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Observations of a Coastal Wanderer
James G. Fabiano
The many beaches along the coasts of Southern Maine and New Hampshire have a beautiful distinction about them. Most of them have the ocean approach adjoining roadways with few small walls, or buildings, to obstruct the view of anyone who has the opportunity to walk, or drive, along their edges. These beaches have been protected by town fathers from being over-developed, by those who see opportunity for the few, instead of beauty to be enjoyed by the many.
Living by the ocean for the past 26 years has taught me that the beauty of the coast does not only come from the physical surroundings. It also emanates from the visitors who walk along the long white sands of the beach. Having an intense imagination, I make up stories about the people that I see.
Starting from where most of our beaches begin, there is usually little beach at any tide: in fact, there is no beach at all! Only the gray-toned Maine ledge juts its twisted fingers out into the sea. Here the people simply lean over the large rocks which separates the road from the water. Young and old stare into the pulsating ocean and lose themselves in the heartbeat precision of the never-ending waves. This is where the expert observer notices what life's meaning should be and I have watched people find, live through, lose, and then finally search for memories that make and sometimes break their lives. I have observed that people meet in large groups; their conversations filled with laughter, youth, and of course the innocence that we all begin our lives with. These groups eventually break into small separate clusters, to be reduced to pairs, attracted to each other by the possibility of creating their own memories.
During the course of the summer I see these pairs of people on their particular section of beach. They create their territory and do not like to share it. At first they are playing the part of friends, not daring to get close, or to appear to be interested in their now obvious partner. As the weeks pass, I observe their closeness overtaking the fear of being vulnerable. First their eyes meet and then they finally touch, to be seen perpetually as one, on their section of beach. I don't care if my observations are seen, because I know that if I stood directly in front of them they wouldn't care. In fact, they would not know that I existed.
I also see the loners who dare not go on the beach, but rather stay up on the blacktopped path, and dream about their time on the sand. They are seen leaning against the parking meters and dream about their lost hours, which were either rejected or just disappeared. These people do not have to be young or old, they are just in a stage of their lives.
One of the most exciting sights for me, is when I first observe young couples and see them appear, year after year, together in the sun. Then one year passes and I see that they are not alone. A mirror of their own lives now accompanies them. They always appear so proud! Year after year I watch them grow older and their babies grow bigger and sometimes visa-versa! Their memories never end; they just grow longer and newer. I've almost lived here long enough to observe the babies of the summer grow into adults. I have watched them grow to young children, radiating innocence and creating memories for their parents and all around them. Yet, on the other hand, I feel remorse for the people who become singles again because of their life's fate. They are seen in many numbers, staring out in the vastness of the ocean, trying to forget, while fearing that they will always remember.
The elderly are the people I enjoy watching the most, especially the couples who plant themselves on the park benches, to stare into the ocean and reminisce about their own pasts. The couples bring hope to us all, but the singles display such loneliness and despair that I dread the thought, that one day I might live so long, as to remember my memories alone. Some old couples lay their beach chairs precariously close to, if not in the wake of, the always-approaching waves. They know that with each large entrance of water they will get wet but, they still close their eyes and react surprised, as each new wave brushes their feet, and then wets their bottoms. Maybe this sharp sensation causes them to remember the first time they exchanged a similar feeling, using each other.
I remember once observing a very young lady, perhaps five or six, being instructed by her mother to sit quietly and enjoy the beach. Not so far away I saw another pretty lady, perhaps sixty or seventy, being instructed by her oldest daughter, as how to enjoy the beach. The instructions made the two ladies fidget in their chairs, they were obviously uncomfortable by what was being told to them. Then, as if some magnetic attraction between the two of them developed and they gazed at each other. Their eyes met, and it appeared as if they told each other to calm down, and enjoy the sea. One day, I hope to be fortunate enough to experience what happened between the two of them but, I know that I must first survive time and simply get old.
Of course, not all men and women dare to get that close to the ocean. Many on the beach are seen straight-backed, standing like statues on their rock like pedestals, contemplating nothing more important than themselves. Walking further down the ocean allows more of the beach to appear, and this is where most of the young are seen. The children, meanwhile, are creating their own form of world in the sand, while their parents dream about the world that they either left behind, or just rediscovered. During a sunny summer's day, the sounds of laughter and screaming drown out all that nature can muster up but, on fog-bound days, the inhabitants treat the shore like they would a church, with their voices daring not to disturb the sounds of the sea.
Continuing my trek down the beach, I arrive at a place where the young are known to camp themselves for hours, in the hopes of attracting each other, into summer, and maybe longer, relationships. Again, during fog-bound times, even the young are awed into staring into the ocean and praying that sunny days are soon to return. The lovers are always there, arm-in-arm and body-to-body, in the hopes that their love is the true one, which will last forever. The fog hints to these young lovers that they are observing a truer reality. Whether or not this scares them, or gives them hope, is their own mystery.
Further down the beach is the territory of the more mature inhabitants. These people have already been through over half their lives, and are in the midst of giving up their existences, to mold new futures for their children. Observing these people shows that they always seem lost in their own thoughts, or possibly lost dreams.
The short, summer season is not the only time that one has to observe the beauty of the coast of Maine. Another season that marks the end of the excitement of summer and begins the preparation for the holidays and the cold winds of winter, is also a prime time to observe what life can be. It is a remarkably quiet time of year. The hustle and bustle of summer vacations are still very clear in everyone's mind, yet normality is not the only idea that comes back to us at this time of year. Serenity creeps its way into all of our lives.