I wake with a start and a stirring. A tug. A pull.
“I have to go to the ocean,” I tell my husband.
Our bank account disagrees; so I tell it that I will drive there and back in a single day, departing absurdly early and returning late, without the need for an overnight stay.
But a week passes, and still I haven’t recovered enough from that tenacious August respiratory virus to fund the energy needed for this kind of day trip; which is unfair because it is this very virus that no doubt produced this untimely insistence on the ocean. It is already September, the air is cooling, and school has begun.
Rumi’s words echo even as my commitment wanes:
What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.
When a week passes and a string of summer-like days return, I go to the pond–a place where I am stirred, again and again, by beauty and light, but like a toddler, denied a specific spoon, I am unsatisfied.
“I must stay overnight,” I say, and with that, I renew my commitment, and add to it–boldness and creativity, while my efforts are met, without success.
I go to bed on Monday, muddled, and wake the same on Tuesday, and decide to find clarity, inside:
I get on my mat.
I write in my journal.
I take my supplements.
I tend the garden.
I shower outside.
I do what needs doing for work.
All the while, I do something else, slowly, nonchalantly, covertly, just in case, little by little—setting aside, at first, some underwear, and then a bra; and then an outfit or two; a toiletry kit; some beach things; waters and snacks, and finally a meal for lunch and then dinner.
At 11:00 am, I leave a note for my family on the kitchen table:
Be back tonight or tomorrow.
Just then, an email comes through–a single night in an Airbnb at a very friendly rate. I update my note to my family.
It is well into the afternoon when I arrive up the coast of Maine, not all ideal, and I have to resist chiding myself so that I can receive what daylight remains–to sit and read and take in the smell of the sea and the sounds of waves, and to walk in the surf, and finally to float and then to submerge myself fully in Her embrace.
Afterward, I rack up a $9 check at an upscale restaurant–a glass of Portuguese wine and a mini lobster roll with fries—Yay, Maine Happy Hour!—and when I arrive back at my room, I receive another email–an unexpected payment from a client—for the exact amount of my stay.
Alas, the angsty restlessness I felt in needing to come, and in deciding to come, and even in the coming and the arriving, continues, even the next morning as I sip coffee at my favorite cafe, and even as I walk along the stunning cliffs at the lighthouse, and even as I sit in the sand and build a sand castle like I did as a child; so that it is a continuous practice, this being with me, with awareness and compassion:
“Of course, you’re restless,” I say. “These are shifting times. Not just summer’s end, and your mother’s anniversary, and a month of coughing, but this heartbreak of an administration, and the fires and floods and shootings, and then, of course–this leaving of motherhood, not to mention hot flashes and a road trip without air condition.”
Exactly 24 hours after I arrive in Maine, I begin driving south, and then west, and three hours later, I cross the Connecticut River from New Hampshire to Vermont, and then turn off the highway to stop at the fish market to soften the separation of the sea and me.
Mothers do, you know.
They drop their kids off at daycare or at school and never come back.
These words appeared like a mantra after I’d written the note to my family, ominously hinting at a larger leaving, and continuing, even after I arrived back home.
I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving.
I half-thought I might not make it to Maine or home again. That I’d die on the road like my grandmother did just a year older than me. I remind myself, firmly, that I’d like to transform without such drama as she (or my mother) enacted.
And still, my spirit is called into the wild, and as I lean in to listen, I hold back, for fear of going too far.
(Related post: Cleavage.)