Sandra L. Giles
South Georgia Writing Project
Valdosta State University
In three weeks, I will be at the beach. It's been eight years. Here's what I look forward to--
Hurricanes. No, just kidding.
Crabs, sand, shells, sun, salt, waves, water, creatures. The sound of wind, gulls, fizz of salt waves on sand. Sting of sunburn, of wind-thrown sand, sand in sunscreen and inside shoes, swimsuit, hair, under toenails. Scrank, scrank, scrank of white sand. Scrinch, scrinch of pulverized shell. The occasional random stinging tentacle in water.
There's something spiritual about the ocean. Something primordial, like leftover species memory.
I wonder if it's the same with all boundary places. What is it about the shore of any body of water? The fringe edge of woods. The bridge that starts in Savannah and ends in South Carolina. The Apalachicola River in Florida--cross it and get a second chance at the hour that just sped by.
It's about being on the transition between here and there. Exciting, like walking on top of a fence when your mother's not looking. Take one step backward, you're still here. Two steps forward, you're there and right on the borderline, a tingling in the lower back, a breaking of the rules, like coloring outside the lines. An adventure: you're going somewhere else. Hey, let's cross to South Carolina and get doughnuts for breakfast!
The beach is this kind of liminal place, a place of ritual and terror and unknown depths. Physical manifestation of the unconscious.
And worlds unknown. Go wading on an oyster bar in low tide and you'll see what I mean. Make sure you wear shoes. An old pair of lace-up Keds would be good (slip-ons will slip off). Get past the seaweed, which is like walking through aboriginal mud taffy. Then there will be rock after rock of hard, dark grey, not really rock, with barnacles and other clinging things. Study them and know truth.
Look deeper, at the medium intensity colors of mother of pearl--blue, magenta, varied shades of white and cream, and purple and pink, and that odd, dark grape wine circle not exactly in the middle. That's the way it is supposed to look--not the way it looks on the barrette you bought at Wal-Mart.
Look into water microcosms. What manner of creatures? How many of them? What kind of little world which has nothing to do with you? Do you see a starfish? Leave him alone. Or have your camera with you. A dead dried starfish is worth less than you'd pay for him at the souvenir shop. Do you see busy crabs, small clear fish with yellow fins and tail? Olive sponges and dark seaweed?
Leave all that alone, too. But look closely. It will comfort you to know, six months or six years from now, that it was and still is there. And that it has nothing really to do with you. It's something other.