Life Notes: My September Song
A last visit to the shore can’t be planned

While most people say goodbye to the seashore in late August, I’m a hold-out. I’ve always been bad at endings. Goodbyes make me anxious and sad. But I’ve gotten better at this one over the years.

I wait until the last possible September day for my own trek. The tricky part is that my farewell visit to the shore can’t be planned. It’s really up to that capricious powerhouse, Mother Nature herself.

I’m selective. I must wake up to a day laced with the absolute nip of fall – no sultry leftover summer days for this visit. A good stiff breeze is not a requirement, although it’s welcome. And if the sky is rippled with just a few clouds, no problem. There’s actually a method to my farewell madness. My specifications make the line of demarcation between the hot flash of summer and the new upstart season absolute.

In a scheduled life, this spontaneity is tough to execute. But I love any respite from the tyranny of the calendar. I still believe that beaches and spontaneity should go together.

I always find my day. And I will this month, too.

Sadly, it’s no longer a case of just grabbing a beach towel and a book and I’m on my way. Age has brought a certain degree of prudence. There’s a beach chair that is designed for tricky backs, an old beach umbrella, lots of sunscreen, a healthy bag lunch and two sweatshirts, not just one. And now of course there’s a mask too. Hopefully that’s only a temporary add-on.

As I drive along familiar roads, through the cranberry bogs and into the Pines, my car windows will be open and Barry Manilow will be with me via CD. I will sing with him, loud and off-key. It’s part of the whole deal.

I have “my” beach on Long Beach Island, chosen because for years, it was the beach where we went with our kids, and where my happiest memories reside. Nothing distinguishes it from so many others…except those memories.

If this year is like the other Septembers, it will be utterly deserted at first – just the gulls and me. I’ll set up my chair, attempt to get my umbrella positioned perfectly, and just surrender. And I do mean surrender. My cell phone will be turned off. My senses will be turned on.

I’ll stare at a restless dark blue-green ocean until I’m hypnotized. No matter if the winds whip or the clouds gather briefly. My soul needs this nourishment just as much as my body needs protein.

I’ll think. I’ll dream. I’ll nod to the others who may come along for some beach time of their own, including the local year-rounders who clearly feel this island belongs to them again at last.

As my day winds down, I’ll do what I always do on these annual pilgrimages: I’ll search the beach for a few perfect shells to carry off with me – reminders that I’d been here, and yes, that I will be back. I’ll feel like an 8-year-old as I scour the sand, unwilling to settle for just any old shell, seeking that perfect one. And I’ll find it. It will go on my dresser, next to the ones from years past.

Then it will be just Barry Manilow and me on the 90-minute ride from “my” beach to my door, a chance to make the transition from escape to real life.

It’s a long, long way to next June. And winter looms large. But one of these September days, I’ll seize my farewell to summer. And then my September song will play more sweetly.

September 2020
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