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Summer on the beach


When I think of summer, I think of time not passing. I think of the beach and the constancy of one sound that was present before anyone could hear it. I think of  my young lightweight body, darkened, pressing to the warm sand, as fine and white as flour. I think of the waves at the precise moment when I feel myself dissolving into the sound. The rhythm of blood in my temples becomes one with what was present before anyone could hear it and the “I” suddenly looses its distinctive shape.

What happened up to this moment is not linear but forms a circle that guards what constitutes importance.

I am standing at the gate looking at the quiet street where I live. It’s summer and I am five years old. I am waiting for my parents to be ready to go to church. I am the first one outside because every day I wake up with the same purpose: to run and to see what’s out there!

Looking at the street, I am facing northwest; the sun is warming up my back. I am wearing a pale pink heavy lace dress. I like the heaviness. When I move from left to right slowly, the dress follows my movement. When I spin, it opens under my waist like an umbrella and when I stop it hits my thighs with its heaviness. The dress has puffy short sleeves with tight elastic bands that leave marks on my upper arms.

I lift the elastic band on my right arm and I am 32 years old. I am sitting on an inflatable bed in the basement of my house. My friend from Chicago is visiting and this is where she sleeps. We talk day and night, remembering Poland, remembering Gdansk University, remembering Solidarity. We talk about time and what does it mean to get older but we are too young to understand. She kisses my upper arm, the same place where the elastic band left a mark.

I remember the dress and my friend becomes my sister — we speak the same language of questions. She reaches for a red apple and turns it in her hand, looking at it but not seeing and then my mom says, That’s a nice one, and she cuts it in half . When the halves separate, she gasps. The heart of the apple is black, rotten. It’s like me inside, she says. My objection is too strong, it only proves I see her cancer the same way and I suddenly become numb facing my open closet. I look at the clothes and I can’t decide what to wear. I am trying to rush myself but nothing feels right because I already know, even before my sister calls me, that my mom died. I fight the knowing when I hear my sister’s voice on the phone ten minutes later. What can I do for her to save her, I think, and then I realize that it’s over. What does it mean, over?

I think of these women when I read the poem, Women on the Beach, by Anne Michaels (below) and I don’t understand why they come to my mind. Perhaps because they exist in me like a shoreline — ever changing and ever present.

From:  The Weight of Oranges / Miner's Pond. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. p.30
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Women on a Beach

by Anne Michaels

Light chooses white sails, the bellies of gulls.

Far away in a boat, someone wears a red shirt,
a tiny stab in the pale sky.

Your three bodies form a curving shoreline,
pink and brown sweaters, bare legs.

The beach glows grainy under the sun’s copper pressure,
air the colour of tangerines.
One of you is sleeping, the wind’s finger
on your cheek like a tendril of hair.

Night exhales its long held breath.
Stars puncture through.

At dusk you are a small soft heap, a kind of moss.
In the moonlight, a boulder of women.


The painting in this post: Woman on the beach by Michael Colyer.

7 Responses to “Summer on the beach”

  1. Marta says:

    So beautiful. So familiar. I love your writings.

  2. Danuta Hinc says:

    Thank you, Marta.

  3. Beata says:

    Did I really kiss your upper arm??? 😉

  4. Danuta Hinc says:

    You did! And this was one of the most beautiful moments of my life (so far). I can’t believe you don’t remember 😉

  5. Thank you for this blog. Beautifully written. I’ve just returned from a week at the beach and you captured so much of what makes such moments the ones that stay with us throughout our lives. I sometimes think that the ocean makes philosophers of all of us.

  6. Danuta Hinc says:

    John, thank you for reading. I think you are right; something about the sound or the space makes philosophers of all of us.