Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Beach

You're 14, on vacation with your parents and your sister, who's eight and very annoying (though if pressed, you'd admit to loving her, but not around your friends). You're old enough to rate your own puptent. Freedom! You wake early, smelling the trees around the campsite and also the beach nearby. This is your favorite beach in North California, because the evergreens march almost down to the beach: pines, with an occasional coastal redwood. Underneath the trees, you sometimes find blackberry brambles; a few of them have delicious sweet berries that stain your fingers. Outside, as you pull your pants on and your shoes and socks, you see tendrils of fog curling through the boles and branches of the trees. Fog! Coming from the high desert, it's a great rarity. You don't realize yet that some people would rather live in the unremitting desert sun.

Nobody else is stirring as you make your way down the trail to the beach. You can barely see the ocean through the fog. Glorious! You can hear the waves breaking; there's no wind as you start walking south, to the left down the beach. You stay just above the line of wet sand, looking down for shells as you walk. You love the ocean, but you don't like to get wet in it. Your sister can spend hours in her bathing suit running through the waves and shivering with pleasure--but not you. You enjoy swimming in the private pool your aunt takes you to, and you swim well, but there's something about the ocean, the great Pacific Ocean. . . .

The fog thins as you walk down the beach. You are headed for one of nature's most fascinating displays: great rock areas of the beach with large, permanent tidepools. A few people are already out, looking down into the pools. The tide is out, so viewing is good. As the sun rises and the fog leaves, you can see farther down into the pools, some of which are ten or twelve feet in diameter. They have seaweed growing in them, in various colors, and sea anemones--large ones--gently waving their tentacles. Small fish swim lazily through the seaweed fronds. Some of the pools seem quite deep.

A little later, as the sun gets a bit higher in the sky and it warms up some (though it's high summer and not really cold), you walk farther down the beach, away from the tidepools and people. The land rises behind the beach, forming a small cliff. Boulders begin to stud the wide strand, buried partway in the sand. Some of them are huge, ten feet around perhaps, though half-buried in the beach. A whole field of them stretches for hundreds of yards. The average one sticks up two or three feet above the sand. Smaller ones the size of basketballs are in between the big ones. You are just about ready for some exercise. And here comes your parents, walking your sister between them. An audience!

You warm up by running slowly and easily down the beach, away from your family, hopping from boulder to boulder in your tennis shoes. You have to watch out for the patches of green, moss-like growth on some of the rocks. You've actually slid off a few of them, though never hurting yourself. Your family is at the beginning of the field, and you're several hundred feet down the beach. You're ready to start your run. You start off fairly slowly, hopping on the smooth colored stones. You soon reach full speed. You're no track star, but you'd like to see one of them do this. Speed and oxygen merge into one exhilirating rush as you aim for your family. Your mother is holding her hand over her mouth (you can hear her southern drawl: "For heaven sakes, Tom!"); your sister is shouting encouragement and jumping up and down; and your father is grinning! Life is good as you fly off the last boulder and land in the sand in front of them, arms spread wide.


Thomas said...

This is insightful to me. This is one of those things that I am going to end up thinking about a lot. Thanks.

Jon said...

Dan, Nice work.