November 03, 2015

The Unbearable Beauty of a Beach Vacation

Notes from a Trip (or It's a Dog's Life)

The broad Atlantic
blustery and gruff of mien
The sea has her moods. 

(As do dogs.)

On an atmospheric fall morning we saw four or five dolphins playing in the ocean but the reverie was broken since there's no such thing as an uneventful dog walk down here.  Took them on a spur-of-the-moment beach "stroll',  Stroll being a euphemism for a chaotic cattle drive.

Two dogs under two = a challenge. Or two challenges. They took turns challenging us (and mostly winning).  Max got loose this morning thanks to me not putting the leash over both loops of the breakable collar, so he, natch, broke loose.  We found him relatively quickly.  Later Maris broke loose when she wheeled backward while Steph was trying to get her to do walky dog on bikes, and that took some retrieval effort.

Another misadventure had been taking them on a run down the beach before that;  Max began eating the leash while I ran, and I thought he wouldn't make too much dent in it but I awesomely misunderestimated his teeth power.  He ended up going through almost half the leash in the first five minutes. So I had to run by holding him above the fray mark, leaving him just about six inches of leash.  He didn't have room to turn his head and chew his leash that way, but it did affect the run adversely since I couldn't run fully upright.  I was thinking: "gee, imagine how nice this would be if I wasn't running with a dog."

Another misadventure was taking them to the beach just after 4pm. It seemed like a good idea on paper: let them romp in the sea using long leashes and have them expend energy.  I ended up doing the romping in the sea, cajoling them to come in, but they were more interested in playing together or separately on land.  Or going intercontinental ballistic every time a dog passed by, which was early and often.

After the ocean play attempts, we tied them up to the beach marker sign but Steph decided after a minute that the leash was too long and they'll get stickers in the brush just beyond shore.  So we shorten the leashes and I'd just sat down for the first time all afternoon when Max immediately decides to try to dig up a crab in the sand, and he made remarkable progress in a very short time, putting sand all over me, my chair, my drink, you name it.  I moved my chair out of the line of fire quickly, but then he moved his angle and I got more sand.  (Later I took photos of the Max hole to China to commemorate it.)

At that point we mercifully cut our losses and trooped them all the way back to the condo and their crates.  Then we headed back to our beach spot and immediately moved due to tide coming in.  Steph spilled her beer in the wagon during this maneuver, which was an appropriate enough symbol of the past couple hours.

The words of my boss Philip haunt: "Two puppies doesn't sound like a vacation to me."  But, on the bright side, it's early. Relaxation wasn't built in a day.

Taking a walk with a dog on the beach is no walk in the park, metaphorically speaking. It's of a different quality. For one thing, everybody you see wants to pet them and talk dogs, so it's much more of a social thing. Also you have to be conscious of the dog at all times as far as leash-straining or tangling or what have you.


At Sunday Mass, the deacon shamed those people leaving early by saying about six times sarcastically and loudly, "Thanks for staying to the end of Mass!  Thank you so much!" The people leaving did not look around, either pretending not to hear or not hearing due to sudden-onset deafness. I noticed nobody reversing course and coming back to their seats.

The deacon then handed the mic over to a lady who announced names of about a dozen kids who won some sort of award at the local Catholic schools, had them come up and receive them, so Mass continued for another ten minutes or so past the end of Communion.  If you're going to leave early this seemed the week to do it.


"Liquor's quicker" goes the saying, and poetry is too, quicker to the transcendent. So I read, on I read, the Keillor *Good Poems* anthology. Direct mainline to the brainstem.

Who doesn't fancy themselves a poet when on the shore? I play the part, a library in view to passersby with me busily transcribing something of surely great import.  Looking at the sea and life and books with a shrewd eye born of a proper education and proper martinis. Surely I could be mistaken for a writer: late middle-aged, at the sea in October (the poetic season), reading, writing, and listening to the arithmetic of the sea.  By myself, which is the only way a writer can be.  Call the epic: "The middle-aged man and the sea."  With apologies to Hemingway.

Two retired couples in their 60s, stand a mere ten feet away on a beach that is nearly empty. They burst my bubble of imagined depth. They look out at the ocean like extras in a life insurance or brokerage commercial.

At the tender hour of 6:40, the sun retires after a lackluster effort. There's always tomorrow I tell it.

I now have the unenviable task of trying to cart a wagon on a non-existent beach back to our place.  It could be interesting. I can either go over the foothills and sea oats of land, or through the gusts of ocean that pour ceaselessly forth. I'm thinking the latter.  The sand route could be difficult due to the wagon sinking its wheels in the drenched sand/water.  The overland route could be difficult due to the stickers and rough surface. (I ended up going overland, on the lip-cliff of land, with precarious near tumbles into the water.)


Sweet bliss, the sun reappeared today at 10am after a long fight with darkness and gloom.

Just now I've set up camp in a sand crevice at the mouth of the walkway to the beach. Not a bad spot at all - the sea has come to me, just a foot below and beyond, and I can breathe in the rich, tang-salt air.

Today and yesterday has featured something called a "king tide", which is, as the name implies the tide of all tides. It slipped over the marina wall in Harbor Town, and some residents have said it's the highest they've seen in over three decades. Apparently it occurs when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars...., er, no that's the age of Aquarius. Actually it's when there's a full moon and a perigee of some sort simultaneously, but then I'm lame at science.

There's nobody walking the beach today because there is no beach. It's all sea, a crazy sight. Although the tide is slowly moving out so a beach is being created.


Tensions arose when Steph could't find one of Max's hundred collars and I was too obtuse to understand which one; we have so many collars and leashes that it's hard to communicate which one was missing. A partial list of dog paraphernalia (times two dogs):

1. running halter
2. regular halter
3. walky dog bar leash for bike
4. slip leash
5. chain metal leash
6. running belt
7. retractable leash
8. breakaway collar
9. slip-on can't-back-out-of collar
10. collar collar (i.e. non-breakaway) - probably no longer in use due to it being dangerous in multi-dog homes

Somewhere Thoreau is weeping.

To further complicate things, to take a dog for a walk we need two collars on him or her, a breakaway collar (that has the GPS device and nametag and number to reach if lost) and the slip-on can't-back-out-of-it collar since they can maneuver out of the main collar. It's gotten so complicated that I try to keep a low profile during the major prep work that involves a dog walk. So many leashes and collars to choose from. I play dumb, which certainly isn't a stretch in many situations.


Today read some of a Hilton Head book, a collection of stories and anecdotes from would-be local writers. One lady said that the book of Isaiah is her favorite book of the Bible, and I thought about how there are things in that book that I certainly love. I can see the attraction. But it also reminded me of how the Old Testament is still much unfamiliar to me except for Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms and Job. I think with greater Biblical literacy you're more able to find a book that you wildly identify with, besides just the old dependable chestnuts of, say, the gospels.

An offering from the same book came this nugget:   "I regret I only stopped to admire a black-faced fox squirrel, slighting the common grey ones, as if numbers could diminish the stars."

Therein lies the secret to life, perhaps. To see God even in the common.


Morning has broken and what a morning indeed. Sunny and mild right off the start. Too much politics and sports last night and this morning - need the refreshment of lyrical prose. I'm sometimes my own worst enemy.

Big fail today with dog Maris. We decided to head back to the condo and take the dogs on a bike ride via the short leash that hooks to the bike. I took Maris despite Steph's misgivings: Maris is harder to control and slightly terrified of the bike and Steph wasn't sure I would be gentle or patient enough. Maris hated bikes from the get-go, from like a month after we first got her. Steph's plan was to walk the bike next to Maris over the course of millennia and then gradually ride the bike with Maris on a leash, and then eventually put her on the Walky Dog connector to the bike. I just skipped ahead to the last step and Maris was, predictably, terrified. She tried to run as far from the bike as possible, making her lean-away stride look like she was trying to avoid running off a cliff. But the worst was yet to come: When I quickly gave up the ghost, I set the bike down briefly to retrieve another leash and she began trying to run away from a bike that had become a whirling dervish, the whole bike doing 360s due to her puppy power. This made her crazier, of course, and it felt like the longest 30 seconds in the histories of dogs. I then took Max alone on a nice ride (he had no fear) while Steph tried to calm Maris with a walk to the water. Oy.


Saw odd-shaped orange bucket of a sun on the rise today. Just over the horizon it looked more trapezoidal than circular.

Well it's uncanny how unready I am when the morning comes and Steph announces it's time to exercise the dogs. We typically get more exercise than them, or at least a lot more stress, due to unpreparedness.

We decided to take a beach walk and got a half-mile down the shore when they both pooped. We'd taken the long lines, so I trooped back to get the retractable leashes, which has the doggie bags. I was already ready for it to be over by the time I got back with the bags, given the constant distractions of people and other dogs, so I took Max on a bike ride all the way to Hilton Head Academy via the bike path. But first I had to deal with the insurmountable obstacle of trying to put on his halter, with him shying away all the while. I hate that halter every fibre of my being given how it's nearly impossible to figure out how it goes on.

Needless to say, the lack of halter came back to haunt. Max got loose just after we crossed South Forest Beach, at the very end of the ride. He started sprinting around, knowing he was loose, with me yelling "Treat!" and "Good boy!", the latter as sort of a pay forward compliment. Thank God he went right up to our door, probably due to being thirsty as much as anything else. He drank a bunch and I treated him, feeling very grateful if stressed.  Beer me!

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