Neither Out Far Nor In Deep


The people along the sand

All turn and look one way.

They turn their back on the land.

They look at the sea all day.


As long as it takes to pass

A ship keeps raising its hull;

The wetter ground like glass

Reflects a standing gull


The land may vary more;

But wherever the truth may be-

The water comes ashore,

And the people look at the sea.


They cannot look out far.

They cannot look in deep.

But when was that ever a bar

To any watch they keep?


~Robert Frost

By Joe Rector

Can you tell that I’m on vacation? Yep, Amy and I are suffering miserably as we sit under an umbrella on the sands of Isle of Palms, our favorite vacation destination. Admittedly, my life isn’t enough to demand a vacation; I simply like some time with the sand and the ocean. Amy, on the other hand, NEEDS a break from life. It’s been too long since she’s had the chance to escape the demands of each day. At any rate, we’re “sunning and funning” here.

The Frost poem above accurately describes most of the folks around here. We’re tourist from all over the place. I’ve met a man from New York; I’ve talked with another man from just down the road from where we live; and I met a family with a dog named Snoopy. Normally, we’d have passed each other with a nod of heads at most. However, something happens to folks when we they put on bathing suits. Suddenly, we become a little politer, a little more conversational, and a little more patient.

The beach is where our biggest changes occur. I know that there I become a much more “laid back” individual. Even my movements are slower, although aching joints might contribute to that. I sit in a chair, grab a book and cold drink, and don’t’ move for hours. On occasion, folks stroll toward the water. Some play in the surf, while others move their chairs to the water’s edge to allow the waves to wash over their feet. A few make a quick trip to take quick dips to cool before hustling back to their chairs and umbrellas.

For the most part, vacationers migrate to the ocean to renew. It’s a place where a men and women can stare out into the distance without having others think something is seriously wrong with them. We who make the trip simply look out at the vastness of the ocean in awe. It proves to us just how insignificant we are in the grander scheme of things.

Staring out not too far nor too deep is our special way of finding a bit of peace in our lives. Some of us commune with our lord; others reach major decisions about their lives, whether they concern personal relationships, financial problems, or work-related concerns. “Away” from it all is the best place to put balance back into life before returning to it.

Robert Frost knew a great deal about people. Some might say this poem is about the shallowness of our lives and our inability to find insight. I’d rather think that Frost knew how important a closeness to nature is to each person in this world. That’s my take on it, so I’ll end this piece and return to that view that does so much for me.