Beach Walk

I’m not bragging. Really I’m not.  However, I just have to say that today has been the kind of day that I dreamed about during the 40+ years that  I was a working gal. Yes, I know that all (or most) women work, so maybe I should rephrase. This has been the kind of day that I dreamed about when I worked outside of the home and then came home and began what sociologists call “the second shift,” the one involving cooking, cleaning, bathing children, folding clothes, and so forth. I could list them (I’m an expert on the second shift), but just thinking about it makes me tired.

So…back to today. For starters, I’m still in Myrtle Beach, and I purposely set my alarm for 7:00 o’clock this morning just so that I could have the experience of waking up at the time I used to leave for work. It was awesome! Then I read, interacted with my online classes, had a phone conference with someone I met at the South Carolina Writers (I know some of you want to put an apostrophe before that s in Writers, but there’s not one), and then went to the beach to walk for two hours.

The temps were in the 60’s, and the coolness itself put a little pep in my step. I ditched my shoes in the sea grass, thus enabling me to feel the cold water every few seconds as the waves splashed around my feet. Heaven! Strolling along and listening to music on my iPhone while watching birds, people, and the ocean was one of those peak experiences that Maslow referred to. At least that’s my take on it.

When I got back to our little duplex, I spied a picture that hung in my office(s) for decades. Called “Seawatch,” it’s of a red chair perched on the beach with a floppy hat on the sand beside it. Sea birds fly around the empty chair, and in the past whenever I’d get stressed (daily), I’d look at the picture and think, “Somewhere there’s a beach.” And there is.

Time to pack the car and head home after a marvelous few days of learning new things, meeting old and new friends, spending time with Elizabeth, and walking on the strand. Today’s experiences were just the kind I looked forward to all those years that I looked at the red chair in the sand. Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching (still do), but I’m happy that my life has more of a work/play balance in it now.

Graduation Thoughts

I’m sincerely going to miss graduation tonight. Except for two years ago when my husband and I went on an anniversary to NYC, I’ve been to nearly three decades of them. I can’t state an exact number because in the early years, faculty attendance wasn’t required. As time went by, however, the event became bigger and of greater importance.  That was okay by me because I enjoyed the pomp and circumstance and the excitement of the graduates and their families.

The sure knowledge that I would have a full life without attending graduation was one of the factors that let me know it was time to retire. There were others that I don’t have the time or inclination to recount tonight. Suffice it to say that there were several. Okay, here’s just one. My daughter Carrie was expecting her fifth child, and teaching on a full-time basis would prohibit me from jumping in the car and driving the three hours to her house just because.

My  husband and I have often talked about how a person needs to know when to hold them and when to fold them, and last year when I took off my cap and gown, I know that it was time to fold them. So off we went to Myrtle Beach and had a midnight breakfast at a Waffle House. I still remember the young man working there that night. From Virginia, he shared some of his life story with us, and I gave him the big pep talk about getting an education.

This year we’re in Helen, GA getting ready to go out to dinner. It’s probably going to be German cuisine instead of waffles and bacon. We’ll be walking down the streets of Helen trying to find just the right restaurant about the time my friends and colleagues are sitting in their hot robes witnessing the accomplishments of their students and enjoying the ambience of the evening. I’ll be there in spirit (whatever that means exactly).

As my friend Martha said on facebook earlier today, lots of young people have overcome many odds to walk across that stage tonight. So have many older ones! To quote Martha, “Blessings rain on  them!”

Crossing Over

“You’re a crazy woman, you know that?” he asked.

“Yes Dear. You’ve told me about a thousand times,” I replied. “Just let me out of the car and meet me on the other side.”

“But it’s noon…and hot as blazes. You’ll have a heat stroke,” my husband added, thinking that his words would dissuade me from walking across the Cooper River Bridge yesterday.

From my perspective, the only thing crazy about it was that I didn’t have the proper shoes. I was wearing Teva flip-flops, and although I was a bit concerned about chafing, I was determined to cross that bridge. Walking across it was symbolic, and what better time to do it than the day after my birthday and the beginning of the first week of my retirement.

As I began the first incline, I heard a horn beep, and to the right, I caught a glimpse of my Highlander crossing the bridge.  Already hot, I began to wonder at the folly of the venture, but it was too late to turn back. I had lots of company, mostly walkers, and I entertained myself by observing them and taking pictures of the scenery. One man who was descending the bridge assured me that it was a “teeny tiny” bit cooler at the top. One young woman wearing hospital scrubs walked towards me carrying her shoes, her bare feet walking on the scalding concrete. A few yards later I stopped to take a picture, and when I looked back towards the Mt. Pleasant side, I saw her taking a break, sitting down with her legs drawn up. I thought about her off and on all day and hoped she was okay.

As I neared the top of the second crest, a man zoomed by me. “Show off,” I thought, a little envious of someone who could move so quickly in the sweltering heat. My running days are over. I’m a walker now. Still, once in a while I feel a little twinge of regret or envy or something whenever I see a zoomer, especially when I’m moving about as fast as I can move.

I consoled myself by saying, “What’s the hurry? It’s the journey, not the destination,” and that worked pretty well. By the time I crested the second incline and started down again, I saw him. He was standing by the railing, breathing hard and wiping his head, face, and neck with a towel. I felt fine as I breezed right by him, thinking of Aesop’s tortoise and hare fable.

I snapped two pictures of scripture verses that someone had etched into one of the concrete structures on the bridge. I didn’t know whether to be amused or angered. How can a person who’s serious about spreading “the Word” go around defacing property?

Near the end of the crossing, a young man sporting a pony tail, numerous tattoos, and a finely-toned body flew by me. Moments later, a young woman wearing yellow shorts and a black sports bra did the same. “Ah, youth,” I thought.

I’ve always loved bridges, and the Cooper River Bridge (don’t bother telling me that it’s the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge) has always been a favorite. My mother once told me that I cried and begged to take it home with me when I was a toddler. I didn’t understand about bridges then, how they took you from one place to another. I do now. Crossing the 2.5 miles awesome bridge yesterday symbolized another crossing over for me.  There’s the obvious one, the birthday thing, but then there’s the retirement transition too. I can’t get to what’s next without leaving the shore and crossing over.

It was hot. I had to work hard. There was a gentle breeze near the top, and a friendly soul encouraged me by telling me about it before hand. Some people fell by the wayside, especially if they were ill-equipped for the journey (improper shoes) or they went too fast and burned out. Some who were young and fit zoomed by me.

Hmmm. Am I describing yesterday or the working world in general? In both cases, moving at my own pace, I made it to the other side…of the bridge and to retirement.  I hope the young woman with the painful feet takes better care of herself on her journey. And that the speedster slows down and enjoys the trip.