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August 18, 2014

Beaches ARE summer. But, when you live on an island, they are all around you – all of the time.

Ebey's Landing horizontal

Now, our beaches are crowded with strangers; people whose voices and laughs and habits we do not know. They warble at the “view” – and then tuck into a mountain of food (in baskets, bags, and coolers) as their children race, shrieking, in and out of the water.


 As long as they don’t leave a ton of litter, I rather enjoy watching them enjoy – for a short time – what is available to me any time I want. (Yes, we are blessed to live here.) It’s fun to see what new driftwood creations the young and the young at heart have concocted… to watch dogs plunging happily into the waves after a stick…to see a young couple entwined on a blanket.

But beaches, whether they are the bright and sunny summer kind or the grey and misty spring/autumn/winter kind , are also places of memory.

Coastal rocks shading & fading 3169a

 It doesn’t seem to make much difference which season I stroll along the beach ; there are memory triggers in all of them. A weird-shaped piece of seaweed washed up on the shore reminds me of the “mermaid’s purses” we used to find as children on Nantucket. Those puffy black rectangles with a tentacle at each corner are actually the egg cases of sharks and skates.  But, as a child, they were just curious and slightly menacing oddities that crunched under our feet as we walked. A neon-colored beach umbrella makes me remember the faded canvas shell that my young mother dozed under.  A child digging a deep hole in the sand brings back the feeling of being buried in heavy, wet sand as my brothers gleefully piled it higher. Somewhere in the sound of the surf I can hear my grandmother’s stern warning: “NEVER turn your back on the sea”.

Watch a young mother trying to corral her unruly brood and I am once again standing at the shower head trying to scrape sand off hopping, wiggling bodies. I see an old dog walking, slowly and painfully, with it’s owner and there, in my mind’s eye, is my dear old canine companion, who adored beach strolls almost up to the day she died. The memories go on and on. Though some are sad, others are wonderfully nostalgic; they pile up, one on top of the other, until an entire period or season of my life is re-lived. What is it about a beach that works this magic?


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