On a Beach Walk: #55 (Fog)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
The morning is very foggy. As I walk, I feel an occasional mist. I see a wetness appearing on my glasses. Water collects and clings on my arms as a morning dew does on grass – but not as much as I recall from a prior year here on the coast.
The sand is smooth – unbothered by the extra low clouds. Besides, low tide was a short time ago. In many ways, it’s a good day for walking.
The thick fog seems to be keeping the birds grounded. The pelicans aren’t gliding by. The seagulls are absent – not even standing around on the beach. A sandpiper stands on one leg ahead – and hops away like a pogo stick as I approach.
The water feels good as it laps ashore and strokes my feet. Turning to look back, I notice that the buildings are difficult to see. Only their outlines faintly show, but I’m unable to count the floors. I wonder about spotting my turnaround point and my building when I return.
Thick fog is a metaphor for the unknown of what lies ahead. I imagine the Old World explorers making a journey across the ocean to an unknown land. The same feeling could be applied to the early astronauts or those trips to the Moon.
Fog is also a metaphor for a sense of my own mortality for I do not know what is in my future. Then again, none of us know what awaits un in the days ahead.
I forge ahead with my head more down than up. For whatever reason, my head rises and I notice my turning point. Somehow, the building is easy to see. Looking up I notice the sun appearing more like a moon behind a sheet of wax paper. Maybe the fog is about to clear. Maybe – or maybe not.
I change directions and soon feel a light glow from the sun warming the back of my neck – but as I look ahead – the thick fog remains – the feeling of mystery continues.
As my feet continue walking along the sand and occasionally in the water, the presence of birds remains minimal.
The location of our residence is unclear.
Fog is the gray between certainty and uncertainty. The unclear area between reality and the unreal. I’m on a moving line of the present that stands between the past and the future. Yes, the fog – a symbol of unclear thoughts and confusion – even frustration for some – but on this day, not me. I confidently trek ahead.
Later, with my back to the water, I stand looking at each faint outline of the buildings through the dense low clouds. A passer by asks if I’m trying to find my building, but I confidently define my location … then we laugh.
Because I’m near to my ending point, I return to the water’s edge for the remaining stroll. After all, 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. 51 (Hearing)

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

Hearing the sounds of the sea as I walk is relaxing. The sequence of the upswell at the start of the breaking waves to the clap of the crest’s splash to the shoosh gently fading away. I even hear the popping of the tiny bubbles as water caresses my feet.

That sound is repetitive and constant while dominating the beach’s soundscape – but both similar and different with each passing day.

Hearing – the only sense relying on vibrations. The shell of our outer ear captures the sound waves of the sea and then directs those waves that we don’t hear then to the eardrum – causing it to vibrate. – which causes the 3 bones of the middle ear to vibrate – yet we do not hear.

The vibrating bones cause another membrane to vibrate – which causes inner ear fluid to vibrate – then nerve endings specialized to a particular wavelength of sound detect the vibrations – yet we do not hear.

Nerves carry the detected messages to a specialized section in the brain that puts all the messages together into what we hear. Ahhhh … now I hear the sounds of the sea that I enjoy.

I think of the classic holiday song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” because we apply our own perspective into interpreting sounds. What one enjoys, another may not.

Without hearing, sound is silence to the listener. They do not hear the emotions music conveys. They do not experience the sounds of nature. They cannot differentiate the soundscapes of the beach, the stream, the woods, and the meadow.

They do not hear the words of love, encouragement, support, enthusiasm, and wisdom. They do not hear the voice that gives one peace. On the plus side, they are protected from the political noise of partisan pickering, personal slander, and consistent vitriol.

I think of the animals in nature whose hearing mechanism is like ours – yet some are acutely more sensitive for protective purposes. Dogs have nerve endings for detecting frequencies beyond our upper range, so they painfully hear the dog whistle that we cannot hear. Deer, who detect a slight rustling of the ground caused by a seemingly quiet step by a human in the distance.

