Crystal clear and chilly

On the very last full day of summer vacation last year I took Grace and Whit to one of my very favorite beaches, about an hour north of Boston.  We swam and built castles, wrote our names in the wet sand, and generally danced with the tides.  The day was nothing short of magical and remains one of my favorite memories of last summer.

This past weekend we went back.  It was crystal clear and chilly, and a fierce wind gusted over us.  The beach was nearly deserted and the tide was out.  Grace and Whit ran ahead of us, picking up driftwood walking sticks and leaning over to examine the empty, barnacle-crusted shell of a horseshoe crab.  We all admired the ripples in the sand, noticing with wonderment how quickly – and temporarily, because the tide comes back in and erases it – the wind leaves its mark on the earth.

My parents often took Hilary and me on outings like this when we were kids; I thought of that as I watched my own children run on the packed sand, their coats flapping behind them like capes.  The years collapsed, as they so often do, and I marveled at how enormous swaths of life can sometimes compress into mere moments.

It was cold, my eyes were watering, my hair was flying in my face, but I felt a tremendous, surpassing peace for that hour on the beach.  I love the coast, drawn as I am to liminal places, to the border where one world melts into the next.  I am happiest near the ocean, that much I know for sure.  The weather and time of year doesn’t matter – in fact in many ways I prefer the beach off season, when it is more likely to be empty.  I just need to stand beside the ocean, to listen to the roar and the murmur of water and land meeting, the boundary between them mutable, redrawn every moment as the tide shifts back and forth in an echo of the waxing and waning moon.  And so, on Saturday, I did.

13 thoughts on “Crystal clear and chilly”

  1. I LOVE this post. You have such a way of putting into words things I have felt. The part about moments collapsing…beautiful. I too love to visit the ocean when no one else us there. 🙂

  2. so often i read your posts and feel: me too. even given our radically different backgrounds, the ‘me too’ sentiment emerges consistently. i too am “the happiest near the ocean.” the beach (sea, sand and sun) is where i feel most at ease, where i feel the divine.

  3. You put into words something I’ve been struggling to understand about myself. I, too, am drawn to liminal places, but I’ve always called them “borderlands.” And not just places but periods of time. I’ve always found myself most comfortable in times of transition, when life was in the process of becoming something else. Something for me to meditate on, for sure.

  4. Somehow, troubles truly do seem to melt away while at the beach. I am fortunate to live 5 minutes away from a beach (albeit a small beach, on the Long Island Sound) and it is my favorite thing about where I live. I walk down by the beach 2 or 3 times each week, with a friend or with my family. While troubles don’t really disappear, exactly, they do seem much more insignificant while at this “border where one world melts into the next.” And for that hour or so, I feel at peace and rejuvenated. Every single time. It never fails! Looks like you had a lovely day! And I also love “the years collapsed…”. Just poetic and perfect.

  5. Do you know E.B. White’s essay, “Once More to the Lake”? My favorite line from that amazing piece of writing goes something like this: “Everywhere we went, I had trouble making out which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants.”

    Going back to places you loved as a child, with your kids–that can be as good as it gets.

  6. I love going to the beach on the “off season.” Before it gets hot and loud and crowded. When the weather is chilly, and the beach is empty it feel secretive, and almost magical. A special moment to share with the ones you love.

  7. I am living through each day here just to get to the Cape. We may be planning an overnight in Boston and I know Cambridge will be on my husband’s agenda. We may just get to meet this year.

    Love this post, as I love all your posts.

Comments are closed.