Story Telling

I knew I should give them space by the meditative way they were standing; six people, shoulder to shoulder,  on the beach, at the water’s edge, flanked by a dog doing the same. I was close enough, but not too close, to see they weren’t talking, but instead, had their focus on the sea in front of them.  As I got closer, still with respect for their space I kept reminding myself, I could see there weren’t six people, but seven.  A woman, or maybe a teenager? with a yellow raincoat sat on the ground in front of the group.  I was drawn to them — their stillness, their reverence, their focus on something I couldn’t see and the connection they had with each other,  with arms interlaced and hands held. 

 I continued my beach walk, trying to notice other things, but turned around every few minutes to see if they had moved.  They hadn’t.  Twenty minutes passed and they still stood, side by side, facing the sea.  As I got further away, and began to lose sight of them, my focus changed. I noticed that almost everyone I passed had a dog and almost all of those dogs had a couple with them — not a single person, but a couple.   I did a visual 360 on the sparsely populated beach to confirm that yes, it appeared I was the only one that did not have a dog or a partner.  And right then and there, I said to myself, not even in a whisper as there wasn’t anyone around to hear me, “table for one, right here, right now, on the beach.”  I smiled at my observation.  Last night at the restaurant, I asked for a table for one, something I’ve become accustomed to in my solo travels and was mindful to not add the just to the one.   Had I been walking with someone this morning, I doubt I would have found the intrigue with the six people standing at the water’s edge,  shoulder to shoulder, with the yellow rain-coated woman in front of them.   I’m more tuned in when I’m by myself — more curious, more observant and ready to fill in a story that I know absolutely nothing about.

Their stillness reminded me of the man and his dog that I’ve seen just about every evening, standing side by side, while they wait for the sun to drop.  Were these seven people waiting for something or were they just not ready to leave.  I had my own version of the story.    I thought about the person who remains in the pew long after the funeral or is still standing graveside after the ceremony is long over.  They can’t leave because of the finality of leaving. You only get one first goodbye.  The next time, it will be a recollection of memories and a goodbye afterwards, but not the first goodbye.  That only happens once.

My hunches were  confirmed when on my walk back, I passed the group again, and saw the man that was on the end squat down and hand a box to the woman in the yellow raincoat.  She stood to receive the box then held it to her chest and her head dropped.  I was still a respectful distance away, but didn’t feel like I was supposed to be watching, so turned my back and observed  a small flock of sanderlings running back and forth on the beach instead.  When I turned around, the box was back in the man’s hand and the woman with the yellow raincoat was drawing something in the sand with a long stick.  When she was done, she set the stick down and the man returned the box to her.

Of course I’m only speculating on what had benign the box.  It could have been a lunch box with a half eaten sandwich inside and the yellow raincoat girl was hungry and so happy to see it that she held it to her chest.  But I don’t think so.  It was not what her body language was telling me, nor what I saw in the sand after they left, single file, the girl in the yellow raincoat last.  When they were out of sight, I walked over to see what had been drawn and saw a heart and below it the letter “A” carved into the wet sand.  The letter before the “A” had been taken away by the tide and all that was visible was a vertical line, maybe the outside leg of an “M.”  I began to speculate but redirected my thoughts and contemplated the heart instead.  It told the story the letters didn’t.

Maybe it is me being nosey or maybe it’s the storyteller in me trying to find fodder, (I’ll go with the later as it doesn’t sound as creepy), but I’m drawn to groups of people sharing —secrets or moments, with arms entwined and hands held.  I want to move in closer.  I want to hear the words, but know that gestures can sometimes be louder and more articulate than words.

As I watched the seven of them and the dog walk away, I thought of how blessed the person was who they were there to honor and celebrate (as per my made up story).  I was touched by the reverence and presence I witnessed, whether that box contained someone’s lunch or the ashes of a loved one.  I started thinking about my own family, (yes, I went there),  and whether on mountain top with a vista, or at the edge of the sea with the roll of the waves underfoot, (both would be nice, kids…), I hoped they would show the same honor, love and affection I had just witnessed.  Then I shook my head and said to myself, not even in a whisper as I was the only one in ear shot, “Of course they would!”  And my mind began to paint the picture.  Arm in arm, while my family quietly observed the magnificent shows of nature I had become so fond of in my life, the stories would start to unfold; memories shared, each told with an individual slant and exaggeration by the teller.  Then someone would say what everyone was thinking, but no one had yet said, and that would be what a curious snoop I had become in my advanced years.  Because I’m the one writing the story, someone else would add, “Maybe not snoop,  but a story teller, always in search of a story and making one up when one didn’t exist.”  And with that, the real celebration would begin, the sun would start to dip below the mountaintop and the clear sign of a heart carved with a stick would show up in the sand.

The end.   And also, the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *