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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 6-10-22 – Salty Sea Things

“I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came. [Remarks at the Dinner for the America's Cup Crews, September 14 1962]” ― John F. Kennedy

For some reason, Julie and I always tend to head North until land stops. Wherever we go, we end up on the road to the end of tarmac. On this trip a few weeks back, we traveled to the ends of several points of land, including to Potts Point Preserve pictured above. It is at the end of a long finger of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. The place where earth meets sea. We are both drawn to northern latitudes and the sea. This often means Maine. We have been coming to Maine for decades. This trip was a jaunt to the Portland area, which is a one-day drive for us. We saw some old favorite places and sat on rocks and watched the Atlantic Ocean. We ate fresh lobster and scallops and smelled the sea air. As the quote from President Kennedy notes, we are drawn to the sea as we are of the sea.

We both needed this time of rejuvenation, relaxation and to reconnect with our own creativity. I think probably everyone is experiencing an increased need for downtime. We live in chaotic times and seem as a nation to be losing our connection to simple pleasures and each other as a people. I wonder if slowing things down a few notches would help. It seems that countries the place a higher priority on non-work time are happier and healthier. We seem to be undermining some of the most important facets of living in our quest to do more in less time to increase productivity. Perhaps we are on that U shaped curve of more of doing something producing less of what we actually want.

As this Harvard University blog discusses, the relaxation response may help people to counteract the toxic effects of chronic stress by slowing breathing rate, relaxing muscles, and reducing blood pressure. This article notes that scientists studying brain scans have discovered that moments of creativity take place when the mind is at rest rather than when working on something. In our modern era, there are far too few of those minutes unless we create space for and prioritize them. My suspicion is the pandemic made these dynamics worse. Home and work are blurred, zoom creates dynamics where we do not even have travel time as a pause between work demands. Technology, a gift and a curse.

For Julie and I, one of the ways to get such time is a trip to Maine. I have been taking trips to Maine even longer. Two Lights State Park at age 10 and a trip to Acadia National Park in the same era. As a youth, I hiked up Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5,269 feet and the Northern terminus of the Appalachian trail, including the Knife’s Edge Trail. That hike was easily the most memorable and challenging trek of my entire life.

To rejuvenate, we visited some of our favorite shorelines, sat on rocks and watched the waves break in front of us. We then crawled around the stones; a bit more gingerly than we did when our knees had less miles on them. We looked in tidal pools for salty sea things. Slow healing moments of life. Much needed and appreciated.

Julie and I have seen much of the coast and some of the interior of Maine. It has been a few years since we have been able to get up to Acadia and even more since we have up to Eastport and Campobello Island. On one of our trips North, we got all the way to the Bay of Fundy and up to Cape Breton. We did a whale watch in a tiny boat in the Bay of Fundy. The day we were out, the water was uncharacteristically calm, like glass. The guide shut the engine off, and we drifted in the bay in the midst of a massive school of porpoises. As far as the eye could see in every direction they would surface, exhale, breath in and dive down for fish again. It was such a memory. One of those days in life that one never forgets.

This trip, I thought a lot about the of role of recovery in having such life experiences. In addiction, there are no days off, no days of true rejuvenation and healing. No resources to do these kinds of things even if I had the time. No capacity to fully experience such moments. Without recovery, none of these life experiences would be in my cards. Recovery gift. To sit and be. To go and do. To explore and be open. The time and space to see things with the eyes of a child.

This Gratitude Friday, I am grateful to have had some down time. To go back to Maine and experience the rocks and the ocean. I am grateful for new memories with Julie Miller to cherish. I am grateful for the time together to heal and recharge. It is a gift of recovery that I am grateful for today, a thing that seemed unobtainable in addiction is now something I can experience, life in all of its simple pleasure, including the search for salty sea things in tidal pools. What are you grateful for today?

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