I have this baseless belief that we are drawn towards the climate and setting into which we are born. It’s not a fool-proof theory, and I still think it’s possible to enjoy other climates, but I know many people who gravitate towards their birth climate. For me, it is the edge of the ocean (see My Oldest Memory from April 2012). I am most at peace when my toes curl to avoid the surface heat of the sand, and then push into the layer just beneath, cool and soothing. When the sun passes behind a cloud, the cool transforms to a chill. During those glorious days of summer, the chills are limited to the June Gloom. I’ve stretched out on the tiniest sliver of the California coast more than once and felt those cool, soothing roots of my past reaching up into me.
From Malibu northward to Ventura County, I tacked on memories beyond my place of birth. I enjoyed watching the gulls and pelicans swoop along the shoreline. I saw the children dash in and out of the surf swinging their arms to splash one another. Out near the edge of the breakers, the surfers straddled their boards waiting for a wave to come a-curling. It needn’t be perfect – just enough lift and carry them closer to me, only to watch them paddle back out to wait again. More than once I emerged from the Santa Monica Mountains to Zuma or Point Dume or Paradise Cove and placed my bare feet into the grains and watched the sun brighten the shore (see The Sun Comes With You from September 2018).
Mint Leaves And Polish
The constant of any beach, anywhere on the planet, are the final grains of sand determined to hitchhike their way from the beach to my shoes to my car to my luggage. They gather together in bulk where the water kisses against their collective, yet they stick to my ankles and toes, not a few, but enough to rub against the skin and annoy – a constant reminder that I am no longer at the beach. As if departing the sounds and smells and senses of the surf don’t already remind me from the moment I turn my back that I am walking away from my oldest friend, the tiny grains serve to tease me that I cannot spend every day stretched upon it, basking in the sunshine.
I find it difficult to admit, but nearly five decades into my life and I am learning for the first time of the smartest part of a beach outing. Over dinner the night before visiting the waves, my California host suggests the added stop between the Paradise Cove Beach Café and the left turn into Topanga Canyon, the first strip mall that includes a low-end nail salon. Allow the carry-alongs to be carried off via a soak and scrub, and perhaps a dab of polish. The simple idea of going for a pedicure to cleanse the feet and remove the final clinging passengers from the sea serves as a tranquil farewell to the friend who remains a part of my forever. One of these trips to the beach someday will be my last, bookending a lifetime spent in its company. So, the sand can stay near the shore and I will journey back inland, stopping only along the way for a mojito.