Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Blues are Running

I walk the beach, south to the point. Waves tease the beach with a lazy roar, sea oats rustle from the dunes. Smooth as silvered glass, the sea melds into sky, endless horizon. Here, there are only two colors: sun and water. Hermit crabs scuttle before my shadow. The receding tide leaves foam memories. I walk. Sand squishes fine and smooth between my toes, polished for eternity by God’s rock tumbler. The pack bangs lightly on my back with each step. The sun settles an inch above sea’s edge. I look back to where I was and the memory is miniscule, my footprints swirled away.

Oh Daddy… remember?

Those mornings you fished, we always walked, my sister and I. She skipped ahead, seeking the next adventure and casting sideways looks at the sun-baked boys in their bleached cut-offs. While I, the slower, more serious one, kept eyes to the ground, seeking a starfish, an intact sand-dollar, a smoothed piece of colored glass. We walked and walked, chattering about everything and nothing, stopping to poke birds and beached jellies, diverting into the dunes to imagine forts made among the stilts of unoccupied beach-houses. Oblivious to time and distance and all that left behind. Until some sound, a keening tern perhaps, or maybe a red kite swooping from the sun, reminded us how far we’d come. We’d turn around, panicked that we’d strayed too far, that you’d be done with the fishing and packed up, ready to leave without us. We’d run back, mile and miles, chests heaving, toes digging into soft sand, until the jeep distinguished itself from the endless beach, and you standing by your poles, staring to the end of the world. Mom would sit in the front seat staring at the same spot you were, that faraway place, her knitting on her lap, the dog curled beside her where you sat. Our return animated you and mom, you would smile slow like you’d been asleep for a long time. We related our adventures, gave news of the beach beyond the point, displayed our treasures proudly. You laughed, indulging us, and mom unwrapped tuna salad sandwiches in hot dog buns, celery sticks, chips, all gritty from sand.

That was how it was, each day new and yet the same, finite and never-ending.

Daddy, I wish you were here now…

The tide’s coming in, and the water churns here at the confluence of sound and sea. I walk past the fisherman and their four-wheel-drives pocking the point. From a distance, they seemed charcoal smudges: a log, a boat’s broken hull, a beached seal or other detritus tossed carelessly upon the shore by a rogue wave. Closer, details emerged, rods stuck in sand, lines tight, silver filaments set to garrote the unsuspecting who pass by. Have you ever noticed how fishing lines, when taut, sing when the world spins away from the sun? They smile at me when I peek into their white buckets filled with the bluefish, silver-scales reflecting sky streaked orange. But when I look up, into their brown wind-carved faces, I see you. Waiting for the big one.

Daddy, the blues are running...

Seagulls and cormorants squawk and dive bomb into the writhing waves. Even pelicans gather, skimming low to the sea’s surface. The men reel in fast, rods and arms quivering. I sit at the dune’s base, back pack snuggled in the sand at my feet. I withdraw the box. It’s heavy, made of wood, I know the inside is steel-lined though I haven’t yet opened the lid. The sun taints the fish-covered beach in blood. I wait. The men load their buckets, their trucks, and soon all that is left are deep treads leading away.

The sun melts into the sea, shimmering like molten lava. The box feels lighter somehow. At water's edge, droplets of saltiness kiss my face, so many tears. The lid comes off easily. The wind wisps the dust and instinctively I reach but it’s gone, it’s gone, you're gone, and I reach inside, your fire-polished ash so fine in my hand, so much finer than the sand under my feet yet as timeless, and I toss the first handful intothe air. The wind shifts, carries the dustiness of you aloft above the waves… daddy, oh daddy… the blues are running, the blues are running, and the waves will carry you, carry you, so you will be one with them… oh daddy, you’re running with those blues…


Peace, Linda


  1. The writing is so heartfelt, so filled with power that it almost hurts to read.

    The last gift a daughter can give her father...a ceremony of love and farewell.

    Just gorgeous writing.

  2. So beautiful and sad and heartwrenching, Linda. The imagery was so vivid too: "The sun melts into the sea."

    What a way to say goodbye.


  3. Some very sweet lines in this. "Here, there are only two colors: sun and water" was my favorite. Been on the beach at thin hours of the morning when that's almost the case.

  4. John beat me to it, but that sun and water line stopped me, it was so poignant.

    Linda, I slowed down and savored this one. The first paragraph, with foam memories and such rich descriptions made me sigh.

    Even with the pain of loss and the ache of memory, I wanted to jump inside this story and visit for a while.

  5. such a perfect photo and so lovely your thoughts. sad and warm and wonderful all in a bowl.

  6. John's favourite line was also mine: "Here, there are only two colors: sun and water"

    I love stories about the father-daughter bond. You have just the delicate touch for this. Beautiful, warm, and heavy with memory and loss.

  7. Absolutely gorgeous - I was a little girl on a beach for a few minutes there

  8. What I felt in this was, not grief, but the beginning of the end of grieving. It's almost as though the narrator, while still in the darkness, can almost see the coming of dawn.


  9. A poetic portrayal of grief and memory, written in such a way the reader feels privileged to be able to share in such an intensely personal experience. Great use of description, as I read it I could really imagine being there breathing in the sea air.

  10. Thanks all for reading -- your words humble me. Tomorrow I leave to do this very thing -- scatter my father's ashes in the Atlantic. This fills me with apprehension and relief, a dread and joy of putting some sense of closure.

    So yes, Tony, a letting go of grief. And of honoring.

    And Heather -- welcome! A new face... Peace, Linda

  11. Very moving, and upon reading your comment... it's even more so.

  12. And his name was Bill.

    My heart and thoughts are with you this weekend. Your writing, your emotions, memories and the sensuality you bring to this all merge into a beautifully quiet and strong piece.

    With writing like this, who needs onomatopoeias!

  13. Oh Linda, that is so beautiful and poignant. I read it slowly and absorbed all the beauty in this moment of grief & remembrance, I relate to these feelings. I wish you that peace when you scatter the ashes of your father. What a lovely tribute.

  14. Linda, I hope you're the one finding peace today. I don't think I've ever read anything that more perfectly captures the beach. Not the stormy sea or the alive ocean, but the beach and being there and being young. This is where I come from, and you have given me such a gift in this beautiful prose of yours. And there is no better place than this to remember how magical yet temporary all of our time is, and how those waves will remain relentless long after we're gone.

    This is also where I want people who love me to take me when I am gone, because this is the place where I want them to think of me in the time they have left.

    Thank you again for this beautiful poetry, Linda. It felt like stepping into the middle of a great love affair.

    Walk in peace,


  15. Peace to you, Linda. I ache after reading this tender eulogy.

  16. Love the description in this one. Especially love how you call the sun and sea colors. That worked very well.

  17. Thank you all for reading and your kind words. The actual event happened much different than envisioned. Still good, but different. More later. Peace, Linda

  18. It's just gorgeous writing, so much so that I shouldn't nitpick, but whenever I go to the beach (at least once a week in the summer), I get drunk on color - infinite gradations in the sky and water and all the creatures. But all of your other descriptions are stunning, and the central metaphor, the running blues, is beautiful.

  19. Mark, thanks for our kind words. I agree - the ocean is a wealth of color. Sometimes the brightness blinds, and that's why sun and water. There's a heck of a rainbow packed between yellow and blue.

    Though right now the color's at the Outer Banks are brown and grey ;^)