Today I found myself going to my happy place, the beach, after sharing my thoughts yet again to a woman who has been my counselor on & off for 10 years. Diana helped me get through stage 4 cancer, & she is now is helping me sort through the emotions of going through a divorce after nearly 25 years of marriage. While today was not much different than any other day in recent memory I knew it was sure to be one of the last good New Jersey beach days in 2014 with temperatures in the 60s, little wind & a beautiful blue sky.
The beach is a place where I find life to be in perfect harmony with the material world. The sky is in perfect harmony with the sea even as it rages during storms, & life is in perfect harmony with death as the ocean scatters gifts from the sea onto the sand for the living to enjoy. The fact that something as fragile as a seashell can be tossed about by the ocean & still emerged intact is inspiring. In my youth I only wanted to find perfect shells to show my Mom who taught me the magic of strolling along the coast to search for seashells while searching your own soul. Now, at almost 54, I have come to love the broken shell just as much as the beautiful perfect prize all beachcombers seek. To see how the spiral of a shell twists into itself is an amazing visual gift of the shell’s insides & shouldn’t be discarded easily.
There were plenty of shells on the beach today. Some shells were perfect & some were broken. I hadn’t planned on coming here, so of course I didn’t have my beach camera with me. There is always an image to be captured when I don’t have my camera, so of course I found many. Once again I was left with my ratchet iPhone 4 camera, although I must say the iPhone camera & I have come to understand each other better these days.
I didn’t notice the old woman at first. I was focused on trying to call back the high school nurse who had just informed me my oldest daughter wasn’t feeling well. It was the hundreds of seagulls, that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, which caught my attention. I can only assume she is a regular, since she wasn’t giving any indication to the seagulls that she was carrying food. She was happily chatting to them hovering overhead as she walked onto the beach with her reusable shopping bag filled with bread & other goodies. People who know me well know I love feeding seagulls! Needless to say I was immediately thrilled & sad (because I didn’t have any food to give them) all at the same time. Kirby was thrilled too. He wanted them as much as they wanted her food.
I’ve always been attracted to taking photographs of people in solitary situations. Seeing someone alone & immersed in their space is intriguing to me on many levels. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they somewhere in between? It’s so easy to assume their thoughts are like your own at that moment even though we know they’re not.
I quickly got up off the warm sand to retreat to the boardwalk with Kirby. I needed to call the high school nurse back, & I didn’t want Kirby to disturb her or the seagulls. Looking back I saw her. She was alone with her seagulls, & I knew she was in her happy place.
This is from October 2002. I was still using film in my F-1, and as soon as I saw the contact sheet I knew this was what I wanted to do forever. I had two babies then, and it was a rare day to myself. Shortly after this time, or maybe even during, I began to feel sick. Little did I know at the time the big C was invading my body. I’ve always thought of cancer as an uninvited guest. You know the guest that just doesn’t get it? Seems there is always something keeping me from my camera! Maybe it has always just been me though? Always an excuse? Maybe……………