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Second Thoughts: A chance to get away

"You need camera," said the dark-skinned man striding along the Mazatlan beach, swinging a beer bottle by its long neck.

"Where are you from?" he asked. "Canada?"

I said I was from the U.S. That seemed to cinch it for him.

"You need camera," he declared firmly, marching off without waiting for a response.

This stranger's comments weren't as intrusive as they might sound.

Here I was with my winter-pale skin standing alone just at the edge of the tide, savoring the approach of sunset on a long stretch of beach.

The colors of the sky weren't spectacular, they went deeper than that. They were subtle shades of pink, blue, tangerine and gray, like frayed ribbons. The breeze soft on the skin and the warm ocean water lapping occasionally over feet, the whole experience surrounded me and I breathed it in.

I felt like the description of yoga's mountain pose -- me making the connection between earth and sky, feet on the sand and head touching the heavens.

It was like being the only one to see into eternity, and it wasn't a time easily shared. Talking, oohing and awing were not appropriate.

A camera won't do it, I thought, silently responding to a man who probably saw this view every day, but still went out of his way to take the beach route home.

My sisters and I talk about our attraction to large bodies of water, whether it's the nearby Great Lakes or the coast of Oregon, California, Florida or somewhere in the Caribbean.

It's not just the yearning of in-landers for openness. I think it's the remarkable feeling of being able to see until you can't tell if you're seeing sky or ocean.

My home is sheltered in the trees. The only way, from inside the house, to view the sunset is by standing on a chair and looking out the small bedroom window.

Our house was built carefully into the side of a hill for shelter, with large windows facing south for wintertime sun, and few and smaller windows on the north and west sides.

When we were drawing up the plans, no one thought of sunsets. We are safe from strong wings, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis and other extremes of nature.

But sometimes I think "shelter" goes too far and carries the risk of being protected from the beauty that is nature -- though I know that beauty, much different here, is just as real in Wisconsin as it is on the ocean shore.

I think of the words in the song sung by Eva Cassidy about a young wife and mother irritated by passers-through ogling the scenery in the town where she's trapped.

"But it's just a dumb old mountain. I see it every day," sings the girl. "Maybe Bill and I someday will find a chance to get away."

Now as the early spring sends out buds and shoots in the scenery that I see every day, I promise myself to take the time to just watch, enjoy and feel the season.

But the getting-away part is important too. My husband and I did have a camera.

The pictures we took in Mazatlan are framed in a collage. While they help, I really don't need them to feel myself back on the beach and to relive that feeling of intense amazement and completeness.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.