A business trip took me home recently. I suppose it's not really "home", as the place I live now is the same city I have lived in for the majority of my life. But coastal North Carolina is home to me. Has been from the moment I first arrived there. I lived there for four years when I was younger, and leaving was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done.  
My life has been very unsure for the past couple of years. Very chaotic. When I had the ocean in front of me, available to me, I was more grounded. There was perspective there I have never been able to find anywhere else. I long for those beaches. Long for the crash of wave on sand, for the echoes of eternity that they bring.
One beach here. Surf City on Topsail Island. It's the place I spent the majority of my time on the sand. It was the place I first glimpsed the ocean. The "real" ocean, not just the Gulf of Mexico. The town I lived in has changed. The people are gone. But the ocean, the beach...it is always the same.
I came here with my ex on our last vacation together. The first time my children saw the ocean. That trip was riddled with uncertainty. It was the absolute last ditch effort to save something that couldn't be saved. I thought coming home would fix the problems we had. Or remind us of what we wanted when we were in love.
It did not do that. It calmed me, sure. But there were so many conflicting currents in my life that I couldn't breathe. And I left the coast with more questions than I came with.
I have not been back in two years.  
When I found out I was coming home, I planned on visiting this beach, as well as the town I lived in. I'd be driving not very far from it, and it would be easy to go by for a few minutes. But the trip dragged. Things took longer than expected. The town I lived in was so changed. So many of my old haunts out of business. So many friends gone. We finally  arrived on Topsail island near sundown the day before the trip was over. The little seafood dive I love so well didn't open until March, and I was reeling with the disappointment. Nothing would be made right with this visit either.
It seemed that home really wasn't home anymore. Nothing to hold me here. Nothing to call me back.
The next morning, a later start than anticipated. We had just a few minutes to visit the beach. It's just a beach. Not home. And though I could almost feel a tangible pull towards those steps over the dunes when we drove past, I knew deep inside that it would not be what I'd hoped.
I stepped out of the car into the familiar sandy wind, my nose full of the salty smell of the sea I love so deeply. My heart begins to beat faster as my foot touches the steps, and my hands start to shake. I don't understand the lump that begins to rise in my throat, and I'm fighting to overcome the emotions swirling in my head.
It's February, and the beach is almost deserted, the way I like it. Just a few locals jogging along the waterline. Tourist season is still months away, and I know this is my beach. My first sight of the pier, of the water crashing into the sand, of the birds and the grass on the dunes being pummeled by the wind, and I am moving. Haltingly at first, then a little faster -- I leave everyone behind, and am tripping, stumbling, and running through the loose sand, kicking off my shoes. The frigid temperatures have no place in my thoughts, I'm running, hopping, rolling my pants up, almost falling several times...needing the kiss of the waves on my feet.
By the time I hit the cold hard sand with the freezing water just lapping at my toes, tears are falling fast. Everything that has been weighing on me for four years begins to wash away like the footprints in the sand around my frozen feet. The people around me forgotten, I stand there, sobbing, not really sure why, staring out at forever, sinking into the sand of my home, rooted now, grounded.
I cannot even begin to understand the tide of emotions that flooded through me, as I stood there - I just knew they were flowing, and outside of my control. Long moments passed before I even spared a thought for the other people around me. Crazy lady with windblown hair, sobbing on the beach. I didn't care. I didn't try to explain. I finally managed to pull away. Walked along the cold hard sand, sniffling. Picking up sea glass. Settling into my old routine. Letting the release of pent-up emotion wash over me, wash through me.
No matter how many times these things happen to me, I still am always surprised at the depth of emotion the sea creates in me. I remember so many times...some I have written about here, some I haven't...but the ocean has the ability to erase the tumult in my mind. To calm it. It seems to speak to me with the wisdom that can only come with being as old as time itself. It tells me my problems are fleeting. That my life is fleeting. It allows me to feel the things I don't allow myself to feel, because I think I will come apart. But here, sinking deeper into the sand as the waves crash over my feet, I can feel them, and they're somehow not so heavy as they would be elsewhere.
Jimmy Buffet sings about the ocean in his song A Pirate Looks at 40. He calls the ocean Mother, as so many sailors have. He laments to her of the things he can tell no one else. He is too late for the life he was born for, but she is there, she knows. She remembers. She is the only one who can understand his follies and sorrows. To so many, the ocean gives this council. She is always there. She cradles us in her waves, rocks us to sleep at night. She tosses us about. She hurts the unwary seaman in her anger. She takes the things she wants. She is, like so many women, fickle. The ocean is powerful. She can hurt. But She can heal too. And for the currently landlocked Glowy, she is an absolutely necessary part of life. 
onceandfutureglow onceandfutureglow
31-35, F
16 Responses May 18, 2012

Very well written. It brought my childhood memories of the ocean back to me vividly. I remember the first time as you near it, in the summer with the windows rolled down, you get the first smell of the sting of the salt air. The memories all come flooding back of each visit to the ocean. My favorite time was also the winter, when the beach is quiet and still, the sound of the rolling waves almost has a lonesome cry to them. it pulls on the heart and draws you closer and closer to it...

This is beautiful. It is true that the ocean brings peace and the waves heal. I recently visited the Pacific Northwest and took a drive along the coast line. It was December. The beaches were deserted. A perfect time for reflection. I came out of my car, onto the sand and the minute I got close to the water I had an overwhelming feeling of peace. Almost like something was telling me that no matter what happens in your life, no matter how difficult or painful it is - you will always be okay.
Incredible story. Thank you for sharing!

