I think what you will take away from my day trip to Annisquam, Rockport and Gloucester is that the sky was very, very blue. Boats bobbed on the river and boys jumped off a bridge but only when I turned my head. Let this be your moment of tranquility before fall begins and you are tugged in different directions. Maybe you’re a student or teacher beginning a new chapter which will be unrelenting until the holidays. Or maybe you’re just someone sniffling softly at the waning of summer. I’ll keep this spot here for when you need a moment.
I will not give up on you, summer! These are my long, lean legs, courtesy of the sun in the afternoon light. That flattering afternoon light that makes everyone look radiant, especially in shadow.
And this shot is virtually identical to Heidi Klum’s recent tweet, right? Right?
Me at the beach
Heidi Klum at the beach
Today, I turn 40 and I’m daytripping to Westport, CT, where I hear there are good consignment shops, unusual plants at Terrain (an Anthropologie offshoot) (heh heh), and a Shake Shack. Am I not easily pleased?
Still, I thought you should see some photos from the pre-birthday beach picnic where I enjoyed the most perfect beach day and picnic gathering à la the Barefoot Contessa, even if I’m not a self-made celebrity chef, married to Jeffrey, or living on Long Island. But I do have friends who can decorate a table and cook and luxuriate in a warm night at sunset. Everyone agreed we should do it again soon, so I will be turning 40 next week as well. And again in August and September. I plan to order the same weather, water temp, ocean breeze, and cupcakes.
I’m having a beach birthday bash for the big 4-0 and you know what an event like that needs in addition to good weather, waves, and well wishes? A vintage cooler. A mere $5 got me this gem, which is also appropriate for the 4th of July, no? Already I can feel my hand going numb from digging for a cold lemonade, images of a Levi’s commercial with bonfires and bikinis flashing, the minor detail of turning 40 dissolving like a sandcastle . . .
I also scored that giant vintage enamel bowl for $3 because everyone needs a giant bowl replete with chips. Haven’t you always said you need a mammoth chippy bowl? A fellow shopper said it could be a sink; not a bad idea. However, I’d like to use it as a centerpiece despite its enormity because it’s an unbelievably perfect match to these plates I’m coveting. Right? But how can I use it on the table? Help, please. Just don’t say, “Fill it with lemons” because it would pain me to watch that many lemons shrivel. Unless I use them in the lemonade . . . hey!
March should not be bathing suit season, but we’ve had too many snowy spring equinoxes, so no complaining. The parking lot was packed at the local beach this weekend—you know, when it was still winter. People piled their kids in the car with a pail and blanket and declared it a beach day. I was wrapped in multiple layers, but the Salem University kids toughed it out in shorts and flip flops, shivering. But what’s better than stretching out on a blanket, hoodie drawn tight, while the sun directs tentative spring rays to sun-starved skin?
Devereux Beach, Marblehead
We may be in a four-day stretch of 80-degree weather, but this kid shrieked after two seconds in the water. August water it is not.
Columbus might have worn a fuzzy, cable-knit sweater and thick woolen pants when he cruised the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria up to these here shores. But on this Columbus Day in New England, more reminiscent of August, boxers would have sufficed. It’s hot. The windows are open and the beach was packed with celebratory sunbathers. Global warming, we welcome you.
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester
People swam despite the water temp and dogs frolicked and romped, savoring the surprise summer day. Clouds took the day off.
Even the kites got into the holiday.
I wake up this morning at 9:11. Does everyone?
On a difficult day, a few little things bring joy:
A morning walk. Everyone says hello.
Sitting on the beach in the bright sun, wrapped in a beach towel and finishing a good book. The day is as clear and perfect as it was then.
Watching a man wheel his wife down the windy beach to the shore, lift her from her wheelchair, and place her in the water where they swim together and she no longer needs him.
Tracking home a tiny white feather on my shoe that Maple roots out and eats.
