AGAIN, THE SOUNDS OF WAVES and shorebirds pull my attention away from the book. I replace the bookmark (a playing card
— three of clubs) and set the book aside.
I had walked quite far on Presque Isle to find this lonely spot, past yellow beach towels and white Styrofoam coolers, past
lifeguard posts, past children who didn’t mind the chill of the water. My shorts and T-shirt are old, so I can sit on the sand and
not care. My feet are bare.
Summer is fading, and today I want to feel sand between my toes and be alone.
Is it the repetition of the waves that pulls me away from reading? I’m hypnotized by a thousand soft crashes.
The book is Janet Flanner’s “Paris Was Yesterday: 1925-1939,” her poignant view of French life before World War II. It’s a
marvel of reflection from another time. She wrote the essays for The New Yorker, as dispatches for news-hungry Americans
who sensed the coming conflict. Part travelogue and part diary, the book is a favorite of mine when my mood is reflective.
It’s not a typical day at the beach. The sky is heavy with grey clouds, and the sun is just a shimmer behind them. The wind is
strong, and the white shorebirds shriek and struggle to stay aloft.
It’s a day to sit quietly on a long piece of driftwood, considering the days that came before and the days that lie ahead.
Here’s the wonderful thing about travel: Sometimes it is all about the destination, but the greatest discoveries are found
when your mind is stimulated by that new environment — a historic village, a lush forest, a mountaintop, or just a quiet day at
the beach. Synapses connect, and you make memories while longing for the next adventure.
So while it’s not the idyllic day of fun in the sun, I reflect on how I came to be here with my toes in the sand and a good
book at my side. And I think, I am happy to be here today.
Zen on the Beach
September 2016 pittsburghmagazine.com
FIND YOURSELF ON A MEDITATIVE, LATE-SUMMER DAY AT
ERIE’S PRESQUE ISLE. // STORY & PHOTOS BY CHUCK BEARD