I always feel the beach has restorative powers.
The waves are constant and rhythmic. The sand washes from under your feet only to be pushed back to cover where you stood. The sun rarely lets a cloud win the cover-me contest, slipping behind one now and then for a minute’s relief, then bursting back to dominate the day. Even the wind gets in on the scene, making sure there are no thoughts of a good-hair day but stirring a coolness just long enough to be appreciated.
And you can sit on or off the beach, as long as you can see the ocean and feel the power of it all coming together. I have to go to the beach once a year, or I am undone for months.
Our annual trip to Holden Beach, N.C., has never failed to restore my soul, pick me up when I am down and lift my happiness level.
This year, I was in the market for more. I wanted healing – a healing of a tired and sad spirit that was feeling very old and very limited.
I was just 17 days past surgery to put a rod and pins in my broken femur. I was one day out of inpatient rehab at NHC Farragut and less than 12 hours from having the staples taken out of my leg from the aforementioned surgery. I had worked extremely hard to even get to come to the beach.
The over/under on to what level I would ever be “back on my feet” depended on who was discussing the recovery. Predictions ranged from “determination wins the day” to “it’s time to face up to your limitations.” If ever I needed healing, this was the year.
I will not fault the beach for not coming through on its own this year. It was unchanged, and the beauty and power of the ocean setting did not disappoint. But the job was too much, my spirit too low.
The magic did come, however. Five children, ages 13 to 2, joined hands with the beach and did the trick.
The kids – Cohen, Julian, Bennett, King and Gardner – eyed the walker but basically paid it little mind. They just saw Gigi, or Aunt Sherri, exactly where she was supposed to be on July Fourth week, and they accepted that all would be well.
The young ones still crawled onto my lap, remembering only sometimes to ask which the “hurt” leg was. The older ones accepted that some planned trips had to change but talked about “next year” and went back to their games of Sharks and Minnows.
Their power of unconcern carried straight to my heart an underlying faith that merged with the restorative powers of the ocean and brought me back to happiness. We kept our routines – soccer on the television and on the beach, pool games that always include “drowning” Uncle Brett, sand shenanigans from castles to buried torsos to chasing crabs and collecting seashells, bad “B” movies and card games played well into the night that included the crowning of a new, first-time-ever win for Aunt Olivia with a dramatic low Hearts score of 2.
While I am not exactly kicking up my heels yet, I’m on my way to being better than before. My beloved Holden Beach found willing and able partners to join its mystic team this year: grandchildren and our Howell/Melendy beach family.
I am grateful again for my blessings and unconcerned about naysayers. The beach will call again next year, and I will be strong and ready to roll.
Sherri Gardner Howell, a former features writer and manager at the News Sentinel and publisher at Blount Today, has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.