The Sands of Time

Every year around this time I start to go through beach withdrawal. For the last few years since I moved away from the coast, I have gone to one beach or another every February. After a long winter, I stumble onto the sand and I feel like I am coming home. This year,  I will be here in the mountains, which hold their own beauty every month of the year. Still, the beach shimmers on the distant horizon of my future, moving away from me like the tide going out again.

I have been thinking lately of all the beaches I have loved. Some of them I will probably never return to. For so many years I thought I was looking for a beach I could keep forever. I longed to find a place I could return to year after year, coming to know the world better through that place.  To read more about this, check outThe Ocean Inside of Me Walking down Playa Ballena in Costa Rica, on the tail end of visiting 11 different beaches in that area, the ocean taught me something.

Every beach is different from one moment to the next. You can never walk the same beach twice. It is always changing, the very Earth moving beneath the waves. Life,like sand, doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t stay in one place. Time pushes us forward. The Earth and the oceans move, and life rises and falls against them. We must move forward. We must see many places in life, and use our time to explore the world around us. This lesson seems important for to me remember now, as my life changes daily, becoming something new.

Today, I offer you a humble beach that will always hold a special place in my heart, and a piece of my life that happened there.

When I was 22 years old, I fell asleep drunk in the middle of the afternoon on Waveland Beach, along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. It is a small strip of sand between the Gulf of Mexico and the pavement of Highway 90 as it hugs the coast. Before Hurricane Katrina, graceful historical estates sat on the other side of that road. On this day, they had already been torn down and their foundations lay in a rubble that was the only evidence that anything had ever happened there. The Live Oaks stood triumphant, and the land beyond looked like a strange, deserted forest of twisting branches.

I woke up with what would be diagnosed as a 2nd degree sunburn over the entire back of my body. I drove home to my townhouse in Slidell, Louisiana on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I was sandy and sore but laughing. The smell of the beach was still on my skin, and the beauty of that day was like a sun setting inside of me. Later, I would ask my friends to leave so I could crawl on my knees to the bathroom, no longer able to bend them. There were weeks of pain that followed; lying prone in sun sickness on that couch in Louisiana all those years ago when the world still seemed new after Katrina.

Now, the fire of those days is written in lines on my face. I know now that I was in the early stages of pregnancy, and that was the last of my drunken days on the beach in that place. My existence teetered there on the precipice of change, and my old life began to ignite and burn away.

I remember the agony, but I also remember how my friend and I were at one with Waveland Beach that day. We looked past the men leering from the road 200 yards away and the trash and what was left of the houses that had been torn down in the storm. We saw how beautiful it really was. We saw the Gulf large and flat against a vibrant Mississippi sky. We heard it calling out to us. Like memories sometimes do, this one balances on the sharp edge between beauty and pain.

I have walked that beach many times in my life. Humble though it may be, I have felt the Gulf calling out to me there. I have laid in the sand, and felt myself sinking into the world around me. I have loved that place on many days, and I love it still from afar. I don’t know when or if I will ever back there again. My memories wear away, time like sand rubbing the finer details out of them, smoothing out some parts and erasing others.

Here, on the page, that place lives, frozen in the time it was written down. Let me show you. Here is something I wrote on Waveland Beach many years ago. Observe how the words have galvanized something true about that place and that time; how they have captured something pure about the person I was when I wrote it.

LATITUDE

Somewhere a girl is lying on a beach, her skin warmed by the sun, like a benevolent god above her. The wind runs its fingers through her hair. The tide inches closer into shore. Soon its waves will lap at her legs like gentle persuasion, pulling her deeper into this moment of repose.  Two brown pelicans alight from their wooden posts and glide over the surface of the water. Her heart soars with them.

She closes her eyes, listening.  She feels herself rise with the roar of waves rolling forward, and gets carried away with the gentle whoosh that accompanies the receding pull. Back and forth she rides, until the heat on her eyelids make them snap open and here she is, now, lying very still in the sand. If she was to try and stand at this moment, her legs might sway beneath her.