Hearing isn’t the same as listening. Some may say listening is sophisticated hearing. Listening is mindful attention to what is said. Listening is focusing on the spoken words, not on what to say in response. Listening is something we give someone – respect – a gift that connects us to others.

Listening stimulates our thoughts. Listening make one better. Listening leads to a great understanding. Listening connects humanity. Listening joins us with nature as we concentrate on the natural sounds while trying to apply meaning.

But, some favor being heard or hearing their own voice. Then again, maybe they simply favor telling over listening.

Hearing – a sense that we value – yet take for granted. Does listening to loud music through headphones at a high volume demonstrate a greater value for music than hearing? But what did I know then – or simply did I not listen to wisdom? Is this a reason for my hearing aids today?
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I have a choice when I walk. I can hear the wind or I can listen to it. Thinking about what the wind is saying or even letting the mind wander and wonder. After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On an Alabama Trek

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Time is 8:02 AM (my pedometer reads 425 steps)

As I do most of the time, I walk down nine stories in anticipation of the known and unknown of what lies ahead.

In minutes I’m at the beach. The sun is bright. The sky is blue with wispy white streaks. The air is brisk, but the wind is strong – much stronger than I hoped – plus I am walking into the wind.

Within a few minutes, I cross into Florida. There’s the Flora Bama. (1,100 steps)

 

The sand is packed. I’m close to the water, but wearing shoes. I start a 15-minute stretch of familiar landmarks: Pharaoh, the Green-Eyed Lady, and Olives.

Time is 8:18 AM (2,072 steps)

Pharaoh stands guard over the beach. He tells me, “You can have my crown if you make it.”

Suspicious of his offer, I nod as I walk past.

This is something I wanted to do last year, but didn’t – and to think the weather was better then.

 

Conditions haven’t changed, but it’s early.

There she stands – “Green-eyed lady, ocean lady. Soothing every waves that comes. Green-eyed lady, passion’s lady. Dressed in love, she lives for life to me.”

She always wonders where I’m going and when I’ll return.

I smile at her presence as I walk by.

 

There’s that cool sand sculpture I saw the artist doing yesterday!

Several days ago would have been better because it was warmer and less windy – but the fog would limit the view.

The sand is no longer easy walking. I look for hardpan.

There stand the Olives.

Time – 8:34 AM (3,941 steps)

 

The next landmark is the USS Eden aircraft carrier with a flight deck at the end of a stretch of houses.

Head down, I maintain my pace into the wind. I encounter company for a short distance.

 

Time – 8:53 AM (2.5 miles/4 km) at Eden, a typical turnaround point

Eden is not a carrier, but a proud falcon or eagle perched to display its wings – much like the eagle on the back of a US quarter.

 

After Eden is a string of 6-7 houses, followed by a long stretch (2.5 miles/4 km) of no housing units for it is a Florida state park. My next destination is the first tall tower.

 

Fortunately, I know the locations of the bathrooms.

My pace is slower than normal. The strong headwind is a factor.

The sand remains difficult, so I continually search for a packed surface.

I’ve walked this lonely stretch before. I could listen to a podcast, but I want to conserve my battery.

The tide appears higher than normal, so low tide must have been earlier than I thought.

Should I turn around?

…. but then I find a stretch of packed sand that delays the decision.

Time – 9:52 AM (12,525 steps) 5.5 miles/ 8.8 km

At Windemere, the first tall condo outside the state park. I’ve been here before. I stop to empty my shoes, drink water, rest, check my phone, and think.

Walkers assure me that better sand lies ahead.

Before continuing, a man passes where I sit, and he turns left as if he will serve as my guide. I chose to continue to where my feet have not gone before and to reach the point at the end of the national shoreline.

 

The sand is better here, but the wind seems a bit stronger.

Condos are a few stories taller than our location – but not as wide. I marvel at the beauty of the expansive, curved balconies.

