Friday, June 19, 2009
Even though RI is known as the Ocean State public beaches are few and mostly found in areas sheltered from the full might of the Atlantic. Swimming had been a passion for me ever since I'd first taken to the little lake in front of our house in Ontario and realized I floated when I relaxed. After that it was a simple matter to learn different strokes for propelling myself through the water.
I heard of a beach in Westerly, RI far to the south of Providence and decided to check it out one Sunday afternoon. It was after 3:00 when I arrived, most of the people who'd been there earlier were either gone or leaving, so there was no trouble finding a spot for my car. Even before I climbed the white dune where the ocean breeze made wave like patterns in the sparse stalks of yellowing grass, I heard the sound of surf. It drew me on until I stood at the top spellbound by the sight that met my eyes. The grey green of the sea sparkled under a sunny blue sky, waves and white caps broke in endless succession against the bare sand.
Dropping my bag of towels and snacks, as well as my shorts and top, I walked down to the water's edge just to test how cold it might be. Not too bad. Seductive yet treacherous, the sea encouraged me to step a little further, get in a little deeper and, just as I was getting used to being wet above my knees, a giant wave that hadn't been there a moment before swept over me. I'd been sucked in, didn't know what end was up or down, all I knew was to hold my breath and trust I'd still float once it was done with me. When I surfaced I found myself far from shore and realized it had been twenty years since the days when I was a strong swimmer. I could see the beach and tiny looking stilted houses behind the dunes but no people whatever. Yet there was something that calmed my initial urge to panic and as the waves billowed I felt myself supported and held in loving embrace. I floated in a sunny green medium that was the essence of life itself.
After a period, I don't know how long, I swam in extended diagonals back to shore and sat on the sand while the sun dried me and my heartbeat harmonized with the sea. Near at hand I noticed two small egg shaped stones, they were smooth, crystalline white and appeared to be almost identical - as though they'd traveled through endless eons always together in order to meet me at that moment in time. It seemed they had a destination in their stony little minds and I was to be their means of travel. When I left I took them with me.
For years they sat in the little depression on the dashboard of my car until the day when I first saw the Pacific. We'd found a vast and empty stretch of sand facing the western ocean with a misty headland in the distance as the only break of land between us and the horizon. I took the stones and walked down past the tide-line where the water kissed the shore and left them there. That had been my job for this lifetime, moving two stones from one ocean to another. Since then I've been free.