What are you memories of the beach? Where did you go? Where do you go now? We are drawn to water; we are drawn to beaches. The intersection of land and water.
Growing up outside of Philadelphia (as I did), “going to the beach” meant the Jersey shore, the Atlantic Ocean and bay. For Philadelphians that may have been Atlantic City or Wildwood. Bristol people went to Long Beach Island, for my family, specifically Beach Haven. There are many other towns on LBI, and many more along the Jersey shore from New York, south to Cape May. Communities, neighborhoods, families, we find our favorite. Jersey beaches can have slight differences; and Jersey beaches can be quite different from beaches north in New England or in the South.
Beaches on oceans, bays, rivers, ponds, marshes. Some beaches are smooth, flat, light sand; some are steep sloped, with high dunes; some are muddy; some rocky. Some beaches have surfer waves; some have none. Seaweed? Beach grass? Shore birds? Seals? Are there boats off shore? In common is that connection of land and sea. Like the moon and tides; we are drawn to the beach, the waters edge.
How many people are on the beach? What are they doing? Along the ocean and bays, many sit under colorful umbrellas blocking the sun. Beach chairs or beach blanket. For the past few years I’ve been useing a higher director’s chair. Suntan lotion. Sometimes bug spray. Ocean beaches have an anatomy, dunes, wrack, berm, breakers, trough. Many hours can be spent, sitting, looking into the horizon, reflecting, dreaming.
For young kids, the beach is usually buckets, shovels, and other toys. Sand, more sand, dredging rivers, building castles. As I kid I remember enjoying burying each other in sand. Have a catch; pass a football. My grandson has spike ball — a net and ball game for several to compete. Maybe volleyball. There are boogie boards and blow up floats. In the 1950s, we had flat rafts. Today there is a wider range, my grand daughter got a huge pink floating flamingo this year. If the ocean waves are big enough there may be surfers.
Which do you like better ocean or bay? Ocean beaches usually have bigger waves. Sometimes a swift under tow. “Beware of rip tides” Maybe sharks. Bays are usually shallow, gentler. Rivers and marshes offer totally different environments. On Cape Cod there are many kettle ponds. Great for swimming, boating, some with docks.
There are beaches known as being good for birding. On Nantucket we had several we visited with binoculars and scope. Many shore birds are big, easily identified, fun to watch. Some fish, ocean casting, bay, pond, river fishing. Grandson Eli has caught Bass on Pilgrim Lake where we’ve stayed on the Cape (they were delicious) and has done some morning ocean casting. I have been considering buying a bay or ocean pole but haven’t acted yet.
For some, like my Washington state sister, Marylee, a beach is a place to launch a kayak. Not many days pass between her bay or ocean kayak trips. She has two beautiful, hand made wooden kayaks. The first year of retirement I bought a small L.L. Bean kayak, to replace or add to a very tiny green one we always took to Nantucket. We bring it to the Cape and use on the Lake or Pond. Since my surgery it’s not been easy getting in and out but there is still the draw to be on the water. This year everyone except me took a guided kayak trip in Nauset Marsh. Today we’ll take an eco-tour boat to a sand bar, the kids will scavenge sea life, small fish, crabs, shellfish. Always fun to watch them and see what the sea has to offer.
When we go to the beach we can cross into the water wading or swimming. We can enjoy the rush of ocean waves; or the calm of a bay. The grandkids always enjoy swimming on one of the Capes kettle ponds. Growing up in Bristol, PA, the 1950s-60s, I swam in the Delaware river, Maple Beach was one destination. Recently a friend posted a picture on Facebook of kids jumping off a river piling near the Bristol Wharf. Some swam across the river to beaches on Burlington Island.
Some love the beach during the day with the full sun. That can be too hot for me. I’d prefer a shady porch with a water view. Some of my most memorable beach experiences have been early morning or evening walks? Walking and photographing in the sunrise and sunset. It might be Long Beach Island, the Chesapeake, Nantucket or Cape Cod. A favorite is the rocky coast of Maine, or the drift wood beaches in Oregon and Washington, again walking, with a camera, tidal pools filled with sea life.
Although there are many beach experiences etched in my memory, one of the best was a trip with my brother-in-law Norval to Neah Bay, in the northern tip of Washington state. We left in the dark and arrived on the shore of the bay before sunrise. As the sun came up we walked on the beach, the fog was thick and for a time we couldn’t see anything. Then slowly like a curtain the fog began to lift, as we looked out onto the ocean, immense sea stacks began to emerge. Crazy towers of land left from erosion. Where the sea and land meet. In full sun we continued down the beach, an eagle flew directly overhead. Seemed we could reach out and touch it. The tidal pools were alive with seaweed, small fish, crabs, urchins and starfish. An amazing beautiful morning.
When I wake early many mornings but don’t want to get up, I day dream about sitting or walking on a beach. My beach memories wash over me like waves. And I give thanks for the edge.
Some photographs from the Internet; others mine from Cape Cod, 2018.