 

The man continues to serve as a guidepost as he walks ahead of me.

A collection of pastel houses are sandwiched between condos. For whatever reason, I smiled.

I imagine the first part of my destination lies ahead – and the man still sets a good pace and direction – but I’m gaining on him.

Time – 10:30 AM (12,525 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km

I enter the Gulf Islands National Shoreline. The sand is hard and level.

 

A half mile into the national protected area, I catch the man. We talk.

I asked the location of the point. He says, “Another 5-6 miles.” (98-9.5 km) – I laugh and think about Pharaoh’s words.

Time – 10:50 AM (16,284 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km)

One mile into the national shoreline we turned around. This is near the location where I thought the point would be – but little did I know it was still so far away.

We separate as I stop at the pavillion for restrooms, eating a banana, rest, water, texting my wife, and emptying my shoes.

Lunch is about 45 minutes away – a place just before the long stretch of the state park.

Ahhh … the wind is finally at my back.

Lunch was wonderful – a plate of red beans and rice.

Before heading back to the beach, my windshirt comes off to expose my arms.

The wind is at my back, but soon I notice a chill on my neck. My windshirt goes from my waist to my neck. Much better.

The state park stretch is generally lonely. I’m tired. I chat to two fisherman about their day.

I keep my eyes focused ahead for the next landmark.

I finally pass Eden as the eagle stands proud.

Olives appear as a martini toasting my survival.

The Green-Eyed Lady smiles with approval and my safe return.

Pharaoh nods in approval, then sheepishly smiles as a reminder that the crown is still his – but my walk is slower than normal.

I stop again to visit a sand sculpture done by an artist I talked to yesterday. (This is a morning picture)

 

There’s a log – I stop to sit, remove my socks and shoes that I stuff into a bag.

Ahhh … the sea refreshes my feet. My pace get faster. I hear the steady bass drum of my steps.

The Flora Bama tempts me to stop for a celebratory drink, but I press on to Alabama.

A final foot splash in front of the condo. I wave to my wife on the balcony, head inside, find the elevator for the ride to the ninth floor.

I stand at our door checking the final stats.

Time – 2:20 PM (38,185 steps) 16.8 miles/27 km

An interesting day – and I imagine the rest of the day will involve several thousand more steps.

As for the point that I did not see, hopefully next year – but then I will drive to the national shoreline, park the car, then start the trek to the point and back.

On a Beach Walk: No. 46 (Heart)

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

Today I think about the heart, that 11 ounce (310 g) fist-sized hollow muscular organ whose sounds we associate with life. The heart whose sounds debatably marks the beginning of life, yet unquestionably noting the end.

The heart whose steady sounds are as regular as the rhythm of the waves that come ashore. The heart whose EKG charts of peaks and valleys I see in the waterline formed ahead of me on the beach as I walk.

The steady sounds of my feet striking the sand with each stride creates a steady bass drum beat that resembles my heart steadily pumping waves of blood – but I think the sea must have its own heart pumping a steady rhythm of waves coming ashore.

The heart – that symbol for behavioral standards as empathy, appreciation, enthusiasm, and love.

The heart – whose action descriptors include aches, breaks, explodes, touches, and hardens.

The heart – that symbol showing its power in numerous idioms as have a heart, pour out your heart, heart of a lion, heart-to-heart talks, a heart of gold, wearing their heart on their sleeve, a warrior’s heart, and a heart of stone – a hardened heart.

The heart can be young, untamed, lonely, broken, hungry, crossed, and mended – yet have a mind of its own.

Thoughts of heart-and-soul touches us deep within – but its Cupid who delivers the greatest heart of them all – love -love with the heart being the psychological center of a relationship. Yes, the heart – that source of tears of joy – tears of hurt – tears of pride – tears of endearment – tears of certain moments of beauty and sentimentality.

