A Northern California beach is about cold water, waves, sand crabs, sea weed, chilly wind, and sun burns. When I took Florida-raised Howard to his first California beach, he was a bit dismayed. When he took me to my first Florida beach, I watched the gently rippling water and thought it was like a giant bath tub. They are each beautiful in their own ways. I can’t honestly say which I prefer, but I do know which one feels more like home.
I spent some time with my eyes closed just feeling the wind on my skin and listening to the sound of the waves. Oceans are loud, very little else can be heard with the surf right there. I like that some. With so much ocean noise there was less space for my own circling thoughts. This is good, because I’m tired of the tight little circles my thoughts have been taking lately. They wear a groove in my brain and I can’t tell if they make sense anymore.
I didn’t get all the way wet. The water was shockingly cold on my feet, and I measured that against the wind. I knew if I got immersed, I would be very cold for quite awhile afterward. I just recovered from being sick. In fact I’m not certain that I’m a hundred percent better yet. So I dabbled in the edges of the water. I watched the kids body surf. I got sandy and a little bit sunburned. I admired the haul of sand crabs. I ate sand with my lunch. And I closed my eyes to listen to the surf, feel the wind, and taste the salt in the air. Yet when time came to leave, I carried regret with me up the hill. My younger self jumped the waves and rode them to shore. Somewhere in the years, I became a person who counts the cost and makes “smart” choices. I wonder if this is something that comes with age, or if I’ve just become unable to dive in and participate without thinking so far ahead that I don’t fully commit my energy to the task at hand. I was wise to not chill myself, but there is something to be said for profligate joy in the moment.
It has been hours since I left the beach. If I close my eyes I can feel the wind pressing against me, as if my skin remembers having to resist all morning. I washed off the sand, but I can still feel it against my feet. It will be years again before I’m back at a beach. I wish I could store up the feel of the wind and the pounding of the surf. If I could just tuck it into some corner of memory and pull it out sometimes that would be lovely. Instead I have some pictures, which show my eyes what the beach was like, but don’t help me preserve the sound, feel, or smells. I brought home a little shell. It is a tiny, ordinary thing, but I can touch it. Perhaps in the touching, I will be able to remember. It will work for a time. Then I’ll have to arrange to have another beach day so that I can remember again all the various inconveniences and discomforts that are an essential part of a day at the beach. They’re all part of what I love about the beach.
We drove past little houses as we left. Perhaps some day I’ll rent a little beach house and spend several days out on the beaches. Of course, first I’ll have to learn how to leave my regular routines without anxiety, but that is a separate consideration. For now, I need to sleep and dream of beaches.