I went to the beach today … It has been awhile. From childhood through my twenties, I would spend many hours at a beach. In fact, I was a person who practically lived at its sandy shores. Even after marriage we would gather our beach paraphernalia with three children and venture to our close by New Jersey Shores from spring—fall and even fall—spring.
Whether bay or ocean it was a place to relax, catnap, watch people, read or collect shells, driftwood, Sea glass, sand crabs (silly looking creatures) and other interesting items. We would build sand castles, surface bury each other, swim, sun bathe, play beach games and especially enjoy the goodies stored in our age old cooler.
As empty nesters, my husband and I have not taken to much time to enjoy this cherished activity. Our days were filled with full time jobs and volunteering at community organizations adding a sprinkle of emotional events in-between. Then he took an early retirement, which still left us with no extra relaxation time. Recently I retired. For a few months now I have been working on getting my house/home in order and sometimes care for some youngsters. Summer is almost gone (bite your tongue PJ) and I haven’t lived up to my spring promise of going to the beach more often this season. I did attend my youngest’s beach gathering to celebrate her birthday in early June. Hubbie had a previous set activity, so I ventured out myself for three to four hours and what a gratifying tease.
All day, this past Friday, I felt I needed an away from home break. That night I decided to go to our Sandy Hook Park shores, with breakfast, books, pads and pencils in tow. Sounded great! For the first time in a long time I went to bed with a huge smile, feeling really terrific about my decision. I woke up early Saturday to a cloudy sky, a bit of a breeze, but still a possible beach day. Usually an 8:00 or 8:15am Church Mass starts my day. This time I decided to attend Mass at 9:00am in a beach town Church just passed, but close to, Sandy Hook. Afterwards I stopped off at a quaint and favorite restaurant to pick up breakfast and a very cold bottle of water. Finally on my way I carried not only food nourishment, I also carried an excited and positive attitude. On the road again I felt as though I was meeting an old friend.
With a senior pass hanging from the car’s rearview mirror I could not wait to drive through the park’s toll both, knowing I did not have to pay the weekend fee. We had bought the pass in early spring incase the kids or friends wanted to go to any New Jersey park. It was a great deal; $30 for the year, otherwise $10-15 daily or more on the weekends. This year I was determined to use it, thence my earlier beach promise.
After being waived in and picking one of many beaches in the park, I parked in a space close to the bathrooms, snack bar and beach entrance. At 10:15am that was a feat in its self for a weekend beach day the parking lot sign would have read “Full.” With a recycled book filled bag in hand and my chair, a chair-umbrella and a blanket neatly packed together slung the chairs convenient carrying strap comfortably over my shoulder, then headed down the plastic wood decked path to a sandy carpet reaching east a quarter mile to ocean water and miles of beautiful beach north and south. At the end of the path was the small Life Guard Station on my right and a sand dune covered in plants just behind it. About 100 feet from the stations side and 8 feet from the dune I claimed my sand plot with the spreading of an old comfy cotton blanket. After attaching the small umbrella, I finally settled in the beach blue-high backed chair. As each foot assisted the other out of my sandals I leaned forward and rolled up my jeans to my knees. Yes, I wore long jeans not knowing how the weather would play out. Getting wet was not my intention today, just relaxing, reading or writing a bit was my goal. But first I needed to eat. In one motion I gathered my water bottle, a napkin or two and my scrumptious egg, mozzarella, spinach and tomato on a sesame bagel sandwich, when I heard a man and woman a couple hundred feet from me talking on the phone. That’s how loud they were. “Yeah, today it’s free. The park, beach and parking. Yeah, yeah….. It’s usually $15.00.”
Boy! Did that burst my bubble. So far this adventure cost me $30. Hopefully I will attend Sandy Hook 3 or more times up through Labor Day. Let us pray it doesn’t rain too much. I might still go if it does. Summer rain is fun to me, even if it is torrential. We will see what the week will bring. My attitude is positive and I know I will follow through. Future beach visits, here I come – Yeah!
Finishing my breakfast and peering out at the people, our human species, their coming and going antics had made me giggle a few times. I had flashbacks of scampering across the hot-hot sand, wishing I had something for my tender feet. Buckled Sandals, tie shoes or sneakers, were the only footwear in my younger years. Eventually lighter sandals, then flip flops, then slip on sandals came along. Great for slipping on, to go from a blanket, across the hot sand to the snack bar and back.
