Ah! The Beach. This summer, I have been fortunate enough to escape the cooler climes of Oxford, England for the sunny weather of the Mediterranean, specifically Taormina, Sicily, where the temperature is almost exactly twice what it is in the UK. And of course, it is not raining! Over many years of living in Europe, I have gravitated to areas around the Mediterranean Sea: Crete, Corfu, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cassis, Positano and Santorini, among others.
The reason of course is simple: the food, the culture, the paralyzing heat, and the happiness of entering into the stream of a culture that necessitates, due to the high temperatures, a true sense of “slo-mo.” I also like cultures that provide matelas, literally mattresses, in tidy rows usually under blue or white, or striped, matching umbrellas a few inches from the mostly gentle white surf on a pebbly beach.
Beachgoers claim their sun loungers early and remain for the entire day, some even for their entire stay. They basically stake a claim with an article of clothing, beach towel or splashy summer flip-flops placed strategically on top. To the same place each day, one arrives after a hearty breakfast of undeniably fresh, organic, local ingredients to read, rest, get unbearably hot and plunge into the seemingly freshest, clearest, most refreshing water on the planet. This is how time passes until noon, when of course the de rigueur meal of the day is pizza and/or fresh salad and fish. Simple ingredients that carry a stupendous punch. Then comes the blessed siesta. Everyone disappears between 1pm and 4pm: who can move in heat that hovers at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit)?
So usually in a dark, cool, often air-conditioned, interior everyone naps. Then at 4pm things stir again. Shops open, tourists visit local sites, ancient ruins and cathedrals that might as well be ruins, where you can sit for a minute or two in the vast cavernous coolness and contemplate the blessings in your life. I sometimes light a candle, or even flick a switch in churches that have moved with the times, where, along with digitised donations, candles no longer burn; instead they hum electronically. No difference, I am told, as regards answered prayers and miracles.
The point of this blog was meant to be to “mind your thought,” the amazing marvel of demonstrating a wish, dream or desire. I’ve had so many it is hard to enumerate; for example, the arrival of my son into my life long after I thought it impossible; a home on Le Rocher in Monaco, while studying for my MBA; a trip around the world via the Sun Route (through Singapore, Bali, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, California) when I thought the dark winter of Estonia would never end.
So what do the beach and “mind your thought” have in common? A summer beach for me has always meant that mid-year reset, a time to consider (and reconsider) so many things, not just where the first half of the year went or where the second half might go, but life in general. It is a place where I can wish, dream, plan and fantasize. It is also a place where I find life in its truest sense everywhere I look: older couples, young newlyweds, adolescent boys and girls making their way over and up the rocks for potentially dangerous cliff diving, toddlers delighting in the surf for the first time, and the occasional local person just drinking it all in.
It’s really a bit of a carnival, especially here in Sicily, with people from all over the world, mostly ignoring the health warnings we have come to obey so cleanly about such hazards as smoking, sunbathing with no SPF50, eating perfectly baked/burnt (high carbohydrate) pizza marinara every day, then being kept awake when those young ones just past the age of the cliff divers drink, play music, and party all night long.
I dream on the beach, see my whole life in Technicolor, and the more years I rack up, the more there is to review, the more I look for myself on the wheel of life—where am I now? Just past midlife, which is often defined as the years between 40 and 60? I like to see the panoply of love spread out over the beach, where I can recall the many ages I have lived, with so many dreams that have come true, from babyhood ’til now, and the time to come, which demands that I still have a dream, a wish, a vision. I still identify with the little girl snorkelling close to the surface and shore, at the same time humming a tune, or the young mother gently pouring water over her tiny one’s toes, introducing him to the sea, the surf and the wonder of time-worn, sun-bleached stones.
I am not so sure why it is this ancient cauldron of the Mediterranean Sea where I find the comfort and groundedness to dream, to “mind my thought,” to embrace not just the next six months of my life, but the past and future with gratitude. Perhaps it is all the half-naked, sun-kissed people, young and old, having fun on this pebbly beach that reminds me that, with or without consent, life carries on with grace, with certainty. I am reminded that I am what life (and I) have “thought!” What can I say? The Mediterranean? A 5.9 million year old summer necessity.
Wishing you a July full of sunshine, cool, even cold, splashes, and a chance to rest, relax, rewind, reset and to “mind your thought,” for out of it springs your own blessed life.
Photo by blabla5 on Pixabay