Tomorrow is the first beach day of the season for me and my lady friends, which, given that it’s July, is unconscionable. On tap for the excursion: flip flops, a mountain of magazines, a polka dot beach towel, sunscreen that pretends to protect my fair skin, conversation and snacks. And a lot of catching up to do with the ocean; Did you miss me? Seen any sharks lately? Salty enough?
Most people feel the sun and ocean do a number on their hair, but the salt water actually gives my do this wild, curly look, which, yes, is an improvement over its regular tendency toward frizz. So, I’ve determined that I need to live by the ocean (for many reasons, but lately, this one) where I can take a dip each morning and emerge ready for work. My co-worker points out that in New England, this may only be viable four months of the year. But in Hawaii, I could have decent hair every day. Please send leads for inexpensive, oceanfront homes in Maui. Thanks.
This is not me, but you get the idea.
Just a warning: if I hear you say anything like “Wow, summer went by fast” or “Fall is right around the corner” or you mention the word “school” or anything that even suggests that summer is on its way out you might get decked. Fair warning. Summer is not over. And if there is any seasonal justice, this fall will be ridiculously summerlike after the rainy summer we endured. Aside from that melty heat wave, I carried that damn sweater with me more days than I wore a skirt, and that is not right, Mother Nature. Not right. But the ocean is still warming up, naysayers, and there are plenty of beach days left. K?
Is there anything more wonderful than cresting the steps to the beach when the horizon opens up and you feel all small? Why, yes. It’s amazing enough that you’re at sparkly Crane Beach, all sticky from the car and ready to trudge along the boardwalk to cool off down by the water, when you discover this ocean chalkboard. A poem unravels at your feet:
The letters erode along with the beach, and I like the faint whisper of words clinging to the worn wood.
Excellent guesses on yesterday’s game of Identify that Frightening Foreign Object. I was pretty convinced it was a giant potato, but it was no spud.
So, what was that hulking thing that washed up on shore while my friend and I were lounging at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown last week? Are you ready for it?
Insert drum roll.
The inflated object is a bloated whale tongue.
I wouldn’t know that except for when it was deposited on the beach on Thursday, it was still attached to the whale. The mammal, buoyed by it’s giant tongue that expands upon decomposition, was a juvenile male finback that caused a small group of curious onlookers to circle around and play marine scientists for a day. According to our expert opinion, it’s likely the whale died a natural death. Though if you ask me, there’s nothing natural about a tongue the size of a boulder.
The beach I frequent is tranquil and idyllic, revered for the solitude it provides. Last weekend though, despite a 7:30 a.m. departure for the Cape, the parking lot was chock full when my friends and I arrived at 10:00. Once on the sand, we were met by a gusty wind on a mission that pelted us with sand, sand that burrowed its way into every crevice in an annoying way but that a fellow beachgoer tried to spin as a free exfoliation. All told, I think I lost a full layer of my epidermis.
Everywhere though, unnaturally fit men and women traipsed down to the shore wearing wetsuits, harnesses, and carrying enormous pieces of equipment that looked like pterodactyl wings; the kitesurfers had descended. It was as if every novice and amateur kite surfer had woken up, sniffed the air, and quickly threw their gear in the hatch before barreling down to the beach. They spread out across the beach like sand flies, leaving no room for sunbathers and swimmers. We tucked ourselves away in a dune of questionable protected status (seriously, I wouldn’t sit on a piping plover), away from the chaos and at least minimally sheltered from the assaultive wind.
The preparation involved in this sport was staggering: inflating the parasail-like kite part, getting it in the air and stabilizing it by holding a trapeze-style bar connected by heavy cables–hard enough on land, but near impossible on the water. Next, a surfer wades into the ocean and secures his feet in a snowboard apparatus (this is when I gave up any hopes of trying), keeping the kite aloft, and then somehow get up on the water, only to be immediately pulled at high speed by the wind. Holy.
