“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always our self we find in the sea.” – E. E. Cummings
It’s not hard to love the ocean in this community. It’s all around us, almost like an embrace. And yes, when there’s a wicked Nor’easter, it can be like a hug from that one family member that pinches your cheeks and squeezes the breath out of you, but still, it’s a gift beyond measure. I refer to the beach at the end of the street as “my beach,” even if it’s just a line in my house deed that says I have “beach rights.” I have no idea what beach rights mean, but I still consider all of it mine, at least metaphorically.
I recently spent a day with my cousin on a beach in a neighboring town. Full disclosure, I am not a “True ‘Header” because I moved here from Nahant when I was eight years old. So, when I had the chance to hit up what was my first beach, I jumped at it—just heading over the causeway and seeing the homes where my friends and I played and the store where we would get ice cream put me in the best mood. Marblehead is my home now, but any place you enjoyed when you were younger will always seem like going home again. Some people say you can’t go home again, but I think you can, at least for a day or so.
Like any beach day, logistics matter. There’s too much math involved for me to be exact, but I think there’s a formula for every person and how much equipment they need. Since I stink at calculations of any kind, it’s a sure bet that I got it very wrong because I was hauling a wagon full of chairs, snacks, and drinks, almost like the Exodus scene in The Ten Commandments. I don’t own livestock other than my wee pug Penny, and she doesn’t like the beach, so it wasn’t that bad, I suppose. Pro-tip for a beach day: Whatever you think you need, cut it in half; you don’t need it all. A towel, a chair, a water jug, and a book should get you through unless you have little kids. In that case, Vaya con Dios, my darlings, I’m thankfully past all that.
Once at the beach, you have to stake out your ideal spot. There’s some strategy involved in this, but it’s worth it to consider all your options carefully. Everyone is different, but I like to be closer to the street or entrance than I am to the water. While it might seem obvious, it’s important to remember that the tide has a habit of coming in twice a day, so even if it looks like there is a ton of room, back it up a few feet. You might have to haul butt to get out of the way of the rising surf, and that’s a buzzkill on a gorgeous day.
Once you’re set, look around and make nice with your neighbors. It’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood at the beach, right? You never know when your sandwich might get picked off by a seagull the size of a small pony, and it helps to have friendly people around who might take pity on you. Besides, it’s all shared space, and we are so lucky to have it; why not make a few new friends? We were sitting next to a group of people who, it turns out, knew my parents, and the stories flowed like the ebb tide. I hope to run into them again, and I will be sure to bring extra snacks and beverages.
Go in the water. Seriously, I saw so many people who never went near it. You may not want to swim, but let the waves tickle your toes. What’s that saying? Saltwater, whether tears, sweat, or the ocean, can fix anything? Given a choice, I know which one of those is for me. About a dozen or more scientific studies exist about why the ocean is good for us. The ions in the air, the squishy sand underfoot, even the seaweed, it’s like nature just puts out a free spa, right there. People pay hundreds for exfoliating sand scrubs and seaweed wraps. Go for a walk and save your pennies for the ice cream truck. No beach day is complete without it.
All around us in this charming place we get to call home, the sea is a constant presence that sometimes kicks up a fuss and at other times is a calm comfort. We should never take that for granted. Where is your beach? Do yourself a favor and get there, even if it’s just for a quick break. If you don’t have one, come to mine. Sea you there.