She imagines the fish swimming between the sandbars; the whole beating, pulsating throb of life that waits just below the surface of the water. Her mind plunges into the depths, dives to the bottom, and comes up for air.  She lays her head back, and her field of vision becomes double exposure; transforms into an inverted perception of sand and sky. She imagines herself planted there, suspended above a blue expanse and held in place by the root of the tide.

She is the salt in the air, the song carried on the cool breeze. She is one with the earth and the sea, perfect because there is nowhere she would rather be.

The sun rises over sand and water on Waveland Beach MS

Photo courtesy of Paul Murphy

Mississippi Bound

If you feel like beating your own winter blues with a road trip, you might check out some of my old haunts along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You can drive the whole thing in a couple of hours, visiting several beaches along the way.  The coast is dotted with small, quaint communities that each has its own distinctive charm, and the area abounds in outdoor recreation like boating and crabbing. If you’re not into that kind of thing, there’s plenty of good food, gambling and booze, and New Orleans is less than an hour to the West.

Do you have a beach that’s close to your heart? Tell me about it in the comments!

Metamorphosis

I am in a new place again. Possibilities bloom and waver before me. Futures are born and expire anew each day. The mountains I Ieft behind me stand stubbornly green against the skyline of my new city. Summer defies Autumn, reluctant to give way to the changing of the seasons. I write to the sounds of the world around me.  I wander this place in search of something new.

To whoever is reading these words: wherever you are, out there in the world, I speak directly to you. You may have noticed the frequency of LOCUS: A journey in search of PLACE has decreased significantly in recent months. I have rarely addressed my personal life on this blog, and it not something I plan on making a habit of. I write LOCUS to learn more about the world around me.

I felt I should speak to the readers of this blog to let them know I have not finished writing it. LOCUS: A journey in search of PLACE has merely gone into a chrysalis, resting in preparation for the metamorphosis it must go through in order to survive.

Evolve or die. This is the quest the Earth has given to all of us.

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10 Years After The Storm: Remembering Hurricane Katrina

“There are events that possess the power to divide all of life into two parts: Before, and After. The After is a new world unto itself, the very face of reality changed by the consequences of what has happened”  from Surviving Mississippi by Kerri Nicole Casey

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore into the Gulf Coast with a wild and furious abandon. Today, we are 10 years into the world she left behind in her wake. The world before the storm recedes away from us in time. Join me as I honor this anniversary by remembering what it was like in that extraordinary place and time.

The Twin Span bridge that stretches across Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans is broken into jagged chunks of concrete following Hurricane Katrina.

Photograph of Twin Span bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, which collapsed during Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of Ross Jordan

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Exploring Playa Ballena Costa Rica

The waves of the Pacific Ocean lap at the last of the sand of Playa Ballena at high tide, many grey stones in the foreground and a hint of the jungle to the far right of the frame.

Photograph by Kerri Nicole Casey

I have traveled over 3,000 miles to the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I have come here seeking what the wonderful people of this country (Ticos and Ticas) call Pura Vida. The Pure Life. The simple pleasures of beautiful beaches, pristine rainforest, abundant wildlife, fresh food, and uninterrupted time with my family. The warm sun and the cooling rain. Green mountains that tumble to the very edge of the ocean. As always, I am finding more in this place than I came looking for. Keep reading for travel resources to the pristine Playa Ballena. Continue reading

The Ocean Inside of Me

Evening falls in colors over the beach in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

I first saw the ocean when I was 13 years old. It was summer on the Outer Banks in Corolla, North Carolina. I ran down the boardwalk and over the dunes, nearly desperate in my excitement to finally see the beach for myself. I had imagined the waves would be cerulean, aqua, azure, even.

Instead, the water that rolled in was a muddy, chocolate brown. Oh, those first, tumbling, glorious waves. Their color did not diminish my wonder in the least. It increased it. The ocean roared before me, vast and wild, and I felt knowledge swelling suddenly within me. There was an entire world out there that I knew nothing about.

