There is the grey, weak, watery light of the earliest morning against a cloudy sky that threatens rain. The sand is cool, damp, not yet warmed by sunlight.
The waves roll in, then retreat. No other sounds are audible other than the movement of the water, that moment of stillness as the wave crests and then the roar as it folds in on itself and rushes up the shore.
In the life I live in front of other people, I am fine. I get up each morning. I bathe, brush my teeth, arrange my hair. I laugh. I talk with people. I go to work. I’m a normal, functioning adult.
But when, inevitably, I find myself in the quiet spaces between the motions, I’m there on that lonely stretch of sand.
I’ve tried so many times in the last few weeks to put my grief into something tangible. The words are gone. The pencils and sketchbooks fall from my hands. What is there to say? Every action, every word tumbles into the void, never enough to fill it.
I remember going on a trip to New England in January during college and the professor taking us all out to the shore in Massachusetts, insisting that we go down and stand on the beach staring out into the wintery waves in silence. “Imagine,” he told us, “imagine that most of your life and many of the people you love are out across that ocean. Imagine that now you have to bury your dead and build an entirely new life in this place.”
Implied was the question: could you do it?
Some days, I don’t know.
There are times I want to race across the sand into the icy ocean and try to swim back to what I left on the other side. This is futile, of course. The ocean is vast, stormy, and it would be impossible for a lone woman tossed in the surf to make it more than a few miles, let alone to a safe harbor.
Occasionally, I’ll glance back at the land beyond the shore. Unknown terrain that I’m going to have to find a way to make home.
I’m not ready, though, to leave this place. The place where I am neither walking in the darkness nor fully in the light. The place where time has stopped still, the past and the future separated by a narrow strip of sand.