Beach not a good workplace
“The beach,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh told readers in 1955, “is not the place to work; to read, write or think . . . Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline . . .”
I thought about this last week as I stood near a writing desk at a beach house in Destin, Fla. Like the desks I’ve found in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, the work station in Destin showed no signs that anyone had ever used it for work. A wooden affair painted ivory, the desk top was as spotless as a church altar, with not a single scratch suggesting a pen pressed too hard to paper or even the faintest stain from errant ink. The floor beneath revealed no tracks from the traffic of a chair, as one might expect from a spot that gets regular use. The chair at the desk, although a lovely thing, seemed more suited to a dining room than a writing table.
I doubt that any guests had used the desk to square accounts, dash off a business letter or compose a poem.
I enjoyed glancing at the desk each day as I padded down the stairs for breakfast, beach reading, then afternoon swims in a nearby pool. The desk and chair posed the possibility that I might do something more constructive than shaking the sand from my toes or turning the page of a book.
But I knew, as Lindbergh learned before me, that any plans for work at the beach are largely an illusion. The senses become much too dull to spark any gumption.
The desk overlooked one of a dozen windows that framed the shore as perfectly as a travel poster — flawless sky brushed by clouds of meringue. All those windows facing the sea made me feel enclosed within a glass diving bell, inhabiting a world constructed solely for the pleasure of the view.
As in most beach houses, the rooms rhymed visually with the sea and the shore, which meant lots of pastels. The walls were the color of sand tinged with sunshine. The fish in the huge watercolors above the banister were the same blue as the beach sky. The color scheme created a feeling that the house and the beach were the same thing, that the rooms had grown from the landscape as gradually as a length of coral, or the strands of morning glories lacing the dunes beyond the porch.
Some laborers replacing the beach house roof occasionally reminded us that we were staying in a place built and maintained by human hands. The roofers represented the world of work we’d left behind.
Each evening, from the third-floor balcony outside our bedroom, I watched the beachcombers plying the dark with their flashlights, each night walker a tiny constellation moving along the shore. For much of the year, I live in an equally small compass of vision, my life defined by a tight circle of home and work, school and church.
I go to the beach to remember that the world is bigger than I imagine, the sky vaster, the sea deeper.
Lindbergh was right about the beach being unsuited for work. Soon, I’ll be camping in the woods, and I bet that’s not a good place to work, either.