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I am writing this post on the back page of a book.  I won’t name the book lest the author feel offended that I’m using the blank pages in the back to record a blog post that I’ll type into the computer later.  The twins and Josh are still jumping waves in the water, but I came back to the beach blanket because I didn’t feel like getting wet.  But now watching them from a distance, I wonder if I am sucking every last bit of marrow from this trip.  On one hand, I don’t want to be in the water — I know this.  But on the other, I don’t want to miss out on anything.  So I’m not really relaxing because in an effort to come back to the beach blanket and relax in the sun, I am worrying that by relaxing, I am missing out on things.  And the cycle continues.


Last night, when I lay down in the hotel bed, I thought about how hotels are a disgusting concept.  Other people have slept on this mattress, on these sheets (which have been washed… I hope… but still), with this blanket.  That person could have open, festering, oozing sores all over their legs, and now I am lying where their legs have been, their filthy, pus-covered legs.

And can we talk about restaurants?  Who thought restaurants were a good idea?  Hey, let’s all sit down and stick the exact same fork in our mouths, cleaned only by some hot water and soap between usage.  That very same fork could have been slathered with mayonnaise in its last go-around from plate to mouth.

I am very good at coming up with disturbing thoughts to distract me from what I really don’t want to think about which is the end of summer.


There is a photograph by John Gaunt that won the Pulitzer in 1955 called “Tragedy by the Sea” which depicts a couple standing by the water’s edge after their child has been swept out into the ocean and drowned.  I don’t know why it is so hard to talk about this photograph.  I have written and crossed out a half-dozen sentences.  All I can say is this: I believe there are things that shouldn’t be photographed because only the subject of the photo can truly know if they are okay with that intrusion, and unless it is a self-portrait, the subject cannot actually be the one controlling the camera.  That picture depicts a moment that is too horrific to look at head-on.  I find that I can’t look at it.

I think about that photograph whenever we come to the beach and it is semi-empty.  You can take photos on a day like today and keep the shot close-in, and it looks as if you are alone on the beach.  I was standing by the water and this little boy was running ahead of his father, zig zagging in and out of the water without any thought to the consequences of the waves.  The father paused next to me as his son stopped running to splash in one place for a moment, and I commented that he was fearless.  The dad gave a small laugh and shrugged as if to say, “obviously” as the boy took off for deeper water again.

I don’t even know how this ties into everything else going through my mind except that it seemed important to note.


I feel like I didn’t get enough time this summer.  It’s greed.  I can’t point to one day that we frittered away, but I feel as if I didn’t use my time well enough.  I am plagued by the idea of enoughness.  There was a new beach I heard about that we never found time to visit.  It feels like I didn’t do enough this summer if we never got to that beach.  And yet I can’t point at any particular day and say, “see, you wasted that time.”  Because every day felt full.  We saw friends and family and hung out at the pool (not enough though!) and did a brief stint at camp and took some trips.  We would have had to give up something in order to get to that beach, and I can’t imagine what we should have given up.

I am really not ready for school to begin.  Summer feels like dry sand that escapes between your fingers.  There’s no way to hold it, no way to build anything with it.


The family next to us built this gorgeous car out of sand; one of those spectacular beach sculptures that took hours to make.  I watched the father direct the effort, alternating between pouring water and shaping sand.  The car was big enough for one person to sit inside behind the sand steering wheel.

Right before they left the beach, they whole family took great pleasure in stomping it back into a heap of sand.  “Stamp down that wheel!” the dad ordered his son who obliged, jumping up and down on the circular sand wheel until it disintegrated.  “And that other one!”

What a waste, I thought, watching them destroy what took hours to build and could have been enjoyed by others on the beach after they left.  It would be like writing this and then ripping the pages out of the back of the book and throwing them in the ocean instead of posting it.  Even if I don’t need these words or thoughts anymore, surely someone else can use them.

As I was writing this, a new family sat down in the vacated space.  They turned the remains into a sand hammock, and two teenage girls just slipped in to read their books.  The cycle of sand continues.


