Home Free Writes Prompt a Week Classes Events Contests For Kids Conference About Contact Us

Nonfiction First Place

“Getting My Feet Wet,”

by Lisa Graff

When I drove over the bridge one year ago to retire to the Delaware seashore, I was certain that I would never miss the crazy working world. I would have time to write, explore new things, and retreat to the beach whenever my heart desired.  I would become a graceful blue heron content to stand in the water. Not so, my friends.  Living in a Lewes cornfield, I was a lone grackle, indecisive about what to do after I drank my morning coffee, aghast in the realization that working gave me a sense of purpose and a structure I depended upon for so long that I couldn’t handle the freedom. How did I rediscover a purposeful life, make new friends and give myself permission to soar like a heron?

For the past year I began to rediscover me. Thank God for yoga or I might be dead by now. The practice teaches you how to breath and for the last 56 years I have had enormous trouble in this department.  Judging from the size of the class, I am not a lone yogi. When I wake up in the morning agonizing about what I think I should be doing that day, I find a space on the blanket and listen to the teacher’s soothing voice, “Breathe in slowly and when you exhale, let go of your fears.”  My entire life has been about hyperventilating. Even my kindergarten report card said, “Your child has trouble resting during quiet time.”  A vast expanse of time that I always dreamed about now stretches the entire coastline from Lewes to Fenwick and it is mine for the taking. My new mantra is, “Just be.”  My old thinking is “Be what?” 

Last fall, when I would normally be gearing up to teach seven year olds, I signed up for Beginning Basketry and a Watercolor class at the Osher Center for Higher Learning, a true gift of a place if you haven’t experienced it yet. At the very least I thought my friends would get a big laugh when I told them that l signed up for Basket 101. I found solace in company of locals and in the simple mantra, “over and under, over and under” and when it was all over and I had exhausted the patient teacher, I produced two baskets.  I learned how to be a student who makes mistakes.  However, learning to paint with water color was extremely difficult and not the best medium for me.  Depending on the amount of water added to paint, there is no color at all or it blends into one huge ugly brown gray.  I gained profound respect for artists whom have mastered how to apply paint to paper so it stays where they intend it to stay so now I seek out local artists and buy their work to hang on my walls as a reminder of my humility or until I summon the courage to try again.

The truth is that once I gave up teaching, I assumed I’d finish my novel, a novel so brilliant that Oprah would come out of retirement to promote it. I created a writer’s haven, a room of one’s own, forbid my husband to enter it even to play solitaire. The hummingbird feeder was strategically placed outside my window for inspiration.  I stared at the computer screen but succumbed to mundane tasks like scrubbing mold off the patio furniture or the siding. Got up to make sugar water and circled the house three times, picking dead leaves off plants.

So for inspiration I joined the Rehoboth Writer’s Guild and attend free writes at the local libraries and workshops with other authors. Most importantly, I read my work out loud once a month at the Beseme restaurant where writer friends support me and I applaud them too for the courage to be writers. Writers are like those balloon bag toys. Each rejection is a punch to the floor and yet we are back up wobbling for more.

One of the best changes in my new life is having time to take walks or ride my bike on state trails. Exercise forces you to breath. I joined the Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park. I am willing to pick up trash on the trails, work a book sale, participate in chocolate tastings and borrow one of their free bikes too. I can take barefoot walks on Delaware beaches and recharge my brain instead of my cell phone. When I stare out at the vastness of the ocean, witness sandpipers drilling for dinner, and notice the many children and families who likely only come to the shore for one week vacation, I am made grateful. 

 Last spring I became a volunteer docent at the Ryves Holt house in Lewes, and I proudly announce to visitors when they enter, “You are now standing in the oldest house on its original foundation in the state of Delaware.” I share my love of Lewes with vacationers who wish they lived here. On Saturdays I attend the Farmer’s Markets and buy arugula, cheeses and a coffee can of chrysanthemums. I drive to Rehoboth to revel in the joy on everyone’s faces as they eat Thrashers or soft ice cream or Fisher’s popcorn.  I drive down Dairy Farm road and join the tourists and the locals lined up at the window at Hopkins Farm to order chocolate banana walnut ice cream and smell the languid cows eyeing me as I lick my cone. 

My grown daughter is embarrassed that I like the phrase lower slower Delaware but yoga encourages me to use less energy to accomplish the same tasks. People who live here don’t hurry as much as in the bigger cities and they seem friendlier too.  When you ask someone how they are, they actually answer you honestly.  You might learn that the corn crop needs rain or that the fish are biting. The clerks come out from behind their counters to help you find things even if they leave other customers in line. These Delawareans are more patient than city folk.

So I am going to make another basket. I’m going to keep writing and going to yoga.    Like a new kid on the playground at recess, I have made new friends. I found a new pew in a different church and have begun to participate in community outreach programs.  My mother used to love to tell the story about me as a young two year old standing on the seashore for hours looking out to sea. She asked me, “When are you going in the water?”  I would point at those tall waves and answer, “When they stop coming in.” Change was hard work for me. Retirement is getting my feet wet.  Not holding my breath in vain. I must be patient and appreciate the motion of the water.

Copyright © 2009 Rehoboth Beach Writers' Guild.  All Rights Reserved