Your story brought back something i was starting to take for granted. The healing power of waves. The last eight years or so have been filled with the loss of loved ones Mother, Father, Nephew and three close friends and a sibling who is a stroke survivor. When we decided to make the beach outing a big affair like our parents did before us. It brought back so many great memories. Now that my siblings and i have replaced our parents as heads of family the first thing that came to mind was how much effort it took to organize and feed etc. thirty to forty people. That in of it self made the memories of our mother and father's efforts on those beach outings even more convincing that it was are duty to make sure our kids experience the same so that it may continue for more generations. What your story brought back to me was the fact that i always remember the physical healing power of salt water.As kids we were always going to the beach with the usual battle scars of summer fun and i would be amazed that all my wounds would magically disappear by the next day. And now realizing that salt air and water helped heal emotional wounds as well. A big thank you for reminding me of this wonderful place that mother nature makes available to us. Hope you see what i see in you... and it sounds like you do. :)

I hope that things workout in a positive way. Wonderful story. I think there really is something to the idea that some need to be close to the ocean, and when they are not there is a palpable difference. Having moved farther inland for my husband's job, I can feel a definite difference in
climate and lots and lots has gone wrong. I would love to return to the smell of salt and sense, and the sound of the power if the water.

So well written! I hope you are feeling better!

I grew up on the Outer Banks and went to UNCW for undergraduate and I must say that it pulls at my heart too. Though i don't live there anymore, i still try to make it to the OBX at least once a year and try to a second time during the off season. I always loved the beach during off season or at night when its fairly desolate. Sitting there on the edge of land, staring into the ocean, where it meets the sky, the powerful waves crashing against the shore. All of my fears and worries seem so futile. I realize that its so small. I remember living in DC for some years while in Graduate school and aching for the shore of NC at times. I broke up with a girlfriend once while living in DC and the next morning, i spontaneously found myself in my car driving to Nags Head. I sat there on the beach for hours as it reminded me that it wasn't the end of the world, i still had the beach. Another time, i remember living in Northern VA and a storm was on its way to NC and I took the friday off and packed a small backpack with some clothes, shoved my surfboard in the car and drove down to find that everyone else had the same idea. It was the weekend after Labor Day and the island stayed open for just one more week, knowing that surfers from all over were going to flood the banks. I remember fighting the breaks for around 20 minutes to get past them and once i did, it had been so long, it felt, since i was out there that surfing didn't matter anymore. I sat there, past the breakers content on just being there in the ocean, back home. There is absolutely a comforting sense in or beside the ocean that i am not sure i have found anywhere else. I completely understand you!

When I look at the starry sky on the clear, moonless nights we get in NC by the ocean, I get almost the same feeling as I do at the beach, looking at the horizon and watching and listening to the breaking of the waves. But it isn't quite the same. I think the crash of the waves is the heartbeat of Earth and we are but tiny specks in the womb we call Earth, that nurtures and provides for us.

I sometimes get the "ocean feeling" during dark nights as well. And sometimes when i'm beside a river, especially if there is fog above it or its really early in the morning and nobody is around. I like the thought of earths heartbeat as well! No matter what, we'll always have nature there for us whe we need it most.. which is nice. haha

I always wanted to live near the ocean from the time i was a little boy. I didn't for many years, but i do now. In fact, just a little south of Surf City (love the gypsy fortune teller at Sam's) near Carolina Beach. I used to go to the beach and lose myself and my tensions in the vastness of the ocean and the eternal crash of the waves that remind us of how small and insignificant any of us are. Strangely, this has a calming effect. I don't go as often as i used to, but your poetic letter has inspired me to begin again to sit in the sand and watch and listen to the rhythm of the ocean. Thank you for sharing your story and may God bring you back to the place that grounds you in space and time.

Though I myself live on the side of the NW Gulf of Mexico, and grew up on the eastern shore line of Florida. I adore the coast of NC, the lighthouses along the coast line, the wildlife refuge, the history she holds of our country and the outer banks. All of it breath taking

I think we that grew up on the shores never get the love of it from our veins and heart

It is always to me a smile when I get the chance to walk the shores I did as a young boy, carefree and without any responsibilities :0)

Great post and story you shared

wonderful writing I have ever had in experience project.........we should be close to the Nature ( what is not always possible for us) to make our life easy.......

( a request: could I share it on my wall of another social network site?)

Great read, thanks for sharing!

Your story called forth a deep emotional response from me. I literally had goosebumps and tears in my eyes. Such powerful writing. <br />
I do hope you have had happier times since then.

I love the ocean. :) Topsail is a beautiful place.

I know how you feel, i myself was born and raised by the beach in California and although i moved to several different homes throughout my life i was always within walking distance to the beach. I'm especially fascinated by the seemingly endless and fascinating forms of life found in the sea and i was into boating and fishing from a very young age, at least 6 years old. I can say its in my blood, as i have never gotten seasick once in my entire life, even while on a boat in the roughest seas. I once had to relocate to Arizona for 2 years and it was the most depressing 2 years of my life, being so far from the ocean.

I don't get seasick either. :-)

One day i will live on the beach again. I don't know when, but i know I will...

This is very moving and beautiful. I myself have such a strong attachment to the sea. I tell people I have salt water in my veins. Yet my experience of the ocean is one that you will understand even though it has been much harsher on me and my relatives and ancestors. I am going to post my vision of the sea and how it is deep rooted in my heart and soul, never to leave me, and I it.<br />
Perhaps you will read it.

Oh<br />
<br />
This story brought tears to my eyes <br />
<br />
It made me think of the cry of the whales when they migrate and call to each other

"Home is where your heart is... wherever you may go." (aw ****, I think I just quoted myself)<br />
<br />
You either need to live near the ocean or visit her several times a year. That is all.<br />
<br />
PS I wish I could visit your beach with you.<br />
<br />

I like to think you will someday. But you have to bring your guitar.

And yes. Several times a year. I can't be away for more than that. I get so antsy...