We watched a small-framed guy glide across the water at frightening speeds, gasping when his board lifted above the water, suspending him in midair–child’s play to him though, as his next run involved tricks that made it look like he was skateboarding above the water. Tired of watching all this exertion, I finally rolled over and succumbed to the most perfect beach nap, cushioned by baby turtle eggs.
A rainbow of kitesurfers on the Cape
Imagine going to the beach with Michael Phelps. As you’re tiptoeing slowly into the cold water, shrieking as the water climbs higher (not the shoulders, not the shoulders), Phelps dives right in. While you manage to keep your head barely above the water as a wave rolls in, the water washes right over the Phelps machine. You tread water with your insufficient little feet and he swims laps around you with his giant feet-flippers. You frolic in the surf, oblivious to proper form, and the human dolphin speeds by you in a flash, showing off his powerful breaststroke. The lesson here: don’t invite this guy to the beach.
Also, you’ll never have his abs. In Phelps, you have the perfect marriage of the psoas, rectus abdominus, obliques, and transversus coming together to form one magical combination, a physique that takes only eight hours a day to achieve. Totally doable.
In admiration of his superhuman body, my friends and I have coined a handy phrase that we use to refer to his impressive torso: the welcome spot. You know what I mean, the ripped portion of his lower abdomen that’s almost too risque to think about—the reason we, the viewers, feel the full bodysuit should not be allowed. Think of it as his torso acting as a welcome mat to the welcome spot or Phelps saying, “You’re welcome to look at my welcome spot.” The welcome spot is represented by curving the hands inward to form an open V or a heart, or written in text as \ /
Spread it around. And now, a visual (you’re welcome):
the welcome spot
Let us all take a collective moment to go to our happy place and visualize bliss: the beach. I feel more well-rested already. Is there anything more sublime than a picnic lunch unfolded at the water’s edge in the shade of an umbrella and a good book? No, no there’s not. Don’t argue with me.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own special beach where the waves lull you into a salty, seaside nap, then you can appreciate how much I love my beach on the Cape. My secret beach. Sorry it uh, doesn’t have a name.
At low tide, you feel like you’re walking into the horizon and solitude. Rivulets run through the sand and seagulls swoop and call. But the locals know that the beach holds its own secret that can swallow you whole. Once, while a friend and I napped in beach chairs on a sandy spit by the water’s edge a quarter mile out, we woke to find the tide was coming in. Fast. We gathered our stuff just in time, ready to scurry to the shore only to turn around and find the tide had snuck in around us. Marooned on a sand bar, our own deserted island, we had to trek back through waist-high water carrying our bags, towels, umbrella, and beach chairs, dodging side-stepping crabs and massive schools of minnows. Except for the moment we walked smack into a tangle of surprise underwater beach grass, it was excellent.
Here’s the beach from the road, with rock cairns balancing on the rock wall—a tribute of sorts to the magic of the place. If I were religious, I’d make honoring this beach a sacrament.
Beware the sand castle police. Officials in Isle of Palms, S.C., are considering a proposal to fine beachgoers who leave detritus like tents and surfboards behind. The bill was drafted to foster safety at the beach, and I would guess to discourage people from leaving trash, but if you’ve ever bought a surfboard, you know shapely fiberglass doesn’t come cheap, so it’s unlikely you’d forget it at the beach.
Fine, I can get behind a proposal that leaves beaches clean, but the ordinance would allow people to be fined up to $500 for not filling in holes or knocking down their sand castles. Huh? Sounds like some of these holes have devoured and ankle or two, but seriously, sand castles? I rather enjoy the image of a couple strolling the beach at night and walking smack into a turreted kingdom.
Apparently, Isle of Palms officials have a lot of time on their hands, which is good because they’re gonna need a lot of manpower to patrol the beach, monitoring sand castle building and demolishing. I was going to suggest boycotting South Carolina beaches, but then maybe that’s exactly what they want us to do…