cincinnati during a snowstorm, so time awarded me by extending my 40-minute drive from the airport to 130 minutes.

As an in-law, I approached dealing with a death in the family with caution. Given only two siblings, I was there for support, but had judge when it was appropriate to give input and when to stay put. If the family was bigger, I can’t imagine even being part of the discussions.

Over the past ten days, I had many thoughts about mother (who passed away in 1987). Being too weak for the 3-hour ride, she never made it to our new home. As we are planning a move in the spring, another mother will not be able to visit a new home.

I cannot recall who told me this great advice many years ago: When a baby is born, don’t forget to ask about the mother. As an in-law, our role is to support our loved ones during grief – and I did – but that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t heavy and we don’t grieve. So the next time you have a friend lose a parent, also attend to their spouse. That spouse may simply say they are OK, but I’m betting that they are very appreciative.

We didn’t know a church friend worked at Hospice, but my wife saw her when I wasn’t there. I happened to be in the room early Monday morning when she stopped by. As we talked, she quoted something I said to her three years ago after my dad passed away: “My dad had 84 pretty good years with one real bad day at the end – so that’s not too bad.” To think she remembered that shocked me. Well, my MIL lived 1025+ months, so four difficult months isn’t too bad.

That same Monday morning at Hospice, I witnessed wonderful kindness – let’s call them the flower guild. There are two teams: Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, the flower guild volunteers gather donated flowers from florists. At Hospice, the volunteers create bouquets for the patient’s rooms. My SIL and I smiled watching them work while seeing and receiving the results of their efforts – so this Monday, I took some of the funeral flowers to the flower guild.