I’ve got one week left of my month at Seaside, Florida, where I’m one of the lucky writers, artists, and musicians chosen to participate in something called Escape to Create. We stay in lovely guesthouses, eat sumptuous dinners, share our work with the public, and have one hell of a good time.
A friend of mine had recommended me for the place. From what she had said, it sounded like paradise, and in many ways, it has been.
The beaches are among the loveliest in the world—pure white, and finer than your infant daughter’s feet. And the Gulf stretches to the horizon with no impediments, no towers, and no cranes, except the avian kind.
It’s been a cold January, which has been good for holing up in my guesthouse to write, but not so good for riding a bike in the rain. I can walk anytime, though, as I did this morning, and I’d rather walk this beach in winter than at any other season, anywhere else in the country, even the Keys. This morning’s walk reminded me of all the others I’ve taken over the years on Panhandle beaches, from Laguna to Inlet to Seagrove and back. And the walks themselves remind me of their circumstances.
Florida vacations taken after deaths were hard to endure, as were the ones after disappointments.
The worst disappointment occurred when I received a phone message saying that a New York editor wasn’t going to buy my first novel. I wanted to throw myself into the sea. But the walk made me forget why that news was important, and another editor bought the book anyway.
The best message on the way to Florida was from another editor about another book. “You nailed it, man!” was all he said.
The most memorable walks, though, were with my sister when I was eight and she was 16; with my two wives, over many years, but not both at the same time; and with my daughters, whose childhoods just didn’t last long enough for me.
I once went to the beach with a lover, though I’m not sure whether we took a walk there. It was a star-filled night, and we didn’t want to be seen. All I remember is the talking and making love, but that’s as good as any walk.
Back to the one I took this morning, though. Was it the finest or not? After all, I love walking everywhere—cities, small towns, rock canyons, deep woods. I live now on the High Plains of West Texas, and I love walking in the sky there, where Buddy Holly is still singing to me.
But it struck me this morning that all walks are the same except the ones you take on the beach. And the finest of those is whichever one you’re taking right now, alone with the sand and the sea.