I am so happy, tucked safely in the shade of a big yellow umbrella while lulled by the crash of ocean waves against the endless sand. Families are pouring onto the beach as the clouds clear, joining the rest of us intrepids who were out here under total cloud cover. It’s clear that were the strong breeze to cease it would be suffocatingly hot out here, clouds or no clouds.
Some folks sit already bronzed, minimal cover, no umbrella, inviting tan or burn. A mom and three girls are playing lacrosse. I tense as their broad sweeping runs get very close, the sand kicking up, but they always veer off just as they’re in kicking distance to me. Still their play gets more and more aggressive till finally their mom calls a halt.
A gaggle of teenage girls arrives and sets themselves up before spraying each other with sunscreen, for what it’s worth, blowing away in the wind—I know because I did the same futile thing myself. I am truly feeling my age as I watch them, thinking, oh my god, how can that girl walk around in public with her ass cheeks hanging out? And I giggle as I see one of my fellow B&B guests, just a few feet behind the girls on the sand, and imagine how hard it must be for the man as the four girls flop face down on their towels, bums directly facing him all in a row. Did I mention he’s sitting next to his wife?
Three teenage boys, gangly and self-conscious, arrive bearing a huge boom box. I really tense up at this, anticipating the worst, and rehearse what I might say to them when rap and techno shatter the pleasant day as I implore them to move down the beach (“hey guys, I drove four hours and spend hundreds of dollars coming here to find a little peace…”). But then they just lie down to sun quietly, and a few minutes later, to my relief, a mom and dad arrive on the scene. They’re funny, moving in unison to set down their beach chairs just so, perfectly lined up, then doing the same with towels in front of the chairs, then lying upon the towels like a synchronized tan team.
By this time it’s become clear to me that the occasional tensing I experience in the face of potential noise or flung sand or small children shrieking loudly is quite silly, and I settle more calmly into my day, reading, ironically, a very Buddhisty book about being, and finding God in everyone, and letting go of all tension and worry. I see now in an epiphany (I am prone to epiphanies when my mind is free of everyday cares) that the beach is my practice of those teachings.
The big yellow umbrella above me flaps loudly but the pole stays buried in the sand where a muscled gal from a rental company put it. I know from experience that my own flimsy umbrella, which I left home, wouldn’t stand a chance in this wind. I’ve put my book in the beach bag now and am in full fledged observation mode, people watching, wave watching. The various pockets of teens, with or without parents, preen oh so casually for one another. The sun-conscious young parents adjust the little pup tents sheltering napping babies and toddlers. I am so happy here, warm but not too warm, comfortably perched in my deck chair now watching sea gulls in that amazing hover maneuver they do.
I decide suddenly to get up and hit the water. Grateful that I can actually stand up with relative ease from the low slung chair, thanks to two knee replacements plus water exercise and yoga, and I walk toward the water. There are a lot of people standing near the edge or into the water slightly, jumping as waves crash. But most of us shift back as the intensity of the roughness becomes clearer and the tug of the tide nearly knocks me off my feet as I clumsily try to escape its strong hold.
All overcastness is long gone now, the sky beach-day blue with just a few artful puffs of white clouds. I am getting hungry. I missed the B in my B&B this morning in favor of the B, despite my best intentions—I’d gone to bed (for me) early, but then couldn’t get to sleep till after 2. I bought a can of iced coffee onto the beach with me along with some granola, but hours later I am thinking wistfully of the amazing-smelling breakfast I missed. I had joked to my friend that I got to enjoy the beckoning of the bacon as the odor floated up to our little attic room, with none of the calories. I pick up my cell phone (I know, I know!) and call her as she goes up to our room, asking her to bring some snacks from my bag to tide me over till tea is served. And I think what a great idea it would be if there were dune buggies that went up and down the beach delivering lunch. Nothing fancy, or requiring refrigeration even, maybe PB&J, or hummus and veggies. Like the food trucks so popular on Washington, DC streets now, or the bygone delivery of snacks to your seats at the movie theaters, I feel certain these would be a hit.
I am fascinated by the language of the lifeguards on their high perches in a row down the beach. They wave small red flags in careful patterns one station at a time, then another station mimics the message, and so it goes down the row. I vow to find out what all those different waving patterns mean. And what I swear used to be a red flag with a big 2 on it on each station has been replaced with a black flag with a 2 instead. As the beach has filled more (though blessedly it’s not crowded) and the water’s become rougher, the lifeguards are no longer sitting but standing and scanning in hyper watchfulness.
Babies are so cute at the beach, like little bobble heads, rocking in the sand, some in the merest of suits, others decked out in full safety attire, safari hats protecting their heads and necks, swim shirts over their torsos, some with life vests on, too. Slightly older kids test their parents’ nerves by running into the churlish waves then back again, just escaping the undertow.
Books are read, magazines paged through, naps taken, sand castles crafted, people-watching endlessly entertaining. The sound of the waves, the warmth of the sand, the air blowing about—I never want to leave!