I started college in June, 1972 right after graduating from high school in May. I completed my undergraduate degree in December, 1975. During the three and one-half years from start to finish, I made a lot of trips home to Corpus Christi from school in Austin.
With rare exception, I spent at least a few hours on Padre Island with each trip home, looking for solitude on the beach. Island visits that coincided with cold snaps were my favorites, because of the deserted beaches; I had mile after mile of sandy beaches to myself. I spent most of my time on the beach walking, but what I remember best are the times I stopped, sat down, and gazed out on the beach and into the waves. Shore birds raced along the beach as the water began retreating after a wave came ashore, searching for food washed in by the water. Sea gulls soared near the water’s surface, diving abruptly when they spotted a suitable fish or shrimp in the waves.
Most of my few friends at the time had no interest in solitude; they wanted to be around other people. I wanted to be away from them. Yet, on the few occasions I encountered other solitary souls walking the beach in the dead of winter, I felt the urge to meet them, talk to them, learn what drew them to the solitude of the beach. I never did, of course, because I knew what they were there for; meeting me was not it.
I’ve wondered, since then, whether I might have made a friend for life, had I taken a moment to interrupt the solitude of one of those few other people enjoying the absence of frenzied humanity by introducing myself. I suspect I might have, but I will never know.