As a young lad, I felt compelled to “run the jetty” whenever I came across a breakwater. No matter where I was—New York, Massachusetts, or Greece—if there was a jetty of giant cluttered boulders jutting out into the open ocean, it called on me to take its silent challenge.

Approaching the jig-saw strewn boulders with eyes down, I chose to take each step as it came, an immediate decision requiring perfect foot placement and balance if I was to avoid a bone-breaking spill. During summers, I’d often run the jetty barefoot, limiting my choice of stepping-stones further by disqualifying any rocks that appeared to have sharp edges.

Depending on my mood, I might attack the breakwater, sprint-jumping step-to-step, events moving too quickly to think as I searched for the following landing site for my foot even before planting the first leg. To be successful at this game required an absolute faith that a suitable target would appear, often at the last possible instant. And it always did.

Other times, my stride would be a slower, rhythmic gallop, but either way, the play demanded deciding foot placement in a flash from moment to moment. No matter my style, my unspoken goal was to push aside the continuous loop of stories that ran through my head, stop thinking, rest my brain, and allow imagination room to breathe. Running the jetty always did the trick.

Reaching the jetty’s end, breathless with heart-pounding and leg muscles burning in short-term exhaustion, I would briefly rest while gazing out at the open ocean in its various moods. All was possible; all was ahead of me. Except for the jetty—that was now.

I was to have other moments of intense concentration in my life that achieved the same goal, mostly while flying or diving. Despite extreme and often dangerous circumstances, each one presented the same intervals of peace from the mind’s constant chatter.

It is only now, no longer physically up for past tests, that I look within for that same quality of peaceful acquiesce. Of course, it takes far longer to achieve a lesser result, but it is there. Such is life.

Still, an image of a jetty in my mind’s eye inspires a familiar, reassuring longing; a welcome friend returned from the shadows to help usher me home in timeless unity.

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