The Beach

I love winter.  I love the starkness of barren trees against alabaster fields.  I love the way snow sparkles like diamonds when it blows against the street lights.  I love the way ice crystals trace fairy paths across my car’s windshield.  Frigid temperatures, moaning winds and climbing piles of snow thrill me.  Every snowfall of the season delights me. 

 

But this year was different.  Winter was hard.  Coworkers were strained and impatient.  Family members became ill.  I was called to serve on a jury for a murder trial.  The never ending snow, usually a white comforter to soften the world, became an ashen reminder of how cold and harsh life can be.

 

This morning as we drove to work, my son remarked, “I can’t wait for the beach!” 

Ah… the beach.  Just the sound of it warms my bones and relaxes my shoulders.  As much as I love winter, I love summer even more, because of the beach. 

 

For me, the beach is a mile-long expanse of grey sand on the rocky coast of New Hampshire.  It is totally unadulterated.  No boardwalk.  No ice cream stands.  No souvenir shops or Tiki huts. Just sand and water.

 

The beach has always been a gathering place for my family.  When I was a kid, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and all flocked to the beach when the summer sun was high.  The “old people” (parents and grandparents) sat in the fine, cool sand closest to the water, umbrellas raised and small children nearby.  Teenagers opted for the hot, coarse sand closest to the rocks.  We slathered ourselves with baby oil, turned up the transistor radio and played endless games of poker.  

 

It was at the beach that I rode waves with my father the day after a hurricane.  Giant swells tossed me upside down, skinning my face and knees on the sand.  Foolishly determined to keep up with him, I swam beside him, diving when he did, swimming when he did.  It was exhilarating and terrifying.  I was, quite literally, in over my head.  I thought I might die.  I loved it.

 

It was at the beach that I fell in love for the first time.  Like summer, the romance faded much too quickly.  Like summer, it carved a spot in my heart that even still remains warm and golden.

 

It was at the beach that my siblings and I gathered days after my father died.  Memories of him riding the surf were soothing balm to our broken hearts.

 

When I had children, I took them to the beach when their first summer arrived.  They too grew up in the cool sand by the water, and graduated to their own spots in the hot sand by the rocks.  They learned to ride the waves like my father, although he was not there to teach them.  They came to know their cousins, aunts and uncles at the beach.

 

At the beach, all barriers are down, and everyone is seventeen again.  Walls between youth and adult are razed by the waves.  We become the same, forged by the excitement of riding the surf until the bubbles carry us to where our tummies graze the sand.  We think more clearly. We talk more openly.  We listen with open ears and open hearts.  The rolling repetition of the surf calms our souls.

 

So, now that the last of the snow has melted, and the warm breezes and afternoon sun promises that summer is nearby, it is time for the beach once again.  It is time for my mind to calm, my heart to heal, and to play in the sun and the surf again.  All are welcome to join me.  I’ll be in the blue beach chair in the cool sand.

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