I found an old notebook of mine, the one I used to take to the beach with me everyday when I spent 3 months living on the Gulf of Mexico, during a horrific manic episode. I wrote something in it that I'd forgotten about. It's a short piece of writing that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was my attempt at understanding what had happened to me, and how I ended up impulsively moving 800 miles away from my life, which had, until later on, seemed perfectly normal to me:
What have I done? What is this place? How is it that I am here? People who say they live life without regrets must have never taken any chances that didn't have a statistically positive outcome. I did something that I had dreamt of doing for years. A full decade, at this point. And here I am, in the sunny, sandy abyss of uncertainty, surrounded by calm, happy people and screaming sea birds. If only the setting were enough to quell this confusion. I am doing the best I can. The ocean is doing the best it can, for it exists solely to take my mind away from my own tides.
The sea is rough today. The wind is harshly blowing inland and the waves are cresting higher. The birds seem content to wobble about on the shore, because flight would seem a difficult — if not dauntingly futile — task this evening. The sun is to my right, in the West, piercing the wind with warmth enough to keep me from shivering. The sea is due South, and further toward the horizon there are some vegetaged islands. I often look at these islands, of which there seem to be a handful, and wonder about the animals on them.
How did my life come to this? Why do I now live here? Nothing makes much sense in my life these days, for tumultuous happenings are just that, but if I am capable of finding the means to seek and obtain some semblance of inner peace and quiet, then perhaps it matters very little where I am, or what I am called, or who I am.
How is it that so many fantastic works of literature were written in this very region? It was a different time, I suppose. Things have changed radically. But I think all people are the same at the core, no matter where, or when. We all need, perhaps want the same things. Individuals are connected by more than just atomic structure. Ideas, desires, fears. Many people before me have sat in this exact spot on the beach, observing wave after wave of furious sea, wondering, waiting, thinking, feeling. In this world, there is not a single feeling left that has not been felt a million times before.
Yet we are also so very different. All of the cosmic and introspective musings, we all have our own unique notions and priorities. I called my sister just a few moments ago, to hear a friendly voice. No matter how misanthropic I become, I shall never amount to the status of content hermit. Wave, wave, crash, wave. Wind howling in my ears. Birds squawking their ugly sea shanty. Smell of salt and feel of sandy grit, and the pounding of the sun. This, I have just decided, is where I want to die.
To my left I see the inward curving shore, and West Beach Boulevard behind it. On the other side of the road stands a large church with a red roof and a turret. The white building is adorned in the center with a giant circular stained glass window, which faces the beach and glows colorfully at night. After a long row of trees and down the road aways, there is a looming casino and adjacent hotel. It is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, one of the few survivors on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a testament to the impervious nature of our boorish culture of addiction.
Above me the birds fly at last, the wind having died down a bit. They fly together and alone, determined and directionless, caught somewhere between hivemind and anarchy. In the water, something catches my eye — it's small, silver, and appears to be dead. The birds seem disinterested. What good is dead prey to a non-scavenger? A small child waddles into the water, splashing and laughing as his horrified father dashes after him. After the oil spill and toxin dump on the Gulf, the idea of making contact with the water is nauseating, but this child is blissfully unaware of the man-made disasters caused by greed and carelessness. The world this child will grow up to know will not be a pretty one.
Father retrieves child and triumphantly returns him to the mother. Reunited they sit together on the shore, discussing family things, looking at the vastness of the water, ignoring me thankfully. It's much easier to watch people when you're unnoticed.
Long Beach, MS
March 28th, 2011