Far too much time has passed since I’ve spent an afternoon at our local beach. Some stretches of it have closed during this time of quarantine. Entire beach towns are blockaded. Though we’ve tried to behave and stay away, I miss—desperately—that singular beauty at the beach.
Disappointing to say, we only fit in one beach visit between the end of this past summer’s tourist season and the onslaught of quarantine restrictions. I’m as sorry for those waterfront seafood shanties that lost so much depended-on business as I am for myself.
How I’d love to go back to that sweet spot in time when my biggest worries were which direction to pitch the parasol and whether the incoming tide might soak my rolled-up jeans. How long is the line-up for scallop-and-cheese turnovers? Or how late will the ice cream truck stay today? Ah, innocent beauty at the beach.
Friends, revel in those little joys if and while you can. For me, a hike on the beach—pebbles in my pockets, sand in my sandals—makes good days better and bad days…bearable.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” –John Muir
Since I can’t literally do that right now, what is there about the beach that perhaps I can re-create at home? Some of the sensory details get lost in translation, of course, but here’s how I’ve reinvented beach duty these days:
For me, a lot of the beauty at the beach involves movement…toward freedom and light. I may sit and read for a while, but I rarely nap. Life’s too short! Usually it’s not long before I head off on a solo stroll along the shore. Sometimes, I even run into the sea, chasing, teasing the outgoing tide.
The whole idea is to clear the crowded slate of my mind, sort chaos into peace and order. Maybe come up with new insights, maybe not. Get wet feet and tangled hair. Soak up the last vermilion rays of sunset over the Pacific.
But at home, I don’t have to vegetate in my recliner either. I make a point of getting out every single day, whether the sunshine invites or the clouds repel. Even though the roar of traffic doesn’t match the roar of waves. Up and down the city streets and hills, I puff behind my mask.
It may not be a dance on the dunes, but it keeps my body active.
And my mind light and bright. The open-air exercise replicates in some measure the joyful cadence of a beach walk.
I’m also enjoying an ongoing conversation as I go. Another big part of nature’s beauty at the beach is the chance to re-connect with myself and with God’s world. That mindfulness so easily vanishes in the noise and bustle of our daily lives. But here, the reception to God’s murmur in the waves is excellent.
To whom do I whisper as I weave along the water’s edge? The pelicans, the sea lions barking offshore? The mermaids with their golden-brown seaweed locks? Listening to the surf, I sometimes think it’s the music of the universe.
And I lapse into exchanging the sounds of silence while I wink a greeting to the moon and stars.
Back home, within reach of the phone and every other gadget of this modern society, tuning into the gentle voice of the Spirit means a greater challenge to eliminate distractions and to focus. To pause and engage in non-digital—even non-verbal—communication.
But I savor the trickle of a fountain by my chair. And I can still talk to God and pray over the city as I watch the streetlights pop out one by one.
Beauty at the beach creates and collects memories too. Wandering along the shore, I pick up another delicate shell, another pretty stone, another fragment of sea glass (a rare event in Coquimbo). I deposit another seagull song, ocean sunset, or ship sighting into my memory bank.
It’s about basking in the sense of being alive. Gathering experiences for a memory basket. I often close my eyes and just draw in deep breaths of the salt air. No matter how small, this is a moment to remember.
Or I race with the wind. Fly, twirl, sail… even parasail, you never know. 🙂
I’ve never dared to ride the waves, but who says I can’t learn to swim in my sixties? If I’ve absorbed anything from beach beauty, it’s that you can open up to a crazy new adventure, even when your mind tells you you’re too old or too broken.
The beach in Coquimbo stretches on endlessly. At home, cinnamon spice drifts from my difusor as a never-ending stream of opportunity rolls my way each day. Perhaps…I should experiment with perfecting shrimp empanadas while we wait for the snack shacks to reopen.
We may not play on the beach much these days. But soon, we’ll be moving to a home where we can (practically) work there instead.
Yeah, it’s smaller, so we’ll have to downsize, a lot. But we’ll upsize the view and the breathing space. Give ourselves a bigger scope for imagination and a wide angle on the ocean, not just an occasional glimpse. We can gape in awe at the Pacific sunset every evening of our lives…and hope never to take the beauty for granted.
“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” –Helen Keller
And to be sure, the lot’s a gravel pit, not a sandy beach. We’ll need to plant some greenery, even if only spindly palms and cactus in a rock garden. But it hardly matters whether we have the most lavish designs—interior or exterior—or swimming pools and marble halls.
We’ve staked our own claim to beauty at the beach.