Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Suddenly I See

I plugged my iPod earbuds in on Saturday morning and went for a brisk walk along the foreshore. There were a few others out, some walking dogs, lovers holding hands, parents pushing toddlers strapped into strollers.

As I walked, I watched a lone man running along the sandy beach front...if I'd had a camera I know I would've taken a photo. It wasn't the man's physical appearance as such that struck me. It was more the total picture frame of him on his own with Wellington Harbour and Sommes Island as his backdrop. It wasn't a sunny day...the thick grey clouds were heavy with the anticipation of rain....seagulls etched flights across the sky, only to have their paths removed in the blink of an eye.

I continued to watch the solitary runner and wonder what he was thinking. What was going through his mind? Was he running for the sheer enjoyment of physical exertion? Was he running from stresses or complications in his life? Did he have someone at home to go back to? Was he happy with his life? Was he running purely because he just loved to run? Loved the sensation of his feet pounding the sand at the edge of the surf?

I crossed paths with an older man as we walked in opposite directions. I glimpsed his weather-beaten face, his solemn expression looking at the ground, he avoided eye contact as we passed. Once I got to the pier and turned around, I eventually caught up to him and slowed my pace to a few yards behind him. Looking at the stoop of his back, the defeated slump of his shoulders, the steady scuff of soles against pavement. His face flashed through my memory again...only a fleeting moment of time but enough for me to wish he had looked up earlier so I could've smiled a "Good Morning" at him.

A young boy of about 5 had been tooting his bicycle horn at me but I didn't hear him until he was practically on top of me. He wobbled his small bike around me and I looked down into the smiling freckled face of a cherub. His sharp blue eyes instantly transported me back in time, making my heart ache. A man and younger boy with an even smaller bike followed. The man, I can only assume to be their father, grinned, and with a wink at me rode his own cycle passed abreast of the children. I returned his smile thinking how happy they appeared. Like they didn't have a care in the world...the only thing that mattered was spending time together.

I made my way back to the car, removed the music from the ears and sat on the stone wall. Taking in the sound of breaking waves, the screech of sea birds and hearing the laughter of others, the rumbling murmurs of conversations from a distance. I inhaled the fresh southerly, feeling the sharp impact as it filled my lungs. I savoured the smell of fresh salt air and took pleasure in the soft breeze lifting my hair, gently brushing it against my face to tickle my nose.

I thought back to the times I had spent with my father on the pier fishing in the wee hours of the morning, the excitement of feeling a weight at the end of my line. I can still recall the utter disappointed that washed through me to find it was yet another shoe, or a coathanger. I remember the childish thrill when reeling in a starfish. I remember a broken metal spring in the back seat biting into my side as I tried to sleep one time, after refusing to get out of the car because "Jaws" had aired.

30 plus years later, I gazed out on the water, and gave myself the time to really soak in the past, wearing it like a saturated overcoat. I tried not to think about my future. I felt alive, and invigorated and delighted to rediscover this part of my childhood. A part I had almost forgotten...a part of me that had been swiftly misplaced due to the revolving door of life and all it encompasses.

I think I had just found my new comfort food...it was delicious.
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