[Written Now] This was a strange exercise; writing a blog post in the back of a book and transferring it to the screen now that I’m home and back in front of a computer.  Writing long-hand (beyond jotting down notes) feels a bit stilted now, yet I couldn’t control where I was when all these thoughts started tumbling around in my head.

The ChickieNob saw me writing in the book and sucked in her breath to scold me, “ooooooooooooh, you’re writing in a book!”

She’s seen me write in books dozens of times.  I am a firm believer in book writing, especially the margins.  It’s one of the things I hate about e-books.  I don’t just like to see my words when I look back at books; I like to see my handwriting.  Was I writing so quickly to get the thoughts down that they’re messy?  Did I take the time to neatly write down the note?

We’re always taught not to write in books, and there are a few that are too precious to me to cover in ink, but for the most part, I believe reading books should be a full body experience; not just utilizing the eyes or ears, but smelling the paper, touching the pen to the page.  Reading just the words on the page never feels like enough.  My whole being has to be in it.


1 Tiara { 09.06.12 at 8:25 am }

There are few things in life that evoke such a deep sense of peace in me than the smell of books.

2 Kristin { 09.06.12 at 9:24 am }

I really love this post…the whole wandering, meandering look at enoughness. I’m not really sure what about it appeals to me so. Maybe it’s that it is written in a way so similar to my thought process.

3 Mud Hut Mama { 09.06.12 at 10:00 am }

I agree with Kristin – love this post – and hotels are gross. Many of my family and friends think we are crazy to be raising young children where we do but the fact is they hardly ever get sick. The last really bad illness my family got was a staph infection from a cruise. Since then I am really wary of hotel sheets and cloth napkins at restaurants.

4 Becky { 09.06.12 at 10:02 am }

I so love the vision you painted of the family destroying the sand car. And the next family claiming it as their own. It’s a beautiful reminder. What felt like wasteful to you, was honest fun for the 1st family. And perfectly met the needs of the 2nd family. That’s the beautiful thing about sand – and life – we all have the opportunity to make of it what we need it to be.

5 a { 09.06.12 at 10:13 am }

Ack! You write in books? Ahhhhhh! I could barely bring myself to highlight my text books in college!

And yes, both hotels and restaurants are revolting. I would add public pools to that list – who wants to bathe with hundreds of other people? I don’t care how much bleach you add. But, that doesn’t stop me from using any of those things, because then I would miss out on other fabulous experiences for which the hotels, restaurants, and public pools are a side note.

My daughter started kindergarten, and I hate it. I can’t use my Mondays off to take her to the zoo with less congestion or to the mall with fewer people. I can’t take off for Chicago on a whim. I feel restricted.

I do not love ebooks as much as I love regular books – their weight, the act of turning pages – it just can’t be duplicated.

6 Keiko { 09.06.12 at 12:27 pm }

I’m savoring this post, the last few days of summer, the smell of salt sea air. And your comments about that photograph (of course I clicked through and looked) – soooo much I could unpack in that paragraph, especially as the daughter of a photojournalist, my father having seen through his lens much death, gruesome atrocity and things he doesn’t like to talk about.

And yay for writing in books! Larry and I collect antique books and we love to buy those that have handwritten notes left in the book. My favorite are finding books that were clearly used as a textbook or school book in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Handwriting was much prettier then.

7 Stupid Stork { 09.06.12 at 4:48 pm }

I’ve seen that photograph before – it’s disturbing. I wonder who those people are, what happened, what they thought about that photo later… Unbelievably intrusive to do, but somehow if someone said “I have a picture of the worst moment in your life” I would want to see.

8 Katie { 09.06.12 at 5:31 pm }

This is a fabulous post. (I also love The ChickieNob’s response to seeing you write in a book.)

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.06.12 at 7:16 pm }

Awww, Mel…there will always be more things we DON’T get to do than the ones we DO get to do. That’s why we must choose with as much awareness as we can.

And yes on getting something from the handwriting of one’s notes.

I’m reviewing Brene Brown’s new book for BlogHer. It, too, deals with the idea of enoughness. I’ll be having more to say on this.

10 Mali { 09.06.12 at 9:49 pm }

Writing in books? I can hardly bear to write my name in a book! Writing anything other than that would be sacrilege … though I can see that in some ways, writing in a book, making them personal and intimately yours, is a form of worship too.

