Yes, I do know that a long, romantic walk along the coast evokes words about the tragedy of a dating profile, but I’ve been married for over 11 years, so I believe I can say it without just hearing it. I like to walk long distances along the coast. And while any seafaring is a good thing, there is one that I will never forget and often think about.
It was 10 or more years ago. I was in Coronado, California visiting my husband’s family for Thanksgiving. We got up in the morning and went to the coffee shop. Despite the cold winters in the air, the sun was out and winter holidays from all over the world were ubiquitous on the road that formed the sea – new couples, older couples, couples with children, runners, pedestrians, dog people. It was very crowded, but it was festive and fun.
As we made our way down the road, two children appeared: a younger sister and a brother who had apparently been told to wait by the lighthouse while their parents wandered in the van parked next to them. For fun, the kids were playing a game they just played, a game that I think is called, “Here’s My Sandbox.”
They took turns standing on small piles of sand piled up on either side of a lampstand. The sister would shout, “This is MY pile of sand,” and the brother would run to her, put his foot in the pile, and shout, “No! This is MY pile of sand! ”The sister then ran to the other side of the lamp post, stood on a small pile on the other side and shouted,“ This is MY pile of sand. ” I watched these barefoot kids fight each other as we walked. Everything was out of the war. Nothing could break their focus, not even their mom screaming for them to play well. As we passed them, I could not help but look to my left.
There, filling 200 yards between the road and the sea, walking miles down the watercape with shiny white sheets, was an endless barrage of old California sand. Some of the sand was spotted by steps from visitors, some were smooth, and some were exposed to waves, wind-blown – all within a few feet of where the children were playing.
There were piles and piles of sand that the children did not even notice because they were too busy fighting the small collection around the base of the lamp where they stood. They never even looked up. The thought never occurred to them that much of the sand might wait just across the concrete road
Now, in their defense, they were children – children no doubt told by their parents not to look at the sea at all. They were children who had no choice but to keep themselves busy while waiting for their parents to hold their hand and lead them on their next adventure. They did their best with what they had without being tempted by what was around them.
They were just kids, but I couldn’t help but wonder: ‘What is my reason? On more than one occasion I found myself completely wrapped up, fighting and frustrated, walking barefoot trying to put my claim into a small, insignificant pile of sand – the sand of relationships, the sand of social position, the sand of work; anything else. I’m so obsessed with these kid games that I leave unconscious and blind on the beautiful beaches around me. Beaches with unlimited sand, possibly,
We were all there, investing our energy in small things while big ones were lying untouched on the other side of the road. Especially in these turbulent times, it is easy to focus on what we are missing out on or what we may not be able to control. And it can be easy to diagnose this problem if it arises in the form of minor quarrels like children on the street.
Unfortunately for adults, the symptoms are very subtle. It becomes apparent when we compare ourselves with others, go through social media feeds and browse our browsing for someone else’s good news, or think we can’t achieve what someone else has. It is hidden when the agreement is broken and we thought it was the only thing that could be chosen. It happens whenever one door closes and we stop to look at it instead of looking for a door, as the saying goes, just open it.
I think of those kids on the street most of the time. What may be a temporary thing is time to move on. Whenever I feel limited or overwhelmed by the world or the rules around me, I think back to that long stretch of beach, the kids focus on what was on their feet, and I remind myself to always look at the big beaches ahead.
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