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Surprised by Nostalgia

My computer surprised me unpleasantly with a notice my flash drive was “corrupted,” and recommended a repair fix. Then warned it would be a while going through the whole thing — essentially a lifetime’s writing and photos. After an interminable-feeling wait, it reported success. So I browsed randomly, just to see. The following title caught my eye and I opened it to see what it was about. And was surprised by nostalgia for the long-gone nineteen eighties.

I slept dreamless to the thump of morning surf after the kids dragged Mom off for a walk on the beach. When they got back we fixed breakfast on the camper’s propane stove and I began to hanker for a lonesome beach walk. First I had to watch my son and daughter muscle a large drift log up from the beach for firewood. There’s a small berm between the campground and the beach that snagged a lot of driftwood they had to maneuver around. Getting it up the berm was tough. In the end it was my son lifting and my daughter guiding, but they made it.

“No other five-year-old could do so good!” she crowed.

I hit my old beach-walking stride, ocean on my right. Which meant I was walking south on a Pacific beach. But it still felt like going north after growing up on the Atlantic coast. Far ahead in the misty morning I saw a tracery of trees and what looked like a car on the beach. I fantasized I could walk into the mist and out the other side onto Atlantic beaches of my youth where cars shared the sand with people. Closer, it was a huge saw log with tide-piled rocks against it, not a car. The trees were gnarled long-stem cedars branching near the tops to create that tracery, not palm trees. I picked up the family’s wandering tracks; they walked quite a way. From the sign, the kids did a lot of running back and forth between the high tide line and the surf, covering a lot more ground than a simple walk.

Two big logs leaning at angles across each other gave me a protected spot to sit and write as the sun burned through the overcast. My pipe is out; the wind is cool, the ocean endlessly moving. I almost doze to its lullaby. My daughter says the ocean sounds like our heater at home when we turn it on. As I doze I catch the rhythm she heard. I have the logs for shade, though my projecting legs in dark brown Levis register heat striking through. I don’t have my watch. It’s vacation; who needs a watch?

I am alone with this sea, wondering vaguely if it knows my name. I am reluctant to go back and become a family man again. Sometimes my thoughts need alone-time to unfurl. Today my thoughts are calm, after the buzzing nature they acquired before vacation. There was the day the Mt. St. Helen’s steam plume stood thousands of feet above Nisqually Delta and I kissed a woman not my wife while everybody else looked at the volcano’s display. There was the day I received a dozen roses from an anonymous admirer that got office gossips in full chatter. Contemplating those events and others of a more intimate nature the buzzing is quieter now.

This is the first time I’ve been alone to sort my impressions and be glad I dodged the ultimate consummation. Even Jimmy Carter admitted to lust in his heart. I can go back to my family unburdened by guilt and let tomorrow take care of the temptations thereof.

It was peaceful last night after the westering sun was supplanted by a sickle moon over the ocean. The campsite slipped into darkness relieved only by 12-volt camper lights, campfires, and the wavering flicker of walking flashlights. This is our first time renting a pickup camper. There are some tents in camp as well as RVs. I made four trips to drift-log tangles to split firewood with my maul and wedge. Sea-seasoned driftwood burns better than desert mesquite, with its own distinctive aroma. The steaks grilled to perfection; thick Porterhouse at over $4.50 a pound.

When I complimented my son on the fire-pit he dug and ringed with rocks, he told me “No other six-year-old could have done as well.” Now this morning it was my daughter bragging about her preeminence as a five-year-old.

Where do they get this stuff? I need to tell them don’t ever worry about what somebody else can do. Only be concerned that you can do the thing you decide to try; then do it as well as you want to do it without reference to anyone else. I have cycled out of alone-thoughts to Dad thoughts, still a new sensation. It must be time to rejoin the family unit and see what comes next on this family vacation.

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.