Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sands of Time

Paintings of the beach get no respect. After all, many are just two negative spaces joined by a line of foam. Some have bathers and strollers in them, but the summer sun precludes any close examination of faces. Besides, how much profundity can we expect in scenes of recreation during felicitous weather?

At this time of year, when I was a boy, I spent all my afternoons at the beach in Holland, Michigan. During any of those seasons I'm sure I logged more hours on the sand and in the water than in all my summers since college put together. What stops me from going to the beach? Fear of skin cancer? Modesty vis a vis attire? Time constraints?

No, it's lack of imagination. As a boy, I saw infinite possibilities for traversing the expanse of pale gold into the expanse of blue and then back again. Now I can only think of the diversion I may get from what I can comfortably carry: a book, a towel, a frisbee, lotion, and something to drink. Not even watching water nymphs can occupy me from lunch to supper the way bodysurfing, racing, breathholding contests, water judo, splash fights, and marking the shifting sandbars did when I was a kid.

I thought about all this while looking at Mary Cassatt's 1884 Children on the Beach. The little girl's patient industry for the task of filling up her pail reminds me that exploration and imagination are my favorite states of mind. I had them at the beach when I was a boy; I don't anymore.

Click on the picture for a closer look.


Janie B said...

Isn't it sad when we realize that we've lost that sense of wonder...of possibility? We need to get it back.

DUTA said...

Lovely post, TallTchr! It stirs up emotion and brings back memories.

As a child, I was very far away from the sea and rarely had a chance to play with sand on the beach like this sweet, chubby pair of toddlers in Marie Cassatt's painting.

As a teenager (in another country) I often went to the sea with friends - mainly because of friends. At that time, it was fun being with them and the beach was a major summer attraction.

I'm not a 'beach person'. I don't like the heat, the crowds, the fact that I get easily sunburnt despite precautions.

However, on cool days, I find it very soothing to contemplate the beach and the waves, while feeling the breeze on my skin. As in meditation, I take some deep breaths, 'empty' my head of daily cares, and start..visualizing and exploring things and activities that leave me relaxed and at peace with myself and my surroundings.

I would very much like to believe that the childhood power of imagination and exploration is not lost in adulthood, and that this power just takes some other form - as in meditation.

Paula Slade said...

I do miss the beach. It was part of my childhood as well as teenage years, and when we lived on MV. (Sigh)

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TallTchr said...

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