Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Days

Tidal Pool Reflections
     I love where different habitats meet, land and sea, beach and marsh, secular and spiritual. A naturalist once told me that magic happens at the boundaries between habitats, transition zones that offer a wealth of diversity in plant and animal life. Tidal pools for me are such places. I love it when I hit a beach walk just right to be treated to the sight of them, to have time to indulge in the personality of each dip in the land. I like how short lived tidal pools are, how some sport minnows and crabs. Others serve as wading grounds for shorebirds. 
     All offer fun discoveries if only the lap of warm water. 
     In a few hours, they will be gone. But then again, so will I. 


     Disclaimer: The above photo is not of me. At least, it's not the way I look. But it's close to the way I felt a few days ago. I had gone to Waterfront Park for my boot camp class, as I usually do three times a week. On this hot and steamy day, though, no one else showed up for class. The trainer gave me exercises to do, instructed me to do five rounds of them, and left. A few minutes later, all by myself, drenched in sweat, I was doing jumping jacks and I realized, "I'm that crazy person, that one person working out in spite of the elements, with no one coaching or watching." I always had great respect for that person, self-motivated enough to do such a thing. My eyes filled with tears as I felt that same respect for myself. Doing my third round of wind sprints, I thought I heard someone applauding. When I looked back, I saw that the sound was a little girl's flip-flops clapping at the pavement as she ran to keep up with me. I smiled. It was even better than applause.
     I loved that moment, when that girl and I were running side by side, pushing ourselves, reveling in the strength of our bodies. Girls are too often discouraged from such things, as I was reminded again by a review of the movie "Brave" on a Christian website.   Merida is labeled "not a charming, sweet young girl" because she stands up for herself and takes joy in her God-given abilities. In the fact-based movie "Chariots of Fire," Olympic athlete Eric Liddell said that when he ran, he felt God's pleasure. That's what I experienced during my solo workout in the park, and what I shared with a sprinting little girl. I hope I can give myself permission to pursue it more often, and I pray no one tries to take that joy away from her.

      It smells like summer.  As I head out for an early run, the smell of freshly cut grass and the rapid ch-ch-ch of the sprinkler in our neighbor's yard give me pause.  I smell the grass - and even smell the water from the old fashioned oscillating sprinkler.   It smells like every summer I've known.
     Of all our senses, smell seems to have the best memory of place. A wave of exhaust from a diesel bus hits me and suddenly I'm a student in London, standing in a queue waiting for the bus.  I don't need to open my eyes or even use my ears to know I'm at the ocean when the smell of the sharp salt air blows over me.  New sneakers smell like the beginning of school.   The scent of damp decaying leaves and pine tree resin take me back home hiking  in the mountains with my brothers. For my husband, the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion is summer in Myrtle Beach.  Charleston smells like pluff mud and old lace. The list goes on - a charcoal grill, the smell of rain in the distance, smoke from a campfire with friends...
     Writer Diane Ackerman refers to the sense of smell as the "mute sense, the one without words."  Smells are often hard to describe in words but are acutely connected to memory and place.  I imagine that we, in our sanitized and civilized world, have lost much of our animal sense of smell.  I watch a cat or a dog smell their way through a day and realize how much I'm missing - some of it possibly for the best.  But as we pay attention to the ordinary wonders in our lives, we need to remember not just to look and listen but to smell each moment.   Our moments and our memories will be so much richer for it.
     What smells like summer to you?


1 comment:

  1. I put on some suncream the other day, and when I walked into the living room my 5 year old said, "I can smell our swimming costumes!" :o)

    But I'm afraid when I run I have never felt anything more than torture! ;o) Tall girls' joints aren't made for running (or that's my excuse!).