A day comes to a close on the Outer Banks, sea gulls sitting on the sand as waves roll in.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

Since that day, the beach has been a part of my soul. I go as often as I can. I miss it when I am not there. I think of it in times of sorrow, and the endlessness expressed in the waves soothes me. I think of the beach in winter, when the ice seems to crystallize deep inside my bones. The thought of the sand and the sun warms the chill from my skin.

There is an ocean inside of me. I can close my eyes and I am there. Continue reading

Latitude Adjustment

The sun rises over the Gulf of Mexico in Pass Christian, MS, with a row of sea oats bisecting the white sand.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

A new day is rising.  A faint pink glow signals the coming of the sun.  It rises like a great red lamp, tucking itself into a thick line of dark grey clouds.  Below, the Gulf of Mexico is wide and flat like a piece of slate.  The water rolls calmly into shore, one slow, gentle wave after another. 

The hard, imaginary line of the horizon is broken by a far-off row of trees growing on a barrier island out in the distance.  Sea birds fly down the beach, and their bodies become black shadows against the painted sky.

Footprints press into the white sand of the beach in Pass Christian, MS along the Gulf Coast.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

I have traveled South again, here to the place where my stories were born.  I have come to witness another kind of birth altogether; the tender majesty of a new life coming into this world.  This child’s story is just beginning.  What twists and turns will the plot of her life take?  What amazing qualities will combine to make up her character?  The magic of new life crackles in the air.

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The Journey Home

A surreal look at small town America; a color photograph of a bridge leads to the sepia tone of small town America buildings.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”  Matsua Basho

For a long time, I thought I was looking for my home.  I have loved and lost many places in pursuit of this dream; left them behind me and kept on looking.

I lived in Missouri for 19 years, and never once felt like I belonged.   My youth was a series of unfortunate events, plagued by a desperation to be anywhere but where I was.  The road that led me out of there was chiseled into the hard edge of the limestone hills that had always seemed like strangers to me.

I remember Missouri best rolling behind me in the rear-view mirror, my past receding in a speeding haze of rust and green.  The rush of the wind against my face blew away the stale air that had hung in all the places I had been before.  A weight in my chest lifted, and the motion of the car kept it suspended.  Finally, I could breathe.

I followed the road south until it hit the Gulf of Mexico, and I could drive no further.

The waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap against the white sand beach of Pass Christian, MS.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

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Falling Out of Love with New Orleans

A live oak twists over an artist selling her work on the wrought iron fence of Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

There is nothing quite like falling out of love with New Orleans.

I first saw the city when I was 19 years old, and I fell immediately into the spinning, blind, careless kind of love that only youth is capable of.  Leaving it behind me was my first real heartbreak in my love affair with PLACE.

The focus is on an angel statue holding a shell in the foreground, with the expansive interior of St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

In the Garden District, the air is cleaner, sunnier, yellow even.  The breeze generated by the streetcar is Elysian.  Everything seems happier.  Cheerful.  More beautiful.

For whole blocks St Charles can make you feel this way. Continue reading

Pura Vida

A black and white self-portrait of me writing edited with a watercolor treatment.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

I have a terrible habit of writing in notebooks that no one ever reads.

Sometimes, late at night, I break them out and read through them again, notebooks spread all around me. This blog is my way of breaking that habit.

From time to time I’ll post some vintage notebook material on here. You’ll see something I wrote before; words that have rested in these lines and have never been read by anyone else.

A strangler fig grows tall in the jungle of Zancudo Beach, Costa Rica

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

I’ll show you some of the places I’ve seen, the ones I love and the ones I hate. The ones I just had to get down on the page. You’ll find these posts in the category, LIFE as I know it.

You’ll also find parts of my life as they happen in mid-stream, as well as things I discover about PLACE that refuse to fit nicely into the stifling convention of any category at all.

For today’s post, here’s something I wrote while in  Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica, one of the most extraordinary places I have ever been.

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