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Essay: On Love

August 2, 2017
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I love to swim. It’s my favorite part of summer. This summer I decided it was time to go ahead with the knee replacement because I couldn’t get into the ocean or the lake or even most pools with the knee I had, and what’s the point of summer if you can’t get into the water?

Lately it seems like all my friends are posting pictures of the ocean. They’re on vacation, and I’m feeling like I want to be the woman in the blanket in this poem by Ed Falco (except there’s no way that even six of my friends could ever lift me).

Essay: On Love

We were crossing a wide beach toward a blacktop parking lot.
I forget now who I was with or where we were going the year
The details of that particular beach vacation that summer break.
Morning not long after sunrise the day already hot.

In the parking lot six women wrestled a package of sorts
Emerged from the side door of an SUV onto the beach carrying
A small weight in a blanket like a sling or a makeshift stretcher.
Six women one at each corner of the blanket two at the middle.

I couldn’t see what was in the blanket when they passed.
No one looked at us their expressions solemn touched by grief.
They stopped at the water’s edge and a skeletal head rose up
Out of the blanket to look over the ocean as legs like sea straw

Fell gently to the gentle surf which washed over them.
To see the ocean one last time surrounded by friends.
August the Georgia coast sand dunes trees permanently twisted
Their crowns like long hair in a brisk endless wind blown back.

How many mornings have I walked barefoot along the beach?
Not enough. Never enough. Summer and the heat and the ocean.
Dolphins threading waves terns pelicans gulls squawking

The salt smell of ocean and the shore stretching for miles
All the way back to the beginning and before as if the blue
Pool swelling out to the horizon licking wet at our feet is one
Body and the waves repeat a heartbeat that won’t cease

Unlike our own which will. Dying woman at the water’s edge
Carried by friends to be close one more time to the ocean
To sand under bare feet to the seashore on a summer morning.

Isn’t that lovely? The poem came to me by way of my friend Jenny’s gift of a subscription to The Southern Review, a metaphorical lift in a blanket.

Actually I think I’ll be luckier than the woman in the blanket; I hope to get at least a decade of use out of the new, bionic knee. I have already rented a beach house in South Carolina for next June; there’s no better incentive for doing knee exercises than thinking about being able to walk into the waves, at the “seashore on a summer morning.”

While it’s still summer, if you’re able, get yourself into some water! What are you waiting for?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Johnson permalink
    August 2, 2017 2:08 pm

    Waiting on full employment for both of us 🙂 I love the ocean but we are far, far away from one.

    • August 2, 2017 3:51 pm

      Yes. We’re much farther east and it still takes us a day and a half of driving to reach the coast.
      You and I can think about Hawaii, and how beautiful the Pacific looks there.

  2. August 4, 2017 9:08 am

    Beautiful Jeanne, thanks for sharing.

  3. August 5, 2017 5:37 pm

    That was a beautiful commentary on what the water can mean for someone. Though I have always lived near the ocean I prefer walking on the sand, especially in the early morning before many people are there. I love the feel of the freedom that open space of the water evokes. But right now I am waiting for the US Open of Surfing to be over (sooooo many people!), before I venture to my quiet beach 🙂

    • August 5, 2017 8:59 pm

      How wonderful to live near the ocean! We plan a week vacation there every other year, but I’d go more if I could!

  4. Jenny permalink
    August 30, 2017 12:44 am

    Six people could not lift me, either, but that reminds me of this poem:

    Happiness

    Why, Dot asks, stuck in the back
    seat of her sister’s two-door, her freckled hand
    feeling the roof for the right spot
    to pull her wide self up onto her left,
    the unarthritic, ankle-why
    does her sister, coaching outside on her cane,
    have to make her laugh so, she flops
    back just as she was, though now
    looking wistfully out through the restaurant
    reflected in her back window, she seems bigger,
    and couldn’t possibly mean we should go
    ahead in without her, she’ll be all right, and so
    when you finally place the pillow behind her back
    and lift her right out into the sunshine,
    all four of us are happy, none more
    than she, who straightens the blossoms
    on her blouse, says how nice it is to get out
    once in a while, and then goes in to eat
    with the greatest delicacy ( oh
    I could never finish all that) and aplomb
    the complete roast beef dinner with apple crisp
    and ice cream, just a small scoop.

    –Wesley McNair

    • August 30, 2017 8:27 am

      Oh my. I like that poem. Right now I’m feeling the line about how she’s “feeling the roof for the right spot/to pull herself up onto her left/the unarthritic ankle.”

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