That's what I look like when I'm 100% happy. No makeup. Definitely no hair care. No fancy, practiced smile. No dangly earrings. Just me, at the beach, after throwing myself into the waves until I'm exhausted.
I only get to do this... maybe two hours a year. If I'm really lucky.
But it's when I feel the most myself, the most centered, the most right-where-I-belong.
I wasn't born near the beach. I didn't go there very often as a child, although I remember perfectly every time I did. The seaweed in my bathing suit at Panama City, the smell of the elevator at Daytona, the vine tunnel in Hilton Head that you ran through, pursued by angry mosquitoes, to access the ocean. And yet I love the beach so much that I'm almost a different person there. I relax. I don't worry. I wear skirts. I sit outside. I stand differently, walk differently, eat differently. When I'm here, time stands still, and half of what I say is simply some new iteration of "I love the beach," or "I'm so happy right now."
And the funny thing is that it has never occurred to me to move here. I have never contemplated that I am simply a body moving through space, untethered, and that with some minor changes, I could spend every day of my life by the palm trees, salt on my skin and sea air in my nose.
In my every day life, I get stuck in cycles and ruts. There are rhythms to family, to the seasons, to hormones, to work obligations, to the creative cycle. And after a while, I get cagey. Anxious. Almost frantic. Like there's a time bomb ticking, somewhere out of reach. And we've finally figured out that it's the sea, calling to me. As soon as the date's written on the calendar, I calm back down, knowing that I'll get to be here, right where I am, right, where I need to be, close enough to hear the waves.
Sometimes, the place you belong isn't an always, it's a sometimes. And that makes it all the more important.