Neuroplasticity & Recovery by the Sea

The day “off” started out with a few jarring reports about an unbudgeted car repair and  unexpected attention needed  to a broken molar tooth. Extra clinic hours and make up days at school had been consuming my thoughts and time already, as I was endeavoring to dig in and tweek my schedule for the next few months. “Finishing” an endeavor seems more important these days than ever before, but it has also been more physically exhausting than ever imagined. So taking my limping car for a second opinion at a local auto shop, before dropping a boatload of capital into transportation needed to complete academic goals to secure a preferred  job, led me to a locally owned garage a block off the beach. After making an appointment I considered that studying might still be a good idea, though it was late in the day.

I confess: the pleasant temperatures and hard to ignore sound of ocean waves on a late Floridian fall afternoon has its draw.The fact that a seaside ocean park lot could be seen directly across the street as I was leaving my 2nd hope for mechanical soundness without breaking the bank, quickly factored into an impromptu stop to read and “study”.(In retrospect it’s amazing to me how we can “miss” opportunities within reach to enjoy natural perks around us, because we are too busy being serious and disciplined and “productive”.) Seaweed hitting the fan has a way of waking us up to what others have already figured out is essential to their survival kit.

As I gathered up an old quilt in the back of my car, missing the two dogs usually anchoring it to seats behind me when I serve as tour guide, I dutifully swung my book bag over a shoulder and consoled myself with flip flops that allowed my feet to breath, unlike the confining shoes required for work and school.

Quickly it became apparent I’d chosen a hotspot for surfers, who proved to be a little distracting as I spread my quilt and opened a thick textbook. Lines from the first few pages dealing with the topic of Pain and it’s perception, lifted off the pages and jostled me back to the topic at hand:  Neuroplasticity –  the ability of neurons in the brain to change perceptions of pain by various thought processes initiating chemical and hormonal changes, compensating for damage to the central nervous system by trauma of different kinds……essential to learning and the creation of new memories, as well as a reduction of perceived  pain. It was interesting to note that chronic pain and depression often occur together and can lead to a vicious cycle and downward spiral, if not interrupted. When the words stopped making sense, I looked up from reading.

Today I sat by the ocean and listened to its rush and retreat, considering Pain.

I watched surfers waiting for waves and wondered how many of them had been slapped down and felt pain, and yet they had returned to try and experience again the rush of catching a wave and riding out its curl. They waited patiently, anticipating an experience that would make them forget the pain of failed attempts, rising and falling, rocking and surveying the horizon for the promise of an incoming ride ashore.

Birds flew above the foam or scuttled along its encroaching line on the compacted sand as waters washed ashore then receded quietly to meet the next incoming breaker. A small, fragile bird on skinny legs wandered up to the edge of my tattered quilt and cocked it’s head as if to say, “Why are you waiting? It’s safe here! See!”, before it skuttled away to chase sand crabs digging impromptu, escape-hatch burrows .

A white drone, shaped like an unnatural  geometric seagull, hovered out over the water then glided over surfers distracted by its presence. It is a curiosity noticed by others walking the beach, who are perhaps wondering like me about its invisible controller’s intent.

Luxury cruise ships lazily afford their passengers a distant view of the shore as early evening patrons embark on strolls or jogs, and the surfers revel with each new waves increased size.

Today the ocean is kind and there is no contesting the allure of its rush and hush. It is mesmerizing. Hypnotic. And there is no lack of understanding why it has been prescribed for centuries as a tonic to cure a multitude of ills.

It is not the hills and forests, wildflowers and foliage, or more distinct seasons I miss. But it is something. It holds and offers an elixir needed for encouragement and restoration, as well. And for now, it will have to be enough to reduce perceived pain,  whether real or imagined, physical or psychological. A gift to promote healing where I find myself for a season.

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