“Attic Salt” for July 15, 2012

BY ED CULLEN

Advocate staff writer

Once, an essay I’d written on the Atchafalaya Basin aired on National Public Radio as tens upon tens of listeners were crossing South Louisiana on the I-10 Atchafalaya Basin elevated highway.

I got emails from all over once the travelers had stopped for the night or gotten back home.

This was a couple of years ago before we Tweeted to say, “The sun’s up here. What about at your house?”

The Atchafalaya Basin travelers marveled at driving across the great swamp while listening to someone read an essay on driving across the great swamp.

Something like that happened to me at the beach this summer.

I’d quickly reached the point of no-time, that feeling of being in a sanitarium but not closely watched.

There’s a place down the road from our beach house called “Sandy-tarium,” so I’m not the first to compare a beach stay to hospitalization alfresco.

Awaking from a nap, I thought I was still dreaming when I heard the NPR host say: “Next up an interview with an academic who’s researched the American vacation and will explain it.”

I delayed putting on the tea long enough to hear what the professor had to say.

He did a thorough job of laying out why we take vacations, but I was fiddling with the teapot in no time. The learned man’s findings were like listening to Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar dissect humor.

Talking about how to relax is like listening to a great jazz musician describing the piece he’s about to play.

You’re telling the radio the whole time, “Just play it.”

Artists can’t describe their work. Dancers can’t take us through the dance. They express themselves in what they DO.

I spent a little time waiting for the tea to brew to the color of old brick pondering why I was so relaxed, why I looked forward to dreaming and why I couldn’t wait to go to sleep at 9 in the evening to wake at sunrise to spend another day feeling good and not wondering why.

I have no trouble sleeping anytime anywhere, but I tell myself that I must take long walks on the beach to sleep nights after taking afternoon nights.

I find that an equal number of hours waking and sleeping to be the perfect balance.

Back at work, the computers seized up for a few minutes, sending up yowls from editors and reporters across the fourth floor. Then, the things unfroze, and we went back to work.

It hit me. I knew why the beach does for me what it does. The surf never freezes in mid-crash. The surf rolls in, pulls back, rolls in. All night, there is the sound of a railroad switching yard outside the bedroom window as the waves run into land with the force of boxcars colliding with other boxcars.

Picture this: You’re having a glass of wine on a wooden deck weathered gray as you watch the afternoon waves come in.

You stop in mid sip as the surf freezes for two seconds before crashing with a boom.

You spend the rest of vacation wondering, “Why the hesitation? Who do I call?”

Send email to ecullen@theadvocate.com.