I ran a way this week. I was feeling melancholy and a bit invisible. I packed a bag, filled a water bottle, grabbed a credit card, and took off into the great unknown. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I almost texted someone and then thought no, I’ll be fine. So off I went. I had an idea of where I was going but I got distracted, missed a transfer, and found myself right in the middle of LOST!
A woman sitting across from me on the train says, “I know where you’re going. I’ll get you there.” So for the next hour, I let this stranger be my guide. We stood waiting for a bus and had talked life, career, family, Hurricane Sandy, love, and then she asks, “Do you ever have a day where you just run away and don’t tell anyone where you are?” “Why yes, you’ve caught me in my very own run away today, actually." She smiled and said, “We don’t even know each other’s names and yet we are sisters in being anonymous. That’s comforting.”
She got me safely where I was going - The Rockaways! So the secret's out, I ran away to the beach. For those who don’t know, the Rockaways is a peninsula of Long Island, Queens near JFK airport. In 20 years of New York living, I’d never been. I wanted one more day of sun, one more day of sand between my toes, one more day of being in the water. It. Was. Glorious.
I walked the beach for the first 3 hours and then rewarded myself with a swim (and a cheeseburger, fries, and ice cream.) Now swimming in the ocean is no joke. It is full of extremes. The salt water that stings your eyes and coats the inside of your mouth, (the cold, cold water despite being warmed by 90 degree temperatures the day before,) and the force of the waves is one of the most extreme things I’ve ever encountered.
You jump a little wave, and then you either take on a bigger wave by diving underneath it and swim out the other side, or you become heroic and swim with a wave as it crashes back to shore. Both options are exhilarating. If you choose the heroic swim, you’ll almost always be relieved when you come up for air. I am a great swimmer, but the ocean has a way of slamming you around just to make sure you know who is in charge. It is humbling and empowering at every turn.
I have an angel swimming with me when I am out in big water. I lost my friend Renton Kirk to a riptide in the waters off Fire Island 10 years ago this month, so I swim honoring him and I stay extremely mindful. I was on vacation in the Amalfi coast when his body was found. I knew open water swimming would haunt me if I didn’t face it right away. I was traveling with one of my best friends, Randle, and he helped me make peace with my fear and we dove into the Tyrrhenian sea that day. I think about Renton a lot, and now I often face my fears by diving in and disarming them before they get the best of me.
I promised myself one last wave before going home and it was a big one. I dove under and came up a little out of breath and out of sorts. Right next to me this pipsqueak of a little girl, sputtering and grinning a mile wide, grabs on to me and says, “Isn’t this just the greatest?!” She was the only other person who had acknowledged me that day besides my first anonymous guide, and yet I felt so seen. I didn’t feel like a runaway at all. This was a red-letter day I will tightly hold onto as I embrace the seasons to come.
Last week, I asked if you’d had enough watermelon this Summer. My answer was no, so I’ve made one last salad to tide me over until next Summer.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt and pepper to your liking
- 5 cups cubed watermelon
- 1 cucumber spiralized, or shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata cheese
Combine the first 5 ingredients to make a dressing. Arrange melon, cucumber, and cheese on a platter and drizzle with the sweet lime dressing. Remember your red-letter day from the Summer of 2014 and enjoy!