The best day

About a week ago we had a string of days with unseasonably warm temperatures in the upper 70s and hovering at 80 which transformed our usually sparsely populated winter beach back into a spring beach, covered with bikini-clad college students and families with young kids.

That all changed last Thursday afternoon, as a front passed through dropping temps back into their normal winter range. But before the front arrived, we had one last May-like morning to walk along Jax Beach, which was dotted with a fair number of sunbathers and families, walkers, joggers, and fishermen all enjoying the last bit of extra warmth before winter weather returned.

IMG_6885As I followed the shoreline south, I noticed a young family ahead of me. The mother and father were talking and taking pictures of their young daughter who was running into the surf, squealing when the cool water crashed into her, running back toward her parents giggling, and then turning around and repeating the entire sequence over again.

She was on her fourth or fifth cycle when I came even with them, and just as I passed a wave crashed into the little girl, who appeared to be about four or five. Instead of squealing and running back, this time she turned around to face her parents, raised both arms in a “ta da” pose, and shrieked “This is the best day of my life!”

When I met back up with my husband toward the end of my walk, I told him about the little girl. Later that day I repeated the story to our adult son and daughter and posted it on my personal Facebook page, sharing it with as many friends and family as possible. And now I’m sharing it with you here, not only because it relates a delightful moment of one little girl’s joy, but because of what witnessing it has revealed to me.

My first thought upon hearing her proclamation was to be grateful that I get to walk on the beach almost every day. My second thought was to hope that at her age she was merely experiencing the best day she’d had so far, and that she would have many more to come as she made her way through her life. But then I came to what has stuck with me since that moment, the question of what makes any particular day a best day.

Best days, like beauty, are ultimately in the eye of the beholder, or the heart of the experiencer maybe. For me, the best days of my life don’t depend on temperature or latitude, although warm sunny beach days certainly don’t hurt. My best days are the ones I share at least part of with friends, family and loved ones, and, as most of those people know, the days I spend writing. Creating something seemingly from nothing, but of course built on inspiration and experience, whether it’s a few words or dozens of pages, makes a day great in my book.

What makes a day great for you?


Tidal Pools of Creativity

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take my walk along the beach at my favorite time–about half way between high and low tide, with the tide going out. It’s my favorite time because of the tidal pools.

Jax Beach, 5-1-2012

What I like about tidal pools is that they are never exactly alike. Even pools that regularly form in about the same location vary in shape, depth, behavior, and duration depending on the sun, sand, water and wind.

What they trap varies as well. Some have beds of shiny shells. Some have rivers leading back to the receding sea. Some have walls so shallow that it seems the water isn’t trapped at all, but merely hanging out there by choice. Others have walls steep enough to make them an excellent makeshift kiddie pool for toddlers.

Lately the tidal pools at Jax Beach have been home to schools of tiny fish. Ranging from less than 1/2 an inch to almost an inch and a half long, these groups of fish trapped in the pools, or scurrying along those temporary streams between some of the pools and the sea, have broken up my walks with stop and point activities.

“There’s another batch!” I tell my husband as I point and stare.

This wrecks one purpose of my walk–to log exercise miles–but is perfect for the other reason I put my feet to the sand–creative inspiration. I love watching the worlds formed by each pool, with its unique characteristics and inhabitants seemingly unaware that I’ve already passed half a dozen such worlds in the last quarter mile of beach.

Each started with the same ingredients, but created something original. That’s what we artists do every day.

In a former life I published an ezine and one of its most popular features was a page of potential story titles or ideas punnily called the “Title Pool.” Readers would submit entries to be posted on that page for all to use or misuse as they saw fit. I now keep a private Title Pool file for puns, phrases, or snippets of songs, poems or conversations that catch my attention and seem like they may lead to something.

Create you own and see how it captures and inspires your ebb and flow of ideas.


Just keep writing

Sea Star, Jax Beach, FL, Jan. 9, 2012

A Sea Star I saw as I walked the beach today searching for inspiration.

Like most writers I have my little tricks for those days when I don’t feel inspired to write. Music. Caffeine. A walk on the beach.

All three failed me today. The only thing I felt inspired to do was nap.

Napping, however, is rarely compatible with meeting deadlines.

What do I do when a deadline beckons and all I have to offer is a white screen, doubts, and regret? Well, I complain to anyone who will listen and also to those who won’t. Then, as a last resort, I usually just sit down and write.

Yep, that’s right. I just write. I write anything, even if that means I write “I don’t want to write a blog post” for line after line. I just keep writing until I have something to work with. Once I have words in front of me, I can cut and rearrange until I have something readable.

I was given this advice decades ago when I first started writing seriously. I have given it to other writers. But it never gets old. I’ve yet to meet a writer that doesn’t need to hear it over and over again.

Just keep writing.

Beach, Beach, Beach

This is the entrance to my office.

And this is my view…

I don’t necessarily type a lot here, but this is where I do my best work. It’s where the words come easily and weave into whatever I want to create.

The beach is always the same thing only different. Sand, water and wind carve out new niches, uncover what has been hidden, and reclaim what was just there a moment ago.

That is the sameness, the steadiness. But what is exposed and what is smoothed over changes day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment.

That is the difference, the endless creating and recreating of something new.

The beach is where can’t gives way to can, and where new beats up on same old same old.

Some might call the beach my muse, but it doesn’t whisper in my ear words that only I can hear. Rather, the rush of the wind and the crash of the waves drown out all of the noise of the world around me and inside my head, leaving me with a clean and quiet slate, a blank page on which to create.

The beach is as important to my writing process as the keyboard and the screen. It’s more important, ultimately, because the beach is what gets me started.