Summer going too fast? Year going too fast? That’s called getting older. (Wait till you’re my age, this year is zipping by!)

11 geochick { 09.06.12 at 10:02 pm }

I couldn’t get past your paragraph on how gross hotels are. As someone who has to spend quite a bit of time in hotels, I find myself getting slightly more grossed out over time. I have to remind myself, that as far as I know, I have not actually ever become sick from hotels and their continental breakfast buffets. If that ever stops working, I’m in trouble and would lose my job. Must. Not. Think. 🙂

12 Mina { 09.07.12 at 2:45 am }

The answer for doing more at once is cloning. But then you have to get the experience and feelings out of the clone and put it back into you, and for the moment I have no solution for that (because obviously, I do cloning every other Friday).
I had a post in my mind similar to this, clearly less articulate than yours and plain modest by comparison. Another sommer is over. Another autumn is here. And I love autumns, very, very much. But somehow I feel cheated out of this sommer, we still have so much left to do… And I can’t remember if it always felt like this. Are my memories of years past compressed and stored somewhere not easily to access so that I have more place for the memories I am making now?
I only write my name (obsessively) on books. Everything else I keep to myself. I feel like trespassing if writing on the margins. Plus I hate having my thoughts pinned there for others to see and judge. That’s why I have a blog for. 🙂

13 loribeth { 09.07.12 at 9:36 pm }

I used to write notes & underline things in my textbooks at school, particularly at university, but I can’t say I do so at home. I do sometimes grab a red pen & circle spelling errors, though. It’s the editor/English major in me, I can’t help myself, lol. And I will sometimes write my name on the inside cover, especially if I’m lending it to someone. I had a dictionary that I bought for school in Grade 3, and I wrote my name inside… and then I wrote my name underneath it again the following September. I had that dictionary all the way through Grade 12, and each year I wrote my name below last year’s signature. It was neat to see how my signature changed over the years. I think it’s still in my parents’ basement somewhere.

Growing up, whenever we stayed in a hotel/motel, my mother would (and still does) always ask to see the room before paying for it. And yes, we did change rooms or leave altogether if she didn’t like what she saw. We were forbidden us to sit on the bedspread — we had to remove it and turn down the sheets first (since the sheets are washed & changed regularly).

Most hotels don’t gross me out (too much). But I still keep a pair of flipflops right by my hotel room bed, so I don’t have to walk on the carpet barefoot to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My big paranoia these days about hotels, though, is bedbugs. I inspect the room thoroughly & no matter how nice the place was, as soon as we get home, I immediately throw everything into the washing machine and vacuum out the insides of our suitcases. :p ; )

I don’t know where the summer went to either. 🙁 I won’t miss the extreme heat & humidity — I love the fall colours — but there is a certain melancholy feeling about fall (plus the knowledge that year end at work is approaching leaves me seesawing back & forthe between dread and panic, lol).

14 jjiraffe { 09.07.12 at 9:53 pm }

What I love about summer is the ability to think like this: thoughts that are both profound and observational. Nothing like being at the beach to make one ponder the big questions! Being taken out of the everyday is what summer is all about. I’ll miss it.

My dad was also a journalist like Keiko’s (he sometimes took his own photos but mostly worked with staff photographs) and he hated being the reporter who had to knock on victim’s doors. I especially remember a school bus crash he covered, as awful as it sounds. Also, the plane crash in San Diego 🙁 Mostly he chose to cover politics and entertainment because he hated the role of the reporter in those awful stories.

On to restaurants and hotels: I think the hotels do a good job of cleaning the sheets, although it depends on the hotel, I guess. I don’t get near the blankets or coverlets, though. Restaurants: I love eating out way too much, so I refuse to think about this. What I think is super nasty is escalator railings, doors, any type of handrail. I won’t touch those, or if I do I use my sweater. Gross.

15 Cherish { 09.10.12 at 9:17 pm }

Yeah…those cheap bedspreads creep me out, but I usually figure the sheets are plenty clean. Can you imagine inns back in the day where you and a bunch of strange women all snuggled into a bug-ridden bed? Ugh.

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