She scanned the landscape through a small window in her office. The world was a desolate white as far as the eye could see. All the ground was white, trees were bare brown. Icicles hung frigidly from the roof tops. It has been an exceptionally long winter with record breaking snow-storms.
She walked to the chair behind the desk and sat down. She reached for a magazine from a pile that was stacked neatly on one corner of the desk-top. She thumbed through the glossy pages of the gardening magazine for a glimpse of summer flowers and spring blooms. She dreamed of warm blue skies decorated with long strands of white, wispy clouds as they curved down to meet the ocean at the horizon.
After a while, she put away the magazine and pulled out her appointment book. Most of last week’s massages were cancelled on account of the storm. The roads were still treacherous in the aftermath. Last year was a tough one. The nation’s weak economy bit into her business, taking away a huge chunk, tightening purse strings and cancelling a long over-due vacation.
The New Year looked brighter. “Things are not so bad,” she told herself. She could still manage. She has weathered storms worse than this. Only, this was shaping to be another year without a vacation. She crinkled her nose and smiled dryly.
She could not remember the last time she had taken a vacation. Oh well, she shrugged, as long as she could make it to the beach in summer she would be fine. For every year that she could not take a vacation, Heidi never failed to spend a day at the beach. That was all the annual respite she needed – one warm, beautiful day at the beach reminiscent of home and childhood, with sand between her toes, bathing in the warmth of the sun. She dreamt of the day and chuckled softly.
The cherry trees around the tidal basin burst into blossoms filling up the place with tourists. The carefully landscaped gardens burst into tulips and daffodils. Fresh colors sprung up through the region, erasing all traces of winter.
Business came and went. Some days she gave over half a dozen massages, nearly falling asleep in her office. Other days she waited for the phone to ring.
She met with friends, went for brisk walks, made small repairs at home, rearranged furniture, and pampered the cats. Through it all she kept dreaming of that one perfect day at the beach. She pictured herself sitting on a large beach towel in a broad-rim straw hat, sunning herself as waves lapped lazily around her.
Summer came nice and hot with a couple of weeks of heat wave. Business turned brisk. Heidi decided to make some changes to her business. She decided to rent out the spare room to save cost. She decided to give facial massages. After meticulous online research, she enrolled in a weekend course that suited her best. She began interviewing people to rent out the spare room.
Caught up in the necessities of life, she was still trying to find that one free weekend unsuccessfully. With the beach trip not shaping up, she went to the condo’s pool and swam in water – warm enough to bathe.
September crept up; the pool closed down for the summer. Heidi attended a three-day course for facial massage during the second weekend. The rest were crammed with clients.
Halloween came and went. The turning foliage reminded her of a summer gone by without spending a single day at the beach. She was disappointed in herself for not making the time. Despite the season’s passing, the beach still beckoned.
So in the second week of November, Heidi packed her car with bright colored beach towels and folding chairs and drove to the nearest accessible beach on the Atlantic coastline. She didn’t care that the beach season was over. She didn’t care that it was a bad-weather day. All she wanted, was a little time on the beach – a well-deserved reprieve, from everyday pressures to savor life’s little pleasures. She parked her car and rolled down the window.
She grimaced slightly at the overcast sky. A cold wind blew in her face, dampening the mustered spirit. With waning determination, she stepped out of the car. She pulled up the jacket’s zipper all the way to the neck and pulled down the hood. She stood there – at the far end of the beach – staring at the ocean, trying to make up her mind about stepping into the waves.
After several minutes, she pulled the jacket around her as tightly as she could, rolled up her jeans, picked up her shoes and strode bravely toward chilly waters. She stuck her toe into the water gingerly, to feel the ocean. At that moment, sun broke through gray clouds, lighting up land and water briefly. Millions of sparkles glittered through the water, even the grey beach brightened up in the memory of summer.
Heidi inhaled deeply and took it all in – the cold ocean-air, the weak autumn sun shimmering on endless waters. She broke into a child’s smile, content. She stepped out of the water, walked to the car. The pilgrimage is complete for this year.