On Sunday we went for a walk on the beach. Because both Sea Pines beach clubs are undergoing renovation, we parked in a temporary lot—and used a different access than we usually do. This path ends with a sign that outlines rules for beach goers. Similar signs appear at intervals on the beach. They’ve been there forever, so I was shocked to see the sign had changed.
Gone was the word “NO” in red capital letters, eight inches high. You could see it a hundred yards away, and what followed was a list of prohibitions: No glass or alcoholic beverages; no horseback riding, shark fishing, or littering; no nudity, disorderly conduct, or sleeping on the beach between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The sign’s final line always made me shiver: Caution! Extreme currents and shifting sands. Swim at your own risk.
That sign held special significance for me. Shifting Sands is the title of my as-yet unpublished novel, and the words on that sign were burned into my protagonist’s brain. He saw them as he came out of a faint, yards away from the peaceful beach where his father had just died in a bizarre accident. The words became a metaphor that ruled his entire fearful life.
Imagine my chagrin when, instead of high drama, the new beach sign proclaimed, “Welcome to our beach. Enjoy your visit and please follow our beach rules.” Welcome? There’s nothing ominous about that! What happened to the danger? This sign is muted and tactful. The third bullet under “For your information,” says, “Use caution—strong currents, jellyfish, stingrays, etc. may be present.”
May be! Huh. I’m not much of a swimmer, so the old beach sign suited me. Now the Town of Hilton Head is nudging me toward a new way of thinking—from panicky vigilance to awareness of my surroundings, approached with caution, not fear.
What intrigues me most is the timing of the change, or at least my noticing it. Like the beach signs, I’m due for a change, having spent a couple of years writing my book. I’ve had a great run: I’ve recharged, built creative muscle, improved my writing skills, and met a vibrant, generous community of writers who have helped me reconnect, re-prioritize, and put my goals in perspective.
For a while, writing has been my exclusive occupation, but it can’t always be like that. We writers have jobs and friends and well-rounded lives. We meet new people and experience new things, and that’s where our ideas come from.
I can’t say I’m unafraid, but I’m ‘raring to go,” eyes open, alert, and ready for change.