Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walking on the beach

On Sunday, there was ocean, sky, sunlight, clouds, beach, gulls, and hours of conversation.
My college roommate, who is still among my closest friends, lives on Moody Beach in Maine. Once or twice a year, we schedule a visit, but we always try for the same kind of visit: one during which we can walk for hours.

Both of us love long walks. Back when we were college students, we would leave from our Boston campus on spring evenings when the daylight lasted long and walk through neighborhoods of Brookline, or we’d head toward downtown and walk along the Charles River. We didn’t particularly give much thought then to whether we’d still be taking long walks together twenty-five years hence. But as it turns out, we still are.
According to my pedometer, we walked eight miles on Sunday: first from her beachside house along the shoreline to Ogunquit Center, then by roadway to the nearby village of Perkins Cove, then back to Ogunquit for a lunch on the porch of a busy cafĂ©, and then back along the water’s edge to her house.

Actually, when we reached her house three hours after setting out, we still hadn’t quite had our fill of walking, so we continued to the end of the accessible beachline and then doubled back.

It’s how we catch up on each other’s lives every year. My friend has four daughters; I wanted to hear about all of them, from the one who is spending her junior year abroad in Ireland to the one in the midst of middle school. She in turn wanted to hear about my kids. And once we’d covered those topics, there was still so much more to touch upon: husbands, jobs, projects, problems, concerns, parents, vacations, and books we’d read since we last visited.
Ending a visit with her is a unique feeling. I have other friends who like to walk, of course, but few with whom I devote nearly the whole day to it, and few whom I see seldom enough that we have quite so many topics of conversation through which to wend our way. It’s exhilarating, both physically and emotionally, to cover so much territory – by foot and by word.

Saying goodbye toward the end of the afternoon, we agreed it would be good to get together over the winter if we could find the time, but we both know it’s not a critical priority. Yes, it would be fun to see each other more often, but there’s something so satisfyingly ritualistic about our tradition. The forecast for Sunday was rain, but the rain didn’t materialize. We would have walked even if it had, but instead, we were blessed with a sunny day by the water. It was wonderful, as always, and we’re all caught up for now, and I know we’ll do it again sometime within the next twelve months.  

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