I don’t much like the beach. Sure, a beach all sounds so wonderful: the surf, the sand, the sun. And yet, that surf is bracing cold ten months a year, the other months being hurricane season, and the salt water leaves this weird skin film and also you can’t rule out jellyfish. That sand is a plague forever dug out of my ears and other delicate places. Then there’s the sun. The sun is what gets me, a pure broil on my Irish skin. It’s SPF bazillion or extra crispy for me. Then figure in the crowds. No, I don’t much like the beach.
But I absolutely need it.
Water for us in Nashville is another creek that we’re lousy with, or it’s a dammed-up river, thank you Mr. TVA. Big water, say like ocean big, means
a serious jaunt. From Second Avenue, it’s 450 miles to the Panhandle, 550 to Hilton Head, 750 miles to the Outer Banks. Every now and again, a tropical depression will drag itself this far inland. All we get is more humidity and rain, and we get plenty of that already. What we don’t have is ocean, and getting there takes a journey. It takes intent.
It’s Buffet-esque to admit, but for us landlockers an actual beach brings an actual change of pace. At a beach I can breathe literally and figuratively. I can hear the surf, take in its deep blues and solemn grays or else the bright sun on the bright sand. The beach is a mental salve even if it comes with actual salve for the sunburn. And windburn. I burn easy, is what I’m saying.
You would assume, like sane folks, I take advantage of beach time and give my perma-thinking brain a rest. Nope. I tend to think more because I can think better. Slowed-down, my thoughts turn deeper about what forces are working on me or me on them, about where I’ve come since the last beach break and about life’s stretch ahead. About beauty and priority. A slow sorting of purpose is its own awesome rest, even it never ends.
Really, I walk. For hours. The earphones go on, and up the beach and back I march, up and back, up and back, feet sloshing the surf if I’m sold on a low jellyfish situation (I got stung as a kid, okay?). You would know this is me. The tell-tale headphones, the tee-shirt (Irish skin, okay?), the faraway gaze of someone checking out their inner and outer horizon. I’m an introverted land shark unable to stop moving or else fry. This is me at a beach, with rum drinks come sundown.
There are other benefits to a good beach walk. For one, standing gives you a high trade wind profile that keeps you cool. For another, you learn the beach itself. The dolphin action, where the shells pile and tides pool and which birds do what bird things where. The freighter routes, since I’m horizon-gazing. Importantly, you meet the best dogs. Surf dogs, frisbee dogs, driftwood stick dogs. Old dogs happy to plod the water like me.
Once on St. Kitts, I had to route around cows enjoying a beach morning. They were content to munch scrub and not charge so long as I greeted them and behaved, which of course I did. I am a citizen of the world. Plus, cows on the beach? You can’t see stuff like that in Nashville.
In a couple months I’m headed back for needed beach time. I’ll have the sunblock ready, and some tee-shirts and aqua socks as my hedge against jellyfish. If fate is kind, our resort will have rum drinks ready and waiting. I’ll scrape sand from unthinkable places and drink to beauty and fiction, to dogs and cows everywhere, to one life’s stretch over and a next one to come.