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Stories

Going Coastal by Erin Gettler

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I was born in Illinois, where the only waves I knew rippled across miles and miles of corn tossed by the prairie breeze. I was born with a little drop of saltwater in my heart. And as like calls to like, that little drop of saltwater drew me eastward from when I was small, always tugging to rejoin the bigger ocean it belonged to.

The first time I tasted saltwater, it was pretty clear to me it was the wrong ocean. Not even an ocean at all—the Gulf of Mexico is a great, big salt lagoon for all intents and purposes. I was in Florida with my class for our senior trip. I’d slept on the floor of the bus on the way down with everybody else, piled like puppies in the aisles.

One of my friends got a one-way ticket to fly home after he was caught sneaking back from a fight night at a local club. The rest of us were wildly jealous. We’d spent the night making sand unicorns after curfew ourselves, but that wouldn’t have gotten us a flight to Chicago even if we’d been caught. We might have tried harder if we knew it was an alternative to another 20-hour drive. At any rate, the saltwater at Clearwater Beach was tepid as bathwater, and about as lively. It wasn’t my ocean, at all. I hoped it wasn’t all oceans, but I had no way of knowing.

About four years later, I joined a teaching program in Philadelphia. Orlando was the only easterly place I’d ever been until then. I caught a ride with another member of the program, a girl who drove cross country from California, someone I’d only met on the internet, long before meeting people from the internet was a thing. We road-tripped to Niagara Falls. We stayed in KOA Campgrounds along the way. She drowned her phone by accident. Her directions were wrong. She didn’t have an atlas. She said, “You can buy a map for yourself, but I’m not spending the money.” I didn’t have the money. We ended up on Long Island, New York to visit a friend she knew from college, after phone started working again.

It never occurred to me that Long Island was so long. Or that it had saltwater.

The friend took us to dinner in a small town on a still bay. My nose perked up with the cold, green, salty scent of the water. After dinner that night, with new directions in hand and only a day left to reach Philadelphia, I leaned over the end of the dock, and whispered, “Hello, Atlantic. I’ll be back soon.”

What I didn’t know then, was that months later, I would meet a Long Island boy in Philadelphia. I didn’t know that Long Island boy would be game to go on a hairbrained weekend trip I planned with friends to a (lame) strawberry festival back on the Island. Didn’t know he’d offer to let us stay at his grandmother’s house by the beach.

I definitely didn’t know, when I bought a bikini and shaved for the first time in eight months, that the ocean in May on Long Island is freeze-your-tits-off-cold. I didn’t know he’d join me for that Antarctic swim, walk me out past the breakers smashing around me, bob in the calmer water with me where the cold (was it the cold?) took my breath away.

I didn’t know that I’d marry that Long Island boy four years later, that we’d come back to live in that same Long Island town. The beach where I first met the ocean—the real ocean— became my beach. The little drop of saltwater I’d carried around in my heart since birth would come home. And so would I.

Erin is a naturalist who writes at The Familiar Wilderness and takes amazing photos of moths (mothing) on her instagram. Her novel (very exciting) is currently on hold, but Erin is doing freelance nature writing in the mean time. 

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Olivia, Her Grandmother, & The Coast

Since before I can remember, my maternal grandmother has regaled us with stories of the coast. For her, it was the coast of New York’s shores, as she spent her teens years in Rockaway Beach during the 1940s. She spent her days attending to her younger sister, reading books, and people watching the renters who would rent out rooms in their home, close to the water, as if it were a hotel. She claimed, and still claims to this day, that salt water is the cure-all. Emotional, physical, financial, whatever your ailment is: the sea can surely cure it. She is at peace and at home in the ocean, with the sand under her feet. To this day, her...

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Lakes I’ve Known by Margaret LaFleur

There is the obvious first one, the one the suburb I grew up in is named for. If you left my childhood house on a bike and turned right, then right, then left (and stopped for your best friend on the way) and then right and went about a mile, you’d hit it. The beach was slightly rocky and the strip of sand along the edge disappeared in rainier years, but if you went at night or after summer vacation was over you could climb up the lifeguard stand and scan the water for imaginary swimmers. On the other side of town was a slightly smaller, prettier lake with an island in the middle. A boy who was a couple grades ahead of me lived in the...

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No More Running

I used to run. I don’t think you could call me a runner – my goal was always three solid miles, but running was my main work out and I attempted at least 3-4 times a week. Wow, 3-4 times a week of running? I can’t believe that is true…! Anyways, I used to run. I wasn’t good at it, but I did it for years. I mean YEARS. I started running in high school and kept it up all through college, all through adding in yoga and pilates, kickboxing, team sports, etc etc. I was also running. And then, when I moved in with Kamel running became really difficult to maintain. He doesn’t run, doesn’t really know how to...

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Guestposting: Lilybett and the Banana Plantation

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Lilybett is representing Australia… or, ya know… the future! And her world sounds like a fantasy land of tropical magic. I think it is a good day to be transported. Also, if you’d like to read more about her life and her son check out her blog Lilybett and Boy. In my youngest years, my family lived in a coastal town hemmed in by flood plains, a wide, brown river and wet, green mountains. A short drive away were beaches where we spent a lot of...

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Guestposting: Olivia Calls it Splitsville

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Olivia and her sister, Jenny, share a blog – Lovely At Your Side – and are kind of what I imagine sisters to be in my dream world of “I wish I had a sister!!” Olivia is awesome, I chat with her on twitter often, and I am very grateful she took the time to write a guest post on – what else? – her sister. Jenny also happened to be the officiant at Olivia’s wedding, so if anyone is looking for someone to marry them, check at...

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Who the hell is she?


Lauren

Seattle/Writer/Adventurer/Married to Kamel/Maker of many mistakes/Mom of 1 Gabriel and 1 TBD/Baker of things/Roaster of Vegetables/Maker of videos/Normal life photographer/Romantic/Irreverent/Honest

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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