The new book by Barbara Zitwer: WHEN THE SEA BELONGED TO US

Article and photos via Barbara Zitwer personal website

“This book smells like the ocean. After reading it you just want to embrace the world. ”

— Hape Kerkeling International bestselling author of I’m Off Then

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Barbara J. Zitwer

Barbara J. Zitwer

Dear Readers,

I have been going to Montauk since I was a child because it was my father’s favorite place to take our family.  I grew up at the beach on Long Island in New York, but as the development I lived in grew, the sand and beach became covered over in concrete and more houses were built.  So, my father would drive us out to Montauk where there are hardly any houses and thebeaches were untouched and reachedforever and we swam like dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean.  I learned to swim when I was very young and always love to swim in the ocean more than pools, or rivers or lakes.  I love to body surf and tumble in the waves and the Atlantic Ocean is cold but during the summers, it warms up and is perfect. When it’s so hot outside, a cool ocean feels so bracing and energizing.  There’s just nothing as good to me.   The Atlantic Ocean is not calm like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean- it can be wild and when it’s too rough, I love to watch it.  I have always been mesmerized by the ocean and it makes me so happy, calm, fulfilled and gives me a sense of being at one with nature and the universe. Everyone who knows me thinks I am a mermaid or part dolphin definitely!  I used to swim out so far from the beach when I was a child that my mother would become hysterical but I just loved feeling so free and to swim.   I never understood her fears.  I guess I inherited my love of the ocean and the beach from my father and my younger, sister did too.  We always go to Montauk together when we can.  And no matter how much we sisters argue or fight with each other as sisters, of course do, when we are in Montauk, we are like two peas in a pod!

Montauk is called Land’s End because it is at the very tip of Long Island – the next stop from the beach is way across the ocean to England.  So, since I was a child, I have returned to Montauk to feel peaceful, happy, safe, and to be embraced by nature. Throughout the years, I have brought my best friends there to spend weekends and also I brought my husband there before we were married.  I love sharing Montauk with people I love.  I found myself on 9/11 in Montauk because I had taken a few days that September to be alone and read and walk on the beach and restore my energy after a particularly busy work summer.  I woke up in the tiny motel I stayed in and it was after the summer season closed, so there were only the local people around , which means that it was pretty empty. I walked to the diner and there were maybe three or four workmen sitting at the counter and I ordered coffee.  For some reason,  I had a strange sense that something was wrong but it was the most beautiful day; the sun shone so bright blue. It was electric; the sun was beaming.   Then I started listening to the low chattering of the people at the counter and I got up and asked if something was wrong.  They told me they heard something had happened in NYC.  I ran back to my motel and turned on the television and to my horror I watched.  I couldn’t return to the city for three or four days because no one was allowed back in.  I was stuck in Montauk but I felt that in a great sense, being there was a kind of salvation.  I was protected and nurtured at the same time that I was nearly out of my mind with grief, panic, fear and sadness.  I return to Montauk when I am overwhelmed with grief or sadness or bone-tired from working too hard.   I feel soothed by the ocean and the beach and I always feel better….. that I am able to go on.  But, whenever I leave Montauk, I feel a bit sad.  I never want to leave but I have to work and go back to the city and travel and I have responsibilities.  Maybe that is the magic of Montauk for me – it’s always fleeting and I am always left wanting more.

Barbara J. Zitwer

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