I’ve come to the beach to escape the heat. Most people go to the beach because of the heat, to sit in the sun and work on their tans. I wait to go to the beach later in the day when the sun begins its descent, when the crowds desert and empty the parking lot, making it easier to find a good parking spot near the changing rooms. I like the idea of the ocean as nature’s air conditioner. It would be easy to go to the mall to cool off, but the beach is far more relaxing and interesting.
It’s low tide, but the movement of the waves tell me the tide is on its way back in. If you swim at low tide on this beach, you can walk out 100 feet and the water won’t rise above your waist. Since the water comes in from the Atlantic a bit chilly, why would anyone torture themselves by slowly walking. I’d be running and diving in as quickly as possible, just to feel the cold water and get used to it. But I don’t intend to swim, wade or splash in the water. I have my folding chair, and am happy to sit and watch.
There is a large fog bank sitting just beyond the islands. When the sun rises it retreats to the open water, only to return after the sun sets. The sepia-toned fog bank sits low, hugging the surface of the water. It’s appears sinister like horror-movie fog, set to devour the islands in it’s path. Or possibly the ghosts of buccaneers will come sailing from it to pillage the islands in the harbor. And I forgot my eye patch and scabbard, too. Maybe next time. That’s one way to get the tourists to leave.
I am content to relax at the beach and watch the people around me. Some folks come to the beach to get exercise. Tonight, there are walkers and strollers on the beach. The strollers take off their sandals or shoes, to walk barefoot on the firm sand of low tide. They wear a contented smile, don’t seem to be in a rush, moving slowly, and ocassionaly stop to toss a stone or examine a shell. One man finds a flat stone and try to skip it, counting the number of times the stone kicks off the surface. Sometimes the stone dives after one or two skips, other times it can go for up to 10 skips. It’s a great way to relax. The sounds of the ocean and skipping stones are a perfect antedote for the rigours of the day. The walkers are much faster, taking brisk strides with purpose. They have no time for skipping stones. They wear stoic expressions and ear buds, listening to music or motivational speakers on their iPods. Talk about multi-tasking. This is serious business for the walker. It’s more about the activity than the environment. There are also couples walking on the beach, some involved in serious conversation, their animated hands move with passion as they make their point. Some walk close, holding hands and exchanging the intimate details of their day apart. They are young and in love. Other couples walk apart. They don’t look happy. They don’t hold hands and their faces are solemn. Is there still love or are they just settling for a warm body next to them at night?
There are dogs on the beach, so that mean it’s past 6pm. There has been heated debate about the dogs and whether they should be allowed on the beach. People complain about the little surprises they leave under the sand. They also complain that the dogs scare the younger children. Dogs are only allowed on the beach very early in the morning and after 6 pm, but there are folks who would be happy to ban them from the beach altogether. If the owners can control them with a leash or voice commands, then the dogs should be allowed on the beach. If the owners can’t control the dog, the owner should be banned from the beach. But, tonight, the dogs are happy to run and play in the water. Two dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and a bisson friche, have made friends. They run towards each other, circling around each other, then sniffing. It’s like a canine background check; are they friend or foe? They want to know. By the wagging of their stubby little tails, it’s all good.
There are teenagers all over the beach. The guys hang out in groups of 3 or 4, with their wakeboards and Frisbees. The boards are now nose-down in the sand. Some of them dive into the chilly waves – on a dare, no doubt. They have spent a lot of time on the beach, they are tan and slim, their youthful bodies years removed from a middle-age paunch. The girls are also here, in bikinis that flatter their bodies and designer sunglasses. Some girls are in pairs, their towels laid end-to-end. They lie facing each other and talk, checking out the guys that pass them. Some girls move in larger groups of 5 or 6. There’s safety in numbers and they keep interested boys at bay. Perhaps the boys and girls will find each other again at the ice cream at the top of the hill, or driving in cars.
And the fog bank moves closer. It gathers in the islands and blankets them with their gentle mist. Soon the islands will be obscured by fog. They are like Avalon, that island of legend, disappearing into the mist. They’ll be back tomorrow. The fog will slink back to the open waters beyond the harbor, waiting to return. I will leave now and let the fog have the beach, for now. The people are slowly leaving the beach and I will join them. We shuffle along the sand with our folding chairs and bags filled with wet towels and well-worn paperback books. The dogs, teenagers, walkers and strollers are all leaving, too. But the fog will have the beach for its own. At least until morning.