Today young and old alike have taken on a Japanese tradition; taking off one’s footwear before entering a house or doorway of a special room. This ritual has come to this beach. New arrivals came to the end of the plastic wood decking area that meets the carpet of sand, slide off their shoes, sneakers, sandals or flip flops and continue to walk on the hot sand. I know it’s hot, because a young boy (about 4yrs. old) started screaming, when his mom took up the blanket and did not put shoes on him and headed towards the deck. Almost climbing up his mom’s legs to get off the hot sand, his screams intensified. She would not pick him up and he stopped as soon as his little feet stepped onto the, none wood decking. “Maybe the sand had cooled down from the comfortable breeze or the boy did not like the feel of the sand on his feet,” you say. It felt hot to me. Have people visited the beach so much this season that one’s feet had acclimated to the sand’s heat? Some take their footwear off as if they knew already, the sand’s temperature. Amazing!
When I ventured out this morning at 8:30am I noted earlier, there was an over cast of clouds. On beach days like this the sun would appear around noon time and burn off the gloomy clouds. Today the warm sun appeared a bit sooner and the ocean breeze made it very comfortable. Us beach goers had blue skies dotted with scattered white clouds for an hour or so. Then a northern dark sky headed towards us, but dissipated before hitting our shore line. Another hour passed by and the very white clouds came and went as if they could not make up their minds to stay or go.
A sight to behold! Some of the earlier arrivals, who took off their sandals, are heading to the snack bar or home. They step off the carpet of sand onto the, none wood decking and slip on their footwear. I have now come to the conclusion that the decking material might be hotter then the sand.
A threesome of lady bike-riders leaned the rental bikes against the side of the life guard station facing me. I knew they were rental bikes by the same spray painted peach color of all three and very plain looking. Noticing I was writing, one asked if I needed quite. Smiling, I thanked her and said no. That was very courteous. A manner I admire in a person, for the morning here has not been quite.
From very low flying helicopters and planes, large and small, heading to near bye airports, to blimps and advertising planes, it was anything but quite. There had been the squeaks and squeals of children, the constant chatter of hundreds of beach goers, a volleyball game in back of me, loud engines of unseen planes, beach items scraping the sands as they are dragged to and fro, chirps and squawks of sea birds and the flip-flopping nose of my own umbrella’s folding snap strap against itself above my head.
It is funny though, I really do not hear all the noise so much when I am writing. My brain has cut off the path of vibrations to my ears and made them soft and elusive. From time to time, one sound would catch my ear, to make me aware of my very active environment.
The gentle warm sea breeze has wrapped around me making my minimal hours here so comfortable and soothing. It is about 1:30pm, boy does time fly. I heard a life guard’s whistle. It’s like nature and a phone is telling me it is time to go. My stay is up in wonderland. The clouds have thickened and people’s voices are starting to bellow talking over each other. The peace and quite has ceased now with more of our human species encroaching the life guard building and my little Shangri-La.
This time I did not plan on venturing into the water, but I also heard some conversations that the water was rough with strong waves. My reading was very brief and my writing seemed to take up almost three and a half hours, but really did not. In between, sights and sounds caught my interest. I am a people and nature watcher. I enjoy absorbing and observing my environment and that is what I did. The annoying sounds of the planes engines brought my attention to the magnificent flying beasts. I marvel at the ingenuity of mankind with metal or fabricated flying machines and huge boats that float. Making balloon wheels on PVC wheel chairs, so those who cannot walk on the beach can still enjoy coming and going in the sand, to and from their blankets with friends and family was thoughtful. Children put laughter in my soul when they try to take off and put on their footwear and do not want help. Their parents or grandparents were very patient today. The looks on the little one’s faces and silly movements of their bodies when feeling the strange granules under their feet and between their toes, maybe for the first time, made me chuckle. The colorful umbrellas whether solids, stripes or other designs really brightened up the shore line. Beach birds hovered in the warm air currents over the water, then returned to the beach for leftover smorsels. How do they fly? The many shapes and sizes of different types of kites with long tails of ribbon fifty or more feet in the air, wow. And there were no bugs because of the comforting sea breeze. People in all sizes, shapes and colors, language and activities filled the beach with comings and goings like busy ants and a purpose in mind. Almost as if they were entertaining me and other observers. Wild sunflowers beamed down on me from the top of the plant covered dune waving to me or was that the warm sea breeze again? All of this is by chance? I do not think so.
Instead of putting my head in a book and zoning out I wrote about this day, this beach day. Driving home I will find myself smiling, just thinking about what I absorbed, observed and what was written on a pad. I cannot wait to return a few more times this week. Soon I will engage in different sights and sounds. Before I put my head down on a soft pillow tonight I will read about my day acquiring another smile pressed against my face. And before these weary eyes shut I will say, “Thank you for a very blessed day!”
How beautiful the pests of the day were. From varied noises, antics and activities, they put on quite a show. “Thank you!” to all that surrounded me today. A beach day with beautiful, magnificent, humorous and very cute pests. I want more of this.
Written Saturday, while at the beach by PJ Corcoran.