The kites snap under the slate-gray sky and I shiver against the bite of the wind. They’re colorful, like the rainbow thoughts that dance across the quiet of the mind right before sleep. The sun isn’t shining today; the sea isn’t the blue that I see on postcards. Instead, everything is gray, gray, gray. I’m cold but I’m still outside, braced against the wind, thinking longingly of the warm summer sun that stretches and wakes early.
It’s empty now, though; the beach, I mean. I can see the children playing in the sand, their parents watching, still and huddled against the cold. In and out of the water they run, unconcerned with the iciness of the frothy winter waves. I know I was that young once, but I can’t remember it; I can’t conjure up early memories of being too young to understand the cold, or being happy running with a paper-thin kite across a wind-whipped beach.
I consider, for a moment, building a sandcastle. The sand is wet and heavy, the right consistency for construction, but I can’t seem to pull my hands from my pockets, can’t seem to find the willpower for fun on a day so cold. The children have abandoned the kites; the wind has torn them to shreds, and now they’re building a snowman-shaped sandcastle. The little girl, small and sprite-like, flits in and out of the dunes, searching for sticks, while her older brother patiently digs out the sand.
Winter isn’t my favorite time of year to walk along the beach; it’s bleak and gray but it invites introspection in a way that the buzz and hum of summer doesn’t. I don’t go to the beach in the summer like I used to, no more long days spent in the sun; sometimes I miss the ease of that, the days spent doing nothing of consequence, but still feeling so busy and so exhausted by the end of the day.
I’ve walked too close to the water, now; instead of the musky smell of the dunes and the reeds I can smell the sharp edge of saline in the air, and the spray of a rogue wave licks my ankles.
I can taste the winter sea.
The day dawns bright and clear, the kind of morning that would be sleepy if there were things I had to do; but today, there is nothing, just a day free from responsibility, free from tethers.
I’m up earlier and easier than I would be on any other day, and I’m sitting in the warm sand, watching the glass of the windows glitter in the sunlight like so many jeweled beetles. I’m watching the sun creep up, casting shadows, throwing everything into sharp relief, and the smell of the pavement baking in the morning sunlight begins to seep into my consciousness. Soon, the sand will be hot to the touch, and the heat will obliterate all the smells, but for now I’m letting them wash over me like waves over a pebble, wearing me smooth.
The sand isn’t full yet, but the people are slowly trickling in; some bleary-eyed from festivities the night before, others, particularly the children, bright-eyed with wonder and excitement at the day to come.
I’m dragged back to the day I walked along the same stretch of beach in the winter, watching those two blond-headed children play in the winter sand, cheeks red against the winter wind, and I can’t help but smile at the memory.
I’m early today; soon I will be joined by friends and acquaintances, but for now, I’m alone to watch the beach fill up with people. I’m struck, suddenly, by the number of stories I am watching unfold on this summer morning; every person has a story, different and separate from mine, but here we sit, crossing paths perhaps just this once on the beach, grains of sand tossed into the vastness of the universe.
Northbeach.com (2012). North Myrtle Beach Vacation Rentals. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.northbeach.com/ [Accessed: 3 Apr 2013].