Saturday, November 14, 2009

Persistence pays off

So, here I am, still in Brigantine, NJ, where for two days we have stayed through the worst nor'easter in recent memory - one that involved a declared state of emergency and evacuations in some areas (although thankfully, not here). We lost power for a grand total of, what, 8-1/2 minutes yesterday - just long enough to find and light some candles, then blow them out.

This morning, a miracle: the rain was gone, the wind was down to something like 10 m.p.h., and, eventually, a bit of watery sunshine made its way through the clouds, burning off the lingering fog. After lunch, Angela and I headed outside for an actual walk. We went to the nearest beach access path to find that it was mostly underwater. We went to the next one up the beach, which we knew had an elevated wooden causeway. We got there and walked to the end of the elevated part, only to discover that the stairs led to a massive puddle nearly deep and wide enough to swim laps in. We decided to see if there might be another access point in the third development up the way and lo!, there was. And the path was mostly clear until we could see the ocean, at which point we began picking our way slowly through something that looked like (and undoubtedly was) sea-demolished bales of straw, no doubt set there in the path as a sort of levee. Those levees were unsettling to walk on, I can assure you, and by the end we were perilously close to walking in the forbidden dunes, but we persevered and made it to the beach.

There we were, on the sand, watching waves roll in (nowhere near as high as the past few days, although now that high tide is approaching, they are once again impressive - from a distance, no less!) and sandpipers skittering about at the water's edge, along with a few fat gulls standing watch or gliding low along the shallows. We walked a ways along the beach, south past where we were staying, since we knew those two accessways to be, well, inaccessible, to the fourth path, which was clear pretty much the whole way. There was evidence that it, too, had had strawbale levees smashed and carried inland (and out to sea) by the recent tempest, but it was drier still than the one on which we'd come.

In beach walking, as in writing or seeking publication, persistence pays off. Keeping going to find a way onto that beach or into the story can be challenging, and you may get muddy or acquire wet shoes or some burrs along the way (Angela sure did - maybe because she was wearing track pants instead of jeans?), but once you find your way there, it can be such a wonderful place. The trick is to keep going, to keep searching for that access you need, or the proper story opening, or the right word to make that poem sing, or that enthusiastic agent or editor who is willing to champion your work. The trick is also to pay attention and notice when the path you're on is going wrong - when the boardwalk is sinking into the mire (true story from today) and the water is bubbling up through the nailholes, it's time to turn back and try something new. There's a difference between carefully picking your way along a 40-foot stretch of destroyed wet straw bales (difficult, but not dangerous) and walking along planks that you know are going to sink you if you keep going ahead (possibly dangerous and definitely stupid).

So, stay alert, heed your gut instincts, but whatever you do, keep going. Because as I said before, when you get there, it's worth it.


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