How I kept my salty soul alive living so far from the beach.
“You can shake the sand from your shoes, but it will never leave your soul”. I posted this picture on Facebook several weeks ago. Initially I just thought it sounded cool, but after some time it occurred to me how true that really is.
In recent post I ask two friends, Charles from Big Kahuna Brewer and Lyndsey from Team Cocktail, to write me a post on how they keep a tropical mindset so far from the sand and the ocean. It was later on that I realized I once had the same issue.
From 1998-2002 I was in North Carolina where I was stationed on Ft. Bragg while in the Army. Now this is a far cry from where I grew up in Florida and was anything but a beach town. My first day on base I woke to ice on my windshield, something I had never really experienced before. I also was able to experience my first and second white Christmas during my time there; an event I personally found to be unpleasant.
So how did I deal with snow and cold weather, two things I can’t stand, as well as being three hours from the closest beach? Well to paraphrase the philosopher Jimmy Buffett, when you no longer live where the weather suites your clothes, you take the weather with you!
Much of the time in the summer I dressed as I typically do in shorts, sandals, and t-shirts; but in winter I had to bump up the tropical heat so to speak. I would always be bundled up with heavy socks, boots, hats, gloves, and a thick jacket; but people soon began to recognize me for my attire beneath this heavy clothing. Most times I had on a nice, bright, Hawaiian shirt; which in NC during winter draws attention when you take off your jacket and reveal that bit of clothing. But for me it was a bit of the warm tropical lifestyle I could hold close and it made me feel warm. I believe Charles uses a similar methodology as mentioned in his post.
But there was one winter where it was just bitterly cold outside and an Army buddy of mine and I decided we had enough. He was also a Florida boy from the East coast and disliked this as much as I did. I had just moved into a new apartment off base so I had no furniture aside from my TV and some beach chairs. Well, we both put on our board shorts and Hawaiian shirts, cranked up the heat, placed fans in strategic locations to get a good breeze (one by a window that was just barely cracked for a cooling wind), broke out the rum drinks and Corona, tossed on some beach music, and cooked up some fish tacos and boiled some shrimp. We were also lucky enough to find a surfing competition on TV so the illusion was complete. We got the right balance of heat and breeze from the fans and for one night we were back in the tropical sun.
Now, as a fisherman, sailor, diver, surfer, and overall beach bum I can’t be far from the ocean without it getting to me. We often make mention of having salty souls or salt in our veins; but for me it runs so much deeper than that; the ocean is my heart, my soul, and is part of who I am. I never realized how important this was to me until I was removed from it. One day during the summer I was feeling very down in the dumps and couldn’t figure out why. I went to a local bar and was sipping a rum and coke when Margaritaville came on and it hit me; I hadn’t seen the ocean in almost four months! This was something that had to be rectified and quick!
So without much thought to it I went home, packed a small bag, and headed to Myrtle Beach alone. After finding a place to lay my head for the night I quickly made my way to the beach and swam out into the water, diving as deep as I could on a breath, then just floating in the water looking up at the sky. The smell of the salt, the feel of the sun, and sound of the gulls and waves, all brought me back and the dark feeling looming over me vanished.
I spent the rest of the day and weekend swimming in the ocean, surfing, and just staring at the water. I knew that this was going to have to be a regular occurrence if I was to keep my sanity so far from the ocean, and it was. Between Myrtle Beach and Surf City NC I made several trips when those clouds rolled in again; and I made the drive home every time I could; and that is how I kept it together during my time in a slightly larger latitude.
But for me it was an affirmation that I will always live by the sea as it is so deeply part of who I am, and is what truly centers me and keeps me on an even keel. Even now, in times of worry or when I need to think; I make my way to the ocean and find the answers in the sound of the wind and the waves. It’s a connection I truly could not live without; and I know in my heart I never will.
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