Smoothing out the Bumps


The beach before the erosion

We recently took out the breakwater at our lake house. While our neighbors on each side and most of the residents still have sturdy, wave-reflecting walls along their shoreline, we now have a beach. Big waves created by boat wakes and wind hit our beach now and dissipate, the beach attenuating the disturbance and smoothing it out. Instead of reflecting back the chop, the beach absorbs it, swallows it, takes it on.

But there’s a price for this smoother water. The beach is eroding. She can’t absorb all this disturbance without losing a little of herself. The small pebbles that once stretched twenty feet out into the shallow water have disappeared, and the waves are starting to gouge into the log-and-dirt-hillside. We’re losing land.

I haven’t decided if I’m okay with this yet. Last summer I fretted over it, worrying that winter storms would rip away the logs embedded above the beach. But that didn’t happen. The pebbles are now in a state of happy equilibrium. The logs are firmly in place.

I am this beach. I am soft on the surface, attenuating waves and smoothing out the rough parts of our lives. But I, too, have sturdy logs anchoring me to the land.

The beach on a calm day

When I was a little girl, my father drove our K5 Blazer into a pond. He did it on purpose, trying to prove to my mom that this was “not a Cadillac, Clare. It (was) a four-wheel drive vehicle.” The Blazer almost made it, plowing through the brown water and whining up the far side. When it lost traction and slipped backwards, the water poured through the window, where I stood in the “way back” starting to panic. I’ve never lost my fear of bumpy surfaces. Now the anxiety rises with the waves. Riding in a boat on choppy water is so frightening that I have to grip the seat hard to keep myself from jumping out. Evelyn thinks this is funny—that I would rather swim in the waves and chop then smash through them in a boat.

Watching a boat rock at anchor or worse, on a dock, makes me sick to my stomach. I think of all the things that could go wrong–the dishes that could fall out and smash to shards, the books and papers that could skitter across the floor, the little girls that could drown if water poured in through an open hatch.

Our beach is smoothing out the waves. That is what beaches do. These pebbles absorb the power and send the water back out.

I want to learn to do this. Perhaps this summer I can practice this calm, not only at the beach but in my life as well. I will try to be a little bit more like this beach. I will try to stay smooth, stay calm and be the place where others come to feel a little peace.

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