Tthe more things change, the more things seem to stay the same.’

Or is it the other way around? The older I get, the more confused I get about this particular statement.Every Memorial Day, or at least every Memorial Day for the past quarter of a century, I walk to Long Sands Beach. I don’t care if it is raining, or sunny with sweltering heat. It is just something I like to do. I have begun to believe that it is something I have to do.

The beginning of my quest to get to the beach takes me through my neighborhood. I guess you could call it an accumulation of many neighborhoods that have grown together over the years. I remember watching many of my neighbors who have no idea whom I am, work on their yards trying to demonstrate to the world that they are well organized and proud to be where they are. Many had little children in playpens and strollers watching them do what they had to do. Today I pass these same homes, with the trees and shrubbery that were planted in the past, looking like they always belonged in front of the neat homes, displayed by their owners. The children are no longer watching from their first chairs: they are now playing games with other children, on the lawns, in front of these homes.

The parents are now the ones sitting and watching, making sure that their children are safe. Or maybe they are sitting because they are now a bit older. I work my way down to York Street, where the large Baptist Church is in the process of becoming a bit larger. I wonder if this means that more people are joining their congregation? I wonder if this means that more people are turning to God, or at least becoming old enough to realize that there just might be one. One of my favorite houses is on that street. This is something in my life that never changes. It has no lawn in front of it but it does have a museum of every known flower that I have ever heard of, plus a few others that remain a mystery to me. It is also filled with trinkets that could only belong in a field of flowers. Even the house is unique, in that it sits near the road, in the middle of the flowers. I have never seen anyone work in this yard: in fact, I have never seen anyone in the yard. I just give a little prayer every time I pass this home, because I am thankful that I can look forward to seeing something so beautiful, every time that I am on my quest to the beach.

I love walking through the trees as I walk to York Village. They have always represented majesty and stability to me and I know I shouldn’t say this, but I am saddened by the loss of many of the trees. Not that they shouldn’t have been cut down to prevent the possibility of another disaster that York will not soon forget. I guess I am saddened by the fact that both lives had to be lost because of something we call destiny. Walking into York Village is like walking into a movie sound-stage, getting ready for a musical depicting life on the New England coast. In my mind’s eye, I see hundreds of colorfully dressed men and women marching, with their musical instruments celebrating something that should never be forgotten. In the center, stands a proud soldier of the Confederate Army surrounded by multi-colored flowers celebrating his victory. This scene also has a tendency to put a smile on my face.

The shops in town are always kept remarkably clean and bright: the trees and flowers are carefully manicured and well watered. Off the center of the is a new sight, it is large and looks like something that belongs in a much larger city. It is the new home of our books and words and they tell me that it will also be a place where people will meet. I just hope it realizes that it has to earn its place amongst the rest of the buildings of the square: not the other way around.

Continuing my quest to the beach, I start to smell the ocean. This is one of my favorite times. I pass the post office and banks and walk to a place that used to have few homes on it. Those that were there were large and were in the middle of large parcels of land that were kept remarkably ordered. Today I pass these same lots of land but many have more than one house on them: they tell me that this is a reality of our times. I guess some things have to change whether we want them to or not. I take a short cut to the beach, on a road I have no idea what its name is. To be honest I know of few names of the roads I walk or ride on but I assume that this is part of the older section of York. The homes are still kept remarkably clean but I see few children when I walk up this road. What they lack in youth they achieve in friendliness and I always find myself waving to the men and women of the gardens, as they toil in their little section of Earth. The nice part about this is that they always wave back.

Long Sands Road has the tendency to explode in front of me. Not that I can see the ocean right away but it is obvious that I am close. The feeling in the air becomes both cool and fresh and I always get more energized by the oxygen of the ocean, that forces itself into the air. I actually believe that I feel a bit younger at this part of my journey and I smile as I walk down this road. On both sides of me are people getting ready for their summer- time life. The boards are taken down and the flags are set up, showing everyone who passes that they made it through another winter and another year. They have earned their vacation and damned if anyone is going to take it away from them.

I finally reach the ocean that sits on my right. It explodes with happiness as it sees me, or at least that is what my mind’s eye says. The ocean always sounds the same to me the first time I walk on it: the open atmosphere makes everything echo. The water hitting the sands makes the sound of heavy blankets being curled up by thankful people, in the dead of winter. This sound has a tendency to make one shiver a bit but it is a good kind of shiver. My footsteps sound different on the sands of the ocean in York. They echo like the sound of forest leaves fighting for space with each other during a summer storm. I enjoy watching other people on the beach, because it is odd how, when two people walk the sands, they end up walking in unison: no one ever steps out of tune. I assume this is respecting the sand’s time to control the sounds of the beach. It could also be a couple’s turn to become one, in a different sort of way: a remarkably fantastic way.

I am always lucky because I walk on the part of the beach that has rocks running up to the walk that separates Long Sands Road from the ocean. If you stop and listen, you will be able to hear the sound of conversations between what has always been, and hopefully always will be. The larger rocks scream their song in total unison with the pounding waves but, the sound I enjoy most is the little pebbles laughing as the ocean tickles them, over and over again: it is their time on the beach now. I am thrilled that I am allowed to listen.

The gulls on a Memorial Day beach are seen quietly waiting their time, when the sun burns off the newness of the season and the people return to feed and play with them. They are seen in small and large groups, seemingly praying to the ocean that gave them all life. This is also their time to give homage to the ocean: to give thanks that they were allowed to have their time on the beach. This is the only time I see little gulls stay close to the older ones, in hopes that they could recognize which one is the one they came from: the one that gave them life. I always feel sorry for the single gull that sits on one leg and stares into the ocean, wondering why it was the one that was left alone. I finally reach my destination by the beach-house, where in a few weeks I will be one of the bocce’ players, contemplating nothing more important than myself.

As I sit on the sea wall I state to myself that the more things change, the more things seem to stay the same. Or is it the other way around?

The End

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