Sophie and I agree on most things. Curling up by the fire. A refreshing drink of cool water. A hot shower followed by a towel-dry backrub. A nice piece of meat. But, as the uncaring winter wind blows, the sun is without heat, and the sands freeze, beach walks are more her thing, than mine.
She is released to run. And run. And run. No fishing poles with deadly lines. No neatly lined up chairs or towels. No lifeguard rules. Chasing sea foam puffs, racing micro-tornadoes, ears bent back by a hard breeze; she is free, alive, and joyous. Who would have thought there was so much to smell on an empty beach? Sophie circles back when I fall too far behind. Catch up, old man.
For me the broken thin sunrise light, the bitter air, the frozen ground, remind me too much of what is gone. No children’s castle futile play. No sun block scent. No family gossip groups. No laughter, dreams, or hope. Empty seaside guarded by stern shuttered homes. A cemetery of dreams, buried in cold sand.
There is powerful beauty on that early morning beach as the gale knocks down olive waves, striking the land not in neat July rows, but in December chaos. White and grey clouds charge across the sky, changing, twisting, rolling, reveal only the occasional touch of blue. The grasses on the dunes yield, as the wind whistles and argues with the crashing sea.
Nonetheless, for me, there is loss. I see, truly see, those forever gone, who will never feel the brilliant heat of the summer sand. Never watch a child dig, a baby’s first touch of the surf or teens flirt with love. No too big sunglasses. No books fluttering in a hot afternoon haze. No out-of-control umbrellas rolling quickly away, tangling with kites strings, which plummet to the ground. Now, it is a shell here. Broken driftwood there. Not to be touched or treasured. A hollow show.
I wonder if I had done something different in my life, if the winter beach might inspire. Would my walks bring joy, instead of mourning? Would the harsh weather pull me out, instead of pushing me in? Could I walk the beach alone? How much of life must be lived with loss, in order to be lived at all?
Sophie starts to dig. Frantic, excited, wild. This is the moment, a great discovery. Not easy to claw into the stiff sand, but she has found gold. A watch? A wallet? A plastic shovel? Oh, joy of joys, the frozen corner of a sandwich, likely once jelly. She is shocked when I take it away. Cruel master.
The clouds break briefly, a tiny bit of radiant heat, brilliant sun touches barren beach. Sophie is off, running again, looking for the next great find. I move on, walking with ghosts. Buried friends and memories. Taking frozen bread to the trash.