In my book, it ain’t summer until you’ve been to the beach— and today we went. The winding, honking bus ride down with passing cars flipping in their side mirrors and my wife’s sudden religious conversion as she prays her way through the steep drops to the left, a brass band playing down by the waters and around the corner to a little cove to rent the umbrella and chair. Arrange the towels, get out the book, tilt the orange umbrella for maximum shade and settle into the archetypal leisure of a day at the beach. When the sun finds you and it gets too hot, traverse the 20 feet of rocky pebbles hurting the tender feet (thinking: this beach will be great in a few thousand years!), jump into the salty water and swim through the cold and warm patches. Around you the squeal of little children, the allure of scantily-clad young folks, the pleasures of the elderly bobbing in the shallows. It’s the beach!
Floating in the waters, the self becomes simply a thin membrane barely separating the 65% water in the body and the water without, the one calling to the other just on the other side of skin. Indeed, the lure of immersing in water, be it the ocean, lake or hot tub, surely comes from some distant memory of our time in the watery womb, or an evolutionary memory of our time in the sea before we crawled to the land, some cellular pleasure and deep desire to return to that blissful state. Makes me wonder if any visions of heaven involve water. They all seem to lean more toward air, but why not return to some spiritual watery womb to spend Eternity? There’s a little research project awaiting me.
Back on my shaded chair, I dive into the last fiction book we have with us, Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve. A little hard to read about soldiers in the World War I trenches while the smell of frying calamari rides in on the fresh sea air, people are gathered to swim and sun and chat and nap instead of blasting each other to pieces because some Duke or President somewhere thinks that’s what should happen. I think of Hafiz’s opening lines to a poem:
“You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare— don’t mix them!…”
Good advice. And even better his ending:
“You have all the ingredients to turn your existence into joy. Mix them! Mix them!”
You don’t have to go to a beach to mix them. Joy is yours for the taking any time, any place.
But the beach sure helps.