While the heart also delivers passions, blessings, prayers, hope, and forgiveness; the heart is about grace and peace of mind.

The heart shares, listens, consoles, and gives genuine kindness. The heart promises and trusts while also having a sense of justice.

Now I wonder – Is there a more powerful symbol than the heart? Is the heart our soul? Something to think about – but perhaps on another day. Thinking about the heart today delivers a smile because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 42 (After the Storm)

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

The past few days have been warm, but the strong winds and threat of rain kept my feet off the sand, therefore moving my walks to the treadmill, the city trails, or even the back of the building.

The storm front passed bringing a cold morning with gloomy skies. By noon, the sun accompanied a blue sky and a normal breeze – so the sands called me to walk.

Ahhhh … I missed my feet being here.

I go to the west without knowing my final destination – but it is into the wind. The air is still brisk, so I’m dressed accordingly. I laugh when a gentleman passes by because we are both in shorts – but he is shirtless while I feel comfortable with three layers and a hat.

More debris is present on the beach today. Not only brought ashore by the turbulent water, but the dredging project at the nearby channel exacerbates the litter. I watch for shiny metallic bits to avoid.

The sand is extra smooth from the winds and the roaring waves of recent days. The sand at the waterline is how I like it – firm and with minimal slope.

The firmness makes walking easier as more energy transforms into forward motion. There’s no forced lifting from sinking into the muck.

The relative flatness allows the water to glide ashore, then gently wash over my feet, then back to the sea. The slow retreat allows time for the sandpipers and sanderlings to forage for food in the freshly washed sand.

The sea foam slowly returns to the water as it adheres to the shore as legs of a full-bodied wine clinging to the inner sides of an oenophile’s glass.

Human presence on the beach today is sparse. Besides shirtless guy, I see only four fishermen on my trek and a handful of others. Turns out this is my first walk of the year to the point with the and the channel – about 2 miles (3.2 km) before turning for the return trip.

Although the morning conditions limited me to the fitness room, I still smile. My hands are cool – but not cold. I clothed with the shorts, three layers and a hat. What a beautiful day to return to the beach and my walking routine.

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

On a Beach Walk: No. 41 (Storms)

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

In advance of a storm front due to pass in mid-afternoon, many clouds dominate the sky. They are not a solid mass, but an irregular one showing a seemingly unlimited spectrum of gray. The clouds nearly saturate the sky as ritual smoke as they move to their own cosmic dance.

Scant patches of blue periodically appear as holes leading to a greater beyond. Sometimes, an opening aligns with the sun to shine light on me. Other times the sun transforms a puffy cloud into a brilliant white aerial statue.

The wind is a little stronger today at it assists me in my eastward walk – but I know it will provide resistance on my return trip.

The winds travel across the water’s surface creating ripples for as far as I can see. I look at the thick clouds above whose lower surfaces appear as ripples caused by the same wind. There must be a connection.

The sea is more agitated than normal – unlike their more placid nature of yesterday. The red flag warms visitors of riptide currents, yet the sea is far from the fury whose tempest took ships to their unexpected but permanent mooring on the ocean floor.

The storm is not yet here – and may or may not live up to forecasted expectations. The clouds serve as a blanket of anticipation – but not a positive one because they display a haunting gloom of the approaching afternoon worry.

Storms make people anxious – just as the difficulties, trials, and tribulations do in life. Personal storms tend to weaken fragile foundations, but those with a strong cornerstone survive and come forth with strength and wisdom.

I think of storms as metaphors because storms are like problems, scrutiny, anger, life changing events, trials, and tribulations. We are aware of the political storms of controversy and ideological differences, but brainstorming seldom solves these problems.

Fortunately, information does not imply that the current and approaching weather conditions are aligning to be the perfect storm – but I wonder about not only its turmoil, but the calm on the other side – even the possibility of a rainbow, then the sunshine to follow.

For now, I don’t worry. I enjoy this time because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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.