Sun of a Beach


We are not beach people.

I like the idea of the beach. I love being near water, but I cannot and will not tan as the result of being exposed to the sun. My options are the blinding whiteness of driven snow or the blistering redness of a spanked lobster and there is no in between. I don’t wear sunblock so much as I marinate in it while periodically basting myself on all sides for an even glaze.

Recently a friend of mine posted that she was planning to go to the beach with her sister and a group of friends and who wanted to join? And suddenly I was overcome with the urge to go to the beach. The beach she was proposing was down near San Diego, so by necessity we would have to make a day of it. I figured that if we spent the whole day there, then it would make the sunblock worth the hassle. And we could always bring our canopy for shade.

We arrived with canopy and cooler and a tote bag full of towels and met the group in the parking lot to hike down to the beach as a group. The thing that nobody told us was that this hike down to the beach was going to be roughly half a mile straight down the face of a cliff. The trailhead was marked by only one small, sticker-covered sign which read: STAY BACK, UNSTABLE CLIFFS.

The trail itself was steep and narrow and twisting and, in many places, badly eroded. But it was clearly The Trail: steps had been built out at intervals using railroad ties and there was a steady stream of gleaming, tan beach goers picking their way along the path in both directions. I tiptoed down the path in flip flops feeling as wide as Marie Antoinette with the tote bag on one hip and the cooler on the other, but the poor Curmudgeonly Lion did the whole trek with the canopy across his shoulders looking like he was being marched to crucifixion. So we made quite the procession.

We made it to the beach and found the rest of the group and set up our camp. Within minutes there was shade and Gatorade and a space for the second anointing of sunblock. The weather was hot enough to make the water seem inviting and even the water was warm enough to be enjoyable to wade into. It was a beach known for having quite good surf, but also rip currents and stingrays (which I made the mistake of reading about in advance). I hadn’t really planned on going into the water at all: I figured that if go and dip my toes in and consider that the total of my ablutions for the day, but the water turned out to be so pleasant that I waded out into the surf to jump waves until one of them got too big and tumbled me ass over teakettle and I decided that I’d had quite enough fun in the water. Maybe I would walk along the beach for a while instead.

Late in the afternoon, as the sun was sinking towards the horizon, I sat in the sand and stared out over the waves: just trying to Go And Be Now for a while. You don’t get many perfect days in life, but I felt certain that this was one of them and I just wanted to sink into it for a while.

Coming home afterwards, aching (because we had to hike a half mile straight back up) and covered in sand and salt we showered and fell into bed exhausted. Somehow, I felt like I’d come home a different person. I spent the next day happily happily doing all the domestic chores that I usually hate: laundry, vacuuming, sorting the recycling, organizing receipts, filing bills. Somehow these no longer felt like burdens. Life no longer felt small. It was as if the wave that had turned me upside down had baptized me into new life and sent me home whole and new.

Not to, you know, make a big deal of it or anything. It was just a day at the beach after all. But it was clearly just what I needed.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 17, 2018.

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