|'Typical' Beach Terrain|
Photo from nerkasalmon.wordpress.com...
Great source for SE Alaska
from a commerciial fishing and poetic perspective
Eggs have no business dancing with stones.
-- Haitian Saying
The world is a rough place.
A mis-step, a lurch, a moment's inattention... we can so easily find ourselves treading water or clutching a turned or broken ankle. Our thoughts and plans of a moment before delayed or altered beyond recognition. In the blink of an eye, we might compromise our future, or even end it.
If we wish to walk long, we must learn to walk softly. Carefully. Consciously. Easy does it.
I've often admired elderly persons, making their careful way along some vector, by land or sea. It's not at all obvious which is the responsible factor; the deliberate placing of each step en garde of age and attendant fragility? Or longevity furthered and attained by early acquisition of prudent habits? Likely some of both.
The School of Hard Knocks is one we all attend. Gravity, Mass, Momentum and Leverage are a faculty comprised of strict teachers. From the moment we are born they tutor us in lessons not always gentle. They make no pets, reward no slackers.
Yet, thanks to our evolutionary heritage, we may entertain youthful notions of invincibility. We leap and soar, tumble and bounce, break and mend with – often – a sense of impunity. But in the vague aftermath of our reproductive prime, we begin to find ourselves vincible indeed!
Caution creeps upon us.
Hesitation tempers the thoughtless impulse... to jump down or climb? Climb. To sprint or trot? Trot. To apply brute force or mechanical advantage? To free hand or take hold?
Bit by bit, we learn the habits of caution. That, or add to a growing flotsam of scar-tissue borne on a rising tide of impairment.
It's a choice.
Anke and I spend a lot of time on rough beaches.
Not the fabled swathes of sand where one may dream along, bare of foot and free of care. Rather the kinds where, if rocks are not jagged and toothy, then worn round and shifty. Seaweeds and algal slimes make either variety all the more treacherous. Ditto the tangles of drift logs, with their occasional branch, ready to spindle the unwary.
Primeval forest is little better, underfoot. Pitfalls and sloughing moss, root and rock, tangles and snares. And again, the splintered threat of bush and branch.
Our rule for rough terrain:
Never move without eyes on the ground; STOP to look around.
And yes, Class is still in session; violate the rule and like as not, a Hard Knock ensues. Generally in pretty short order.
Most sailors have heard the rule:
One hand for yourself; one for the ship.
This one was made in an era when life was cheap in general, but in situations where supply and demand demanded a crewman preserve himself for ship's sake. Easy to generalize. Just in case we might think it was for his own, survivors of infractions might well incur the lash.
In our case, supply is even lower and demand much higher. How many of the two of us could we afford to lose? The rule stands.
Plenty of others accumulate. Look before you leap. Look both ways before crossing a street. Three-point progression (three secure landings for feet and hands; one seeking the next). Better safe than sorry. If the slow you down a bit, good. If they stop you, too much caution. We seek a lively balance.
And so we go forward, cultivating new and expanding habits of caution. Cautiously and humbly proud of having made it thus far with all our digits intact. Our joints neither fused nor torn. Our scars but reminders of some small lesson learned. Walking ever more softly.
Even so, as I pondered these very words - blithely walking a sandy stretch of beach - for the first time in years...
I fell flat on my foolish face.