This week I’m spending time with Stuart on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. He rented a vacation nest a hop from the beach, and you can hear the waves from the deck and the hot tub and the living room couch. (Yes, I said hot tub.) I’ve been spending weightless hours there once or twice a day, letting the jets pummel me. And, once a day we go to a small cheese shop for chocolate-covered figs, pickled tomatoes, peppery olive oil, smoked cheddar, and chitchat with the extremely friendly owner, who has the patience to indulge us. Kiva barks at all the repair folks who are fixing up the houses around us at the end of the season, and frolics near the surf without actually being brave enough to go in. She grows bored easily and lies in the sun, just like at home. I sit in the sun and get sun-drunk and sleepy, just like anywhere I go.
I feel pretty spoiled, truth be told, like a sparrow in luxury’s lap who keeps looking over its shoulder, wide-eyed. It’s certainly like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The copious reading is the same as at home, the loom of my thesis, the life survival anxiety which I tamp with less gentleness than I care to admit, but my mind is also occupied with being present in a new place. Whenever I go somewhere new, I think about the people who live there. In this case, I think of the islanders who live here year-round, who grow up with the ocean as a backdrop to their lives. What would it be like to always hear this roar, always be clued into the storms brewing at sea? To spend summers treading the influx of tourists who leave their footprints everywhere and the beaches wrecked? To see “closed, surfing” on a store front sign and understand all the joy there? To grow up amongst affluence, scraping mussel shells with your teeth, skimming waves and running into the wind? Do you go to New York City on weekends? Do you summer in Philadelphia, away from the people who flood your home? Does lobster become commonplace rather than extravagance? Do you learn about the deep Atlantic in school, how it gives so much, what you can do to give back?
I’m especially appreciative of the novelty of these thoughts in my mind, a mind which is frankly tired and overwhelmed with the tasks of human interaction and navigation and living. I hope I can remember this privilege, even when I return to the real world. Love to you all.