I live about two hours away from a beach. I used to take that fact for granted, but ever since I’ve grown up and started thinking about the world around me, I’ve realized I’m very fortunate in this regard. Not everyone can take a day-trip to the awesomeness that is a beach.
I’m an early-riser. I come from a family of early-risers too, so whenever I go to the beach, it is usually right as the sun is coming up. And no matter the season, I can’t go to the beach and not touch the ocean. So even though the sun may not have been up long enough to warm the water, the first thing I do at the beach is wade into the waves.
I typically get no farther than my knees before I chicken out from the cold.
I lose all sense of feeling in my toes, but I enjoy every second of it. Goosebumps erupt all over my body. And I’m talking about the painful kind of goosebumps. I don’t know about you guys, but I always shave my legs before sporting my tankini, and the ocean takes sweet vengeance on me for doing so. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Freshly shaved legs and cold temperatures go together like salt water and paper cuts (which is kind of what we’re dealing with here).
After that exercise in masochism, I decide to just walk along the beach in ankle-deep water picking up shells. I’m not looking for anything amazing; I’m just looking for anything intact. One time, I found a sand dollar. That was a nifty find. Once my hands are full of shells, I return them to my towel, a sad little collection of broken homes.
That’s when I decide to brave the waves again.
It’s still fucking cold, don’t get me wrong. But I plunge ahead anyways. I love the way the waves slap me. (Only waves can get away with this.) Some waves are forceful, splashing against my chest and spraying my face with droplets of water. Others are calmer, gently nudging me backwards on their way to the beach. Still I press on, eagerly awaiting the next wave that will push me off my feet.
I make games for myself as I go along. One of them is just trying to jump over the crests of the waves. This gets harder the farther I go out. I don’t have the strength to lift my legs above the surface of the water. It’s like the ocean won’t let me escape. Sometimes, in a game that’s the opposite of the one I just mentioned, I try burying my toes in the sand and remaining immobile, daring the waves to bowl me over. The waves always win in the end.
Around this time, I start getting hungry. So I say a short good-bye to the ocean and scamper off to get something to munch on. I lean towards the unhealthy kinds of food, unfortunately for me and my future body. I like salty, buttered pretzels and crisp chips right after I leave the water, almost as if my taste buds crave the saltiness of the ocean when I leave it.
(Near Ocean Beach in San Diego, there’s this place called Olive Tree Market that sells the best sandwich in the world. It’s called the Picasso, and I bet it’s called that because it’s a freaking work of art. It has “marinated chicken breast, pesto sauce, melted provolone cheese, served on warm pita bread, topped with lettuce and tomato.” I’m telling you, it’s fan-freaking-tastic.)
After eating, I let my stomach digest before heading back into the water. That means it’s SAND CASTLE TIME. I’m not an expert sand-castler, but I do have a system. First, I dig a bit of a trench in front of where I’m going to build my castle, on the side the waves are coming from. I always make my castle close to the water so that there’s a bit of danger while I’m working. Makes the whole thing exciting. Once the trench is sufficiently deep enough to protect my castle (somewhat), I start making these sand mounds. I usually create three piles of sand, three towers, if you will.
These towers are nothing fancy, literally just lumps of sand. But after making them large enough, I collect wet sand in a bucket and start placing drip-decorations all over them. Since the sand is so wet, you can grab a bunch of it in your hand and let bits of it drip onto the dry sand-mounds like water. Eventually, these drips harden, and you have a drip castle.
These drip castles are by no means pretty. At all. They look like a sand bird flew overhead and shat out sandy poops in one centralized location.
But hey, it’s fun.
The castle must be destroyed after I’m done making it, otherwise nosy kids will take over my work. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a jerk in this regard.) I stomp all over my transient edifice after I’m done, and then head back into the water.
This final foray into the water is always the most fun and the most bittersweet. The sun has definitely climbed higher in the sky at this point, so the water is downright welcoming this time around. It’s a tremendous joy to pretend to be a whale and just belly-flop over a wave. It’s refreshing to dunk my head into water that has probably been peed into more times than I can count, but hey, who cares, right? But the time for having fun at the beach is almost over, so every ounce of fun I’m having is numbered now.
I never say no to going to the ocean. I’m not a surfer or a deep-sea diver or anything hardcore like that. And I’m definitely not one of those photogenic girls who hangs out on a beach and looks fantastic doing it. My hair gets all stringy, my skin gets covered with smears of sunscreen, my nose gets red because I never seem to put enough protection there, and my eyes get red and blurry because waaaaaay too much salt water seeped into them.
But it’s fun.
And that’s what matters.