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Beaches

May 15, 2019

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This day was going to be different. It was one of the last days of my Hawaiian vacation: no cameras or cellphones: just a towel, some sunscreen, – and a beach. It was mid-morning at Napili Beach on Maui, but the sand was already crowded: families with brightly colored towels and beach chairs and umbrellas – and huge coolers of “snacks”, young couples lying close together, smiling and touching, and older couples with snorkels and fins and determination on their faces.

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But, as I looked out to sea, the people faded away…a quarter mile off-shore, breakers crashed into jagged rock reefs, white against the aquamarine sea. Gentled by the breakers, the water then undulated towards the shore, glinting in the sun. As I walked toward the water, the breezes cooled my face.

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But the shore was quite slanted and I could see that the surf pull-back was strong. I crept forward, the sand and water thrashing around my shins, and wondered: can I do this? It had been many decades since I faced a warm tropical sea. I remembered that moment of fear at the edge all too well. But I didn’t have the strength or the confidence I’d had when I faced the seas off the Solomon Islands or in Limbe on the coast of Cameroon in Central Africa. I didn’t need the tourist book’s warning never to turn my back on the sea. I had learned that as a child – from my grandmother – as I faced the Atlantic surf on Nantucket’s South Shore.

I looked out and there were people everywhere, bobbing in the water. I wanted to be one of them. I looked down. The water was so clear I could see every small rock on the bottom. It looked so inviting, but….

So, I waited, watching the rolling of the waves, and slowly, it began to flatten out a bit. A lady with wet gray hair smiled and beckoned to me. Now… I thought – do it. I dipped down into the trough made by the waves and pushed off…. Memories and sensations came flooding back… the incredible colors of the reefs of the Solomons, my two children – as young adults – larking in the surf in Limbe, the shouts of adult encouragement from the Nantucket shore as I faced a curling wave. “DIVE UNDER IT!” I did, and emerged, triumphant, on the other side. Now, so many years later in Hawaii, it felt so good: to taste the salt, to dip and sway, to be in rhythmn with the sea once again.

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