The Gulf Coast
I have been reading short stories by Southern writers. I came across a story by Elizabeth Spencer, “The Gulf Coast”.
“The first visit I made to this spot was during the summer of 1951. Already it seemed part of my own personal geography. Everyone had been to Ship Island. Picnics were talked of, summer days recalled.
On the first time for me, I walked ahead of friends (a man I went with, two friends of his) straight south, taking the walk through the dunes. Then, cresting, I saw before me what I’d come for without knowing it: the true Gulf, no horizon to curb its expanse, spread but infinite and free, restless with tossing whitecaps, rushing in to foam up the beach, retreating, returning, roaring. Out there, I thought, astonished, is Mexico, the Caribbean, South America. We are leaning outward to them. Everybody back on land, all along the coast, feels the presence, whether they consciously know it or not. What was it but distance, the leaning outward, the opening toward far-off, unlikely worlds? The beyond.”
To me, this embodies all the things I felt at Pensacola Beach. Being alone just after the dawning of the day, I used to go to Fort Pickens to lay out in the sand of a desolate and peaceful landscape. I could here cars passing behind me on occasion, not true traffic of any sort. No one as far as the eye could see. The bliss and freedom represented being in the company of divinity. Those days, in my late youth, were priceless and in describable. It was my church. It was my point to access God without interruption.
This was Daddy must feel when he goes fishing. The peace. The centering effect of being in the presence of all living things but no humans to spoil it. No noise to taint it. My mother would say, “come hell or high water, on Sunday, your Daddy was on the river.” Why on Earth, wouldn’t he be? It is serene.