Sometimes we rush through our lives doing the things we're supposed to be doing, whether it's for money or obligation or what's expected of us. And sometimes, when we take a breath and look around, we figure out what it is we need to be doing.
Which is why I don't have a ton of my daughter on the beach.
If I had really been concerned about the time, I'd have packed us up early the last morning in Wiggins and headed back to Little Rock post haste. But last summer Grav and I spent a few hours walking the beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I wanted to share that with her.
She has seen the sea before, just once. We were in Galveston, and I took her up in my arms and walked out into the brown water of an incoming tide and she climbed me like a vine wanting out. She was almost three years old.
This time, she's seven, and being just 35 miles from Gulfport, I asked if she wanted to see it again.
And she did.
It wasn't that we spent all that much time out there. We drove to the southern terminus of US Highway 49 and turned left and pulled in along US Highway 90, which runs along the coast throughout Mississippi and Alabama and part of Florida. I changed out of my socks and into sandals and wrapped my light coat around me and Hunter tucked into her rain jacket and we walked out onto the white sand.
She commented on the seagulls, with their constant chatter, rather than the beat of the waves on the sand. She was fascinated with the way they interacted rather than the debris on the beach.
I took a few photos with my phone. And then I put it in my pocket while we walked and explored.
It came out a few times, like when we found this strange headless baby doll in the sand. We found other things, too - shells, of course, but also plastic bottles and clothing and pieces of hard plastic.
In the shallows we found so many jellyfish.
There was nothing special about this Sunday noontime. The sky was full of light and the water was clear and what few other people were on the beach left us to our own devices.
But for a few minutes, Hunter and I were out of conventional time, just existing on the edge of the continent, her questions answered as they came, but mostly it was just the two of us, spending time walking next to the waves.
I walked out in my sandals and picked up a particularly shiny shell out of the water for her. She found a weathered necklace that had washed ashore. And eventually we decided we needed to begin the trek back to Little Rock, a trek that would consume the next nine hours.
Most of the time, there's a reason I take photos or write a story, some big hint for travelers to impart or a story to tell. This time, it's just a memory, a memory that's still as alive to me as the sand in my sandals and the shell I found today in Hunter's door pocket. All it cost us was a little gas and about an hour and a half of travel time. And I doubt either of us will ever forget it.