Beach

Beach Vacation by Leslie

Our beach vacation in Cape Cod was a perfect end to the summer. My husband's family rented a house in the New Seabury area, between Falmouth and Hyannis. This is our second visit to the house, we were there three years ago, and our sixth Cape Cod vacation. I wouldn't have said I was beachy kind of person ten years ago, having grown up on the prairies. Vacations with my family were usually spent camping in the mountains. However, after visiting just a handful of times now, the ocean has engrained itself in my spirit. I really didn't want to leave this time. The kids loved it too. We visited the beach everyday and built sand castles, walked on the beach in the early morning and after dark, found shells and rocks, swam in the surf and dug holes. Every single part of being there was awesome.

I'm trying to figure out what the draw to the ocean is for me, how and why a prairie girl could come to love it so much. Is it the sound of the waves, the reflections of the sun and moon on the water or the massive power of all that water? It is those things, but there is something more, something almost primal about the draw of the ocean. Being near the ocean is soothing and calming as well as awe-inspiring and invigorating. It makes me want to lay still, listen and just breath and it also makes me want to jump in and swim in the waves.

At home today, with Milo off at his first day of school, Quinn and I were cuddling on the couch watching a show about the origins of life. Life began in the ocean and the blueprints for humanity were started there. We all came from the sea. I started thinking about how the ocean was like a giant womb for life and what if our wombs, that each of us grows in, are like little oceans. It's kind of amazing to me when nature echoes itself in this way. It's like close-up pictures of our eyes that resemble a massive nebula in the depths of space or patterns in nature like the ubiquitous fractal that can be seen in many different natural objects of all sizes. Each person emerges from a watery womb, just as life did originally. I wonder if the ocean pulls us to it because it's where life came from and it echoes where each person comes from. It's something to think about.

However, whatever the reason is that has caused me to fall in love with the ocean, I realized that I do love it. It's surprising and odd to me, I don't like laying out in the sun, I'm not fond of putting on sunscreen, I'm kind of freaked out by seaweed and sharks, but despite all that, I love the ocean. I love how it makes me feel.

On our last day in Cape Cod, we went down late in the afternoon, built an epic sand city, ate some watermelon and then the kids were ready to go up. I stayed alone to enjoy my last moments at the beach. I was thinking about how good it felt to not be doing anything at all. I was just laying there, listening to the waves and feeling soothed and calm. For a moment I felt bad, it occurred to me that I might be just wasting time, but I reminded myself that when we take the time to notice that we have the freedom and privilege to simply be in awe of nature, we can be truly grateful for being alive. That is not wasting time. That might be the best time I spent this whole year.

Boys at the Beach by Leslie

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is visit our local lake and hang out on the beach. It's such an easy day and the kids are guaranteed to get along and have fun without much stress or planning. I've gotten our gear down so that the three of us can carry in everything we need. Quinn carries the bag of toys, Milo carries the pop up tent and blanket, and I carry the water, food, towels, clothes and my camera. We are also late afternoon beachgoers and usually arrive after lunch and stay until right before dinner. The lake is perfect for little guys, the water is shallow and warm and there are bathrooms and a food truck nearby. It's so fun!

What is your go-to activity with the kids on a hot summer day?

(Photo specs: 50mm compact macro lens, ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/2500 secs)

Advice to Myself: Take a Deep Breath by Leslie

It's amazing what taking a deep breath can do for fear, for anger and for anxiety. It's something I do when I get nervous, when I lose my patience with the kids and when I am trying to relax. I've also been trying to teach my five year old son how to harness it's power. We will sometimes do deep breathing before he goes to sleep, or if he is upset and crying. We also used it very successfully when he was nervous and fearful about getting stitches. Before the doctor came in we practiced our deep breaths. I told him to breath in through his nose, and out through his mouth. We did this until he felt calmer. When the doctor came in I talked him through it and we did the deep breathing together while she was treating his cut. He stayed so calm and relaxed, without yelling, crying or having a panicky moment at all. I was so proud of him.

Deep breaths are a huge part of any meditation practice or martial art for a reason, they center you, calm you and allow you to focus on being in control. I'm think most people naturally take a deep breath when coping with stress, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves to slow down and breathe when we feel our emotions spinning out of control. If we feel angry or anxious, the best thing we can do is count backwards from 10, take some deep breaths and tackle the situation a little calmer. In addition, if you intentionally focus on deep breathing for a few minutes a day when you are already at ease, you are likely to feel calmer and will be better able to cope with the challenges that your day may bring. Being aware your breathing is an integral part of meditation and it's something I'd like to practise doing more.

Is deep breathing something that you are mindful of in your life? Do you remember the last time you used it to cope with stress, ground yourself or stay focused? Please share in the comments!

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Hand drawn lettering for the words "Take a Deep" were inspired by a 1925 version of Garamond from the Stemple Type Foundry. You can see a modern version of Stemple Garamond at Typedia. Lettering for the word "Breath" is based on a typical Roundhand from the later part of the 1800s. Rather than draw it with a calligraphy pen, I outlined it and filled it in.

The photograph was taken at Nauset Beach in Orleans, MA on a family vacation to Cape Cod a number of years ago. Camera Equipment: Nikon D70 (which I have since sold) at an 18mm focal length. Settings: 1/640 secs at f/13, ISO 400.

Alone at the Lake by Leslie

Way back in May, before the beach was officially open and the summer got a little crazy, I took the boys to the lake. They had been playing in the water a little bit but the park ranger came over to tell me that they were not allowed to swim because there were no lifeguards. This was the same day that I took those neat sand photos.

Some poeple might think it's particularily lonely to be at the beach when no one else is there, but for me, it's my favorite time to go. We felt like it was our own private place and the kids can wander far without me having to worry about them disappearing in the crowd.

Early season empty beaches are long gone, but soon you will be able to find late season freedom. After labor day it gets a little chillier, but plan to visit your favorite summer spot when the crowds are gone. You can have the place to yourself and extend your summer just a tiny bit longer.

Prints in the Sand by Leslie

Sand, as a metaphor, has great potential. Made up of millions of tiny grains, able to be molded into a shape with water and wind, all at once delicate and strong. It is as powerful as the sea and it's complete opposite.

These patterns and shapes, the tire tracks of tractors pushing the sand around on the beach, were so dynamic and powerful with the bright sunlight. The next day, after a busy Saturday of feet walking all over them, they were gone.