Dwelling continuously in the past is for idle dreamers. Occasionally visiting the past can be nourishment for a hungry soul.
There are times when I can close my eyes and make the distance of years melt away......
..... and suddenly I'm on the beach again, young and exuberant, immersed in the drowsy haze of a summer afternoon where the silver glare of sky and water mingle as one, where the soft sand burns my bare feet, and the salty scent of the ocean intoxicates my senses. The soothing, eternal roar of the waves seem to echo like the song of a shell pressed against my ear.
I cherish those summers of distant memories, because now - - in the present purgatory of a different time and place, in the subtle shadows of my rapidly dwindling existence - - I fully appreciate their value.
Memories often tend to assume halcyon proportions and our distant pasts sometimes seem better than they really were. Careful scrutiny of my past, however, confirms the fact that it did indeed harbor the best times of my life.
There is a fierce pang of sadness wedged in the heart of my memories, because what I miss most is the innocence and the optimism - - two precious things that I will never have again.
I was fortunate enough to have divided my youthful summers between the west coast and the east coast.
I lived in Southern California which, in my biased opinion, was the greatest place on earth. I also spent summers on the east coast, the Jersey shore, where most of my relatives were. I was particularly partial to the Pacific Ocean, because it was my territory - - but the Atlantic had its own mesmeric powers. The Pacific - always blue, placid, inviting. The Atlantic - greenish gray, remote, moody.
In California, in Orange County, we lived less than five miles from the beach and it was an integral part of my life. I was well-acquainted with all the beach communities up the coast:
Laguna, Newport, Huntington, Bolsa Chica, Sunset, Seal Beach.
Huntington Beach was the closest. Sometimes I'd ride my bike there. Occasionally I'd hitch a ride. All the kids hitched on Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.....long ago when things seemed safe.
The Huntington Beach Pier
Midnight bonfires, moonlit walks on the beach when the Grunion were running. Haunting the deserted pier at Seal Beach after midnight. Sailing with friends at Newport Beach on languid, carefree afternoons. Visiting Balboa Island and Catalina Island.
Later, when I had wheels, I'd drive to the beach or go with friends. Day or night, it was my most sacred refuge.
Driving with my best friend Mike in his red convertible Mustang along Pacific Coast Highway at sunset on the 4th of July. Stereo blaring, the evening alive with magic. Dazzling explosions of fireworks igniting every mile of the shore. The air warm and salty, heavy with the pungent sulfuric smell of smoke.
I was best man at Mike's wedding. Marriage inevitably has a way of severing friendships and expunging the exuberance of youth. We lost contact long ago. The carefree days linger like taunting ghosts at the edge of our memories....
The Jersey Shore
The east coast was always a blessed escape from unrelenting family problems and my father's insane violence.
I loved the colorful, comforting chaos of being alone in New York City: walking barefooted in Central Park, discovering museums, visiting Lincoln Center. Getting drunk in a sleazy Staten Island bar with my cousin and her husband. Drinking was a new novelty to me then.
Horseback riding with my cousin Nancy on early August evenings in the balmy New Jersey countryside. Boating along the Jersey coast and into New York Harbor (several of my relatives had boats). Watching the moon rise from the water in a sultry surrealistic haze. Long walks on the beach at Sandy Hook. Exploring the boardwalks at Asbury Park and Seaside Heights.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
....and those golden summers linger tenderly in the recesses of my mind: carefree times when the invincibility of youth deceived us into believing that life is eternal - -
- - where distant memories echo like the taunting pulse of a delicate whisper in a seashell pressed to my ear.
I posted this on my blog last year and thought it is worth a second look. This is a newly revised version.