By the Seaside: Focus


Mary Cassatt - Children on the Beach 1884“There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.”  ― Brian AndreasStory People: Selected Stories & Drawings of Brian Andreas

I remember going to the beach as a child. It was a magical place, particularly back then, before they put up the barriers, when we were free to roam the sand dunes and explore the world hidden beneath the sumac and beach plum bushes and other sundry brush that blanketed the dunes. As much as my brothers and I played together on the beach, periodically running back to the blanket to share a discovery with whichever one of our parents was there as if running to gools in a game of Hide-and-Go-Seek, we all spent some time by ourselves in contemplation, either walking along the shore, sitting at the edge of the dunes absorbing the heat from the sand into our bones, or exploring the outcropping of rocks that stretched its bulging arm into the sound.

The ocean has always provided me with the gift of focus. As a child, this gift of focus took the form of concentrating on the proper construction of sandcastles and repurposing flotsam found in the waves. In my teens, focus came in the form of long walks along the shore and longer conversations with my friends about the mysteries of life and growing up. Since then, the seashore is my refuge and respite from the scatteredness of life in the modern world.

Throughout the existence of the human race, the rhythm of the sea upon the sand or the rocks has provided focus to countless people. The horizon calls the concerted attention of adventurers and contemplatives alike, focusing their thoughts on journeys far and near or on crises public or private, their guide to their destination. Tidal pools, microcosms of oceanic life, focus attention on various aspects of relationship, or whatever the goings-on inspire.

Focus brings order, peace, and contentment. Without focus, we bumble about hoping we don’t break something. It is ironic that sometimes, in order to focus our attention we have to let go of our concentration and focus on nothing in order to filter out the extraneous. When I find myself unable to let go of all the worries or what-have-you that keep me from focusing, I remember those days by the seashore and focus on the task of building sandcastles. Soon enough, I have the mental space I need to find my point on the horizon that will bring